Cruise Ship Handed Over to Buyer for 3.5-Year Residential World Cruise

cruise ship Villa Vie Odyssey
Plans calls for an eight-week refurbishment before the world cruise launches in May lasting 3.5 years (Villa Vie Residences)

Published Mar 4, 2024 4:04 PM by The Maritime Executive


The latest attempt at what is being called residential cruising took a step forward with startup Villa Vie Residences reporting they have now taken delivery of the former Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ship Braemar. The 31-year-old cruise ship is expected to transfer from her four-year lay-up in Scotland to a shipyard to begin a refurbishment before the first world cruise gets underway on May 15, 2024, from Southampton, England.

CEO Mikael Petterson said the company was thrilled to announce possession of the cruise ship. He called it a significant step forward in their plans which call for people to buy cabins and live aboard the cruise ship as it undertakes around-the-world trips lasting three and a half years. The plan calls for the cruise ship to visit 425 ports in 147 countries and touching all seven continents.

Villa Vie plans to rename the ship which was built in Spain in 1993 for short cruises the Villa Vie Odyssey. The cruise ship will transfer to Belfast where Petterson says it will undergo an eight-week renovation. He says they plan to add a state-of-the-art business center, a pickleball court, culinary center, as well as rejuvenate the pool deck, and refurbish all 480 staterooms.

To oversee the transformation the company reports it hired the cruise ship’s former captain Jozo Glavic to become master. They note he has 20 years of experience, including guiding the ship through its transit of the Corinth Canal in Greece and overseeing the ship’s last three dry docks while it was operating with Fred. Olsen.

The cruise line which markets from the UK decided not to reactivate the Braemar, its smallest cruise ship, after 2020 and the pause in operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The company purchased two larger cruise ships from Holland America Line which modernized its fleet and reactivated one of its cruise ships in the resumption of service. At 24,300 gross tons and accommodations for up to 924 passengers, the Braemar was popular with the cruise line’s customers because of its smaller size. Fred. Olsen acquired the ship in 2001 and lengthened it in 2009 to increase passenger capacity from about 700 to its current size.

Fred. Olsen reported they were putting the Baermar up for sale in mid-2023 and reached a deal late last year for Villa Vie Residences to buy the ship. The Norwegian parent company of the cruise line recently reported it would record a gain of more than $8.1 million from the sale of the cruise ship.

Villa Vie plans a unique model where travelers can invest in the operation, buying their cabins at prices ranging between $100,000 for an inside room, $150,000 for a room with a window, or $300,000 for one of the suites aboard. Buyers are guaranteed a minimum of 15 years during which the ship would make more than four world cruises, but they are also offering rental options and segments ranging between 35 and 120 days.

Only one residential cruise ship has succeeded and that is The World, which was purpose-built and where owners have true apartment-sized residences that they furnish themselves. The ship operates as a cooperative with the owners voting on the schedule and contributing to the operating costs. CNN reported that Villa Vie Residences will be charging a monthly fee for owners ranging between $1,750 and $4,000 per person.

Several other efforts at launching a resident cruise however did not succeed. The sister ship to Braemar was one of the ships selected by a group called Life at Sea, but they later switched plans to a larger ship that they said would be better suited to the program. They failed to raise the money to acquire the ship and the company ended up owing large sums of money to people who planned to start the trip in late 2023.

Royal Caribbean International launched a residential world cruise in 2023 but it is slated to last about nine months (274 days) and does not involve selling ownership shares. The Serenade of the Seas (90,000 gross tons) is currently on the trip which has become a bit of a TikTok online sensation. The company recently reported the ship would be diverting and not transiting the Red Sea and in a unique step gave the passengers the option of voting on two different alternative itineraries. The Ultimate World Cruise is scheduled to end in Miami on September 10 and the cruise ship will return to normal service with cruises from Tampa, Florida for the winter 2024-2025 season. Royal Caribbean has not announced plans to repeat its Ultimate World Cruise.