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IN PICTURES: The World's last nomads

Honey, I bought an apartment and it travels the world.

In fact it’s called The World. At 644 feet long, The World is the largest privately owned yacht on the planet (see below for a photo gallery).

It is the best of the best. That’s not just a mission statement, because every crew member conspires to create the “best of the best” experience for The World’s residents and their guests - who number between 150 to 200, depending on the cruise, and spend an average four months a year onboard.

When I met a few of the crew on board The World when she docked at Queens Wharf in Auckland recently, I was almost envious of their ability and empowerment to do what it takes to achieve the standard expected of the 265 crew.

Money is not an issue; the crew are rewarded handsomely by the residents who own The World.

You would struggle to find better crew on any vessel in the world, so well skilled and well-paid are they. Significantly, about 40% of the crew were on the inaugural world cruise 12 years ago.

Many residents own or have owned their own private yacht. Not only is the initial investment of owning your own yacht significantly higher but the annual operating costs are also substantial and borne solely by the owner, regardless of how much the yacht is used. 

The World offers a perfect alternative to individual yacht ownership, offering unsurpassed services and facilities that could not be achieved on their own and each resident has a say on where she travels and how she is run. 

A professional management company indirectly owned by the residents manages all the operations of The World including residential services, food and beverages, residential and amenity maintenance, and sales and marketing. The ship is run as a business that caters to the ship’s 165 residents. As with any business, the ship runs on an agreed budget, with each resident charged an annual amount based on the square footage of each apartment. This is managed by an onshore chief executive, ably assisted by a managerial structure on board.

Dining aboard.

Although only 1% of residents cook in their apartments, each apartment has its own fully equipped kitchen (some studios do not have kitchens). Approximately 40% of residents choose in-room dining when not eating at one of the six world class restaurants on-board and often with fellow residents. As with any community, there are many shared dinner parties around the ship. 

The ship’s sommelier told me she recently did a stocktake of the 900 different wines on-board and reported that only 20 bottles of the 900 to choose from were not ordered over the past three months.

A sommelier in the wine cellar.

The details of every aspect of this ship are of the highest quality. And there are many community groups on board, including hiking, biking, golf, tennis. There is a full-sized tennis court on the top deck and a state-of-the-art indoor driving range/course, which offers no fewer than 85 of the world’s best golf courses, complete with its own PGA Tour golf pro. Many of the residents have their own golf clubs.

Practice putting green.

A typical example of how the residents control everything about the ship is the restaurant featuring a grand piano. It was planned as the centrepiece of the room – but the residents decided that the light effects of even more expensive special lighting in the ceiling reflecting on the marble floor were more interesting – and had the piano shuffled off to one side.

The grand piano in the restaurant referred to above. 
 

Although some residents live on board year round, the typical owner spends three to four months on board a year, coming and going as they please. The World constantly circumnavigates the globe, often with fewer than 200 passengers but generally more than 260 crew. A typical residence contains personal furnishings, decor, clothing, family photos and favourite beverages, so owners can travel and experience the world without leaving the comforts of home.

A living room in one of the luxury residences.

The ship’s onboard Zodiac boats have enabled residents and guests to explore many of the most historically, culturally and naturally rich destinations worldwide including Pacific dive sites that only the experts even dream of approaching and Arctic glaciers previously untouched by humans.

Currently there are just two apartments available for resale and, as in any community, others (studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments) come up for sale from time to time.

So, joining the waitlist is important but don’t count on another World. If The World is the best of the best, then what does that mean for a sister ship?

Todd Scott is NBR’s publisher but has a not-so-secret yearning to run away to sea to see the world …
 
BELOW - The World slideshow:

'The World' Slideshow

Comments and questions
7

The most obvious question - how much are the two apartments currently available for resale?

NBR asked, but The World's owners did not want to disclose a price.

If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

I was told that if one had a spare 13 mill US, one could secure the rather nice 3000 square foot apartment directly above the captain's more modest accommodation quarters.

That seems to be the sort of price tag you're looking at for one of the best residences, if you throw in a couple of years' worth of body corporate fees. According to a July 2013 Wall Street Journal report:

"A spokeswoman [for The World] says residences have sold for between $US700,000 and $US10 million ...

"Owners of the units, which range from studios to a penthouse with room for 12, pay annual fees of 10% to 15% of the purchase price to cover everything from staff salaries to vessel maintenance.

"Residents hail from 19 countries, including the U.S. and Australia, and the average age is 64."

The Journal says the success of The World has inspired rivals including "the Utopia, a $US1 billion, 200-unit residential ocean liner that developers say is about three years from being finished ... where homes cost between about $US4 million and $US30 million."

And you need to factor in the body corp fees, too. Never fixed, always floating. Literally.

I could never understand why anyone would buy a residence on The World when considering they could permanently decamp themselves in an equivalent penthouse suite on a 6-Star cruise ship from the fleets of Seabourn, Silversea, Regent or Crystal.

These 4 cruise lines are the crème de la crème (Cunard Line isn't included) and would easily match the standards of cordon bleu dining, service, spas -- and fawning -- which The World offers. The only real difference is that the the suites wouldn't have a kitchen; however, considering that about 1% of the residents on The World actually use it -- the other 99% wouldn't know how to turn the oven on, yet alone, cook -- it hardly matters.

These 4 cruise liners also feature Live Theatre, Dancing, and an array of other entertainment, which The World doesn't because of the relatively small number of those on board. The opportunity cost of "sinking" $10 million into buying, as well as the 10% yearly fee just to have title on your accommodation, doesn't make any rational economic sense, when you could be a year-on-year permanent resident on any one of the ships from the other 6-Star cruise lines, for a tiny fraction of what it costs living aboard The World -- and without the attendant risk of a capital loss when cashing-out.

The obvious reason why the owners won't disclose the price of the apartment they are selling, is because they would rather encourage a buyer to make an offer and work from there. By disclosing their price expectations, it might put buyers off. The market value of a luxury apartment on a ship isn't easily established in such a rare and exclusive niche market of the Very Wealthy, irrespective of the original price paid by the owners, who are selling.