Startup Agrees to Buy Fred. Olsen’s Braemar for 3.5-Year World Cruise
Startup company Villa Vie Residences, which has been promoting the concept of living aboard a cruise ship for a multi-year world cruise, reports it has reached an agreement to acquire its first ship, a 30-year-old cruise ship retired from the UK market. The company looks to combine the concepts of ownership or renting for the extended voyage and follows several others that presented similar ideas but failed to launch.
Villa Vie Residences issued a press release today, December 13, reporting it has purchased the cruise ship Braemar from UK-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. The cruise line confirmed to CNN that it has an agreement and delivery of the ship is due at the end of February 2024.
Fred. Olsen, which acquired the ship in 2001, reported a year ago that it had put it, the smallest ship in its fleet, up for sale. The cruise company decided not to reactivate the ship after having laid her up in Scotland during the pandemic.
At 24,344 gross tons, the ship was popular in the cruise market due to her smaller size which permitted her to make unique trips including becoming the largest cruise ship to transit Greece’s Corinth Canal. Originally built in Spain in 1993 to accommodate 727 passengers, the ship passed through a series of cruise lines, marketed by five firms in the 1990s, before Fred. Olsen acquired the ship. They rebuilt the ship lengthening her by 102 feet to increase her passenger capacity to the current 924, but being an older ship, she still lacks larger accommodations, and only a relatively small number of her cabins have private balconies. Villa Vie Residences writes on its website that the ship will feature “residence features a queen-size bed, an en-suite bathroom, and dedicated workspaces.”
After taking delivery and renaming the cruise ship Villa Vie Odyssey, the company reports she will be “transformed into a residential cruise ship.” They highlight that she has three restaurants, eight bars, four lounges, an extended pool, hot tubs, a spa and fitness center, and a library. They will add a business center, culinary center, and golf simulator, as well as Starlink and Viasat 3 for internet service.
Braemar making her transit of the Corinth Canal where passengers said she was so close they could touch the rocks (Fred. Olsen)
The world cruise is slated to start from England on May 15, 2024, and last 1,301 days (3.5 years) stopping at 425 ports in 147 countries. The itinerary calls for extended port stays from two to seven days. The itinerary posted on the website shows the trip would end in December 2027 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The company looks to combine concepts from the only successful residential cruise ship, The World, where passengers will have the option of becoming owners with a say in the routing and operation of the ship. Prices start at $99,999 per year for an inside cabin, $149,999 for an outside cabin, or $249,999 for a limited number of cabins with private balconies. Buyers, CNN reports, will be guaranteed for 15 years, the estimated life of the 30-year-old cruise ship. They can also choose to pay monthly for their residences with costs ranging between $2,500 and $8,000 a month according to the website. CNN also reports there will be a monthly fee for owners ranging between $1,750 and $4,000 per person.
Travelers on the Ville Via Odyssey will have the option of buying or renting their cabins. Also, the company is offering the trip in segments ranging from 35 to 120 days with the option of taking multiple segments during the 3.5 years. Owners can also rent their cabins when they are not aboard.
The World (43,000 gross tons) was a newly built dedicated ship that entered service 20 years ago offering the option of buying and outfitting apartments on board for around 200 passengers. Owners come and go from the ship during the year, but are required to have a permanent home onshore. Other companies have sought to copy the concept, but none has completed a ship.
A much-publicized three-year cruise to be offered by another startup called Life at Sea failed to launch in November 2023. The company also reported having entered into a contract for a cruise ship but failed to take delivery leaving people who had sold their homes for the trip stranded.
Villa Vie was started by former members of the Life at Sea executive team who left the prior company in May 2022 to launch this venture. They have previously shown pictures of several in-service cruise ships saying they were preparing to buy their first ship. Interviewing with CNN, they said they plan to buy more ships after the Odyssey and promote that owners will get credits to move between ships. If at the end of 15 years, the company has not acquired other ships, they are reporting that owners will get 15 percent of their payment returned from a portion of the scrap value of the Odyssey.