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The ocean goes condo

For those who love the comforts of home but long to see the world, the residential seas are opening up.

November 27, 2005|Ann Brenoff | Times Staff Writer

THE story has it that Knut U. Kloster Jr., former chairman of Royal Viking Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines, got the idea for the world's first residential cruise ship when he noticed travelers staying on his conventional cruises for extended periods. One thing led to another, and $325 million later, Kloster had birthed a new wave of real estate: condos at sea.

That was in March 2002. Since then, Kloster's 644-foot ship, the World, has had the residential seas to itself.

Until now. Three other companies are jumping into the home-at-sea waters. With units for sale from about $1.3 million to $15 million, life aboard is tantamount to that on a luxurious private yacht, shared with like-minded compatriots as you circumnavigate the globe. It's the stuff of daydreams -- even for Dramamine aficionados.

The race for real estate dominance at sea is not about who finishes first -- the World is already operational -- but about who can be the most exclusive. Dueling with 1,020-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens, fine china and high-end stainless steel appliances (and salespeople who can't seem to complete a sentence without using the word "exclusive"), all four ships are mining the same market: the very rich.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday December 03, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Cruise condos -- An article in Sunday's Real Estate section about residential cruise ships said the World sets its itinerary in two-year increments. In fact, the ship has an annual itinerary. The website given for the World belongs to its management company; the ship's site is The article also said the vessel offers financing; it does not.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday December 04, 2005 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 5 Features Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
Cruise condos -- A Nov. 27 article on residential cruise ships said the World sets its itinerary in two-year increments. The ship has an annual itinerary. The website given for the World belongs to its management company; the ship's site is The article also said the vessel offers financing; it does not.

On the day you hit the lottery, here are some options to consider:

* The World: This ship takes its time. It circumnavigates the globe on a two-year itinerary that allows residents and their guests to linger in each port.

"What we are selling goes beyond a vacation home," said Nikki Upshaw, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the World. "We are selling the ability to relax, carefree."

While most World residences come with a gourmet kitchen, few apparently get used. Residents dropping anchor in say, Sydney, Australia, would much prefer to try the city's latest hot restaurant, Upshaw said. Residents use the World as a high-end boutique hotel while they busy themselves onshore.

There may be some conventional cruising mentality onboard with a few guest lecturers speaking about the port of call, but for the most part, residents are into discovery on their own.

* The Orphalese: Named after the mythical city in Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet," the Orphalese will have an itinerary that is event-driven instead of destination-driven. When completed in 2008, the ship will circle the globe in search of the party du jour -- the Cannes Film Festival in France, the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, Carnival in Rio, Chinese New Year in Shanghai, America's Cup in Spain, the Olympics.

The ship will also have an 80,000-square-foot mall that should give Rodeo Drive a case of envy.

* The Magellan: The ship's bells and whistles include an observatory and a full-time astronomer. The Magellan will tote along its own marina, where owners can dock their personal vessels. Getting ashore will be made easier by the two Bell jet-helicopters, and the ship has an on-deck all-weather heliport.

The attention to detail in the residences will include such features as custom wood cabinetry, stone kitchen counters, walk-in closets, built-in hutches and writing desks with high-speed Internet access.

* The Four Seasons: And finally, the Four Seasons hotel chain is entering the waters in 2008 with a slight twist: a floating residential fractional- or whole-ownership resort. Ever mindful of the sensibilities of its guests, the Four Seasons is planning two luxurious water taxis that will be capable of docking among the pretty yachts instead of in the section of the port with the unsightly cargo ships.

What it will cost you

None of this comes cheap, as you might expect.

The eight units still available on the World are priced from $1.3 million for a 630-square-foot studio to $6.3 million for a 3,200-square-foot three-bedroom apartment. Annual maintenance fees -- think homeowners association -- are based on the square footage of the unit and cost $80,000 to $450,000. But there are no property taxes, and housekeeping comes daily.

The Orphalese, which opened a Las Vegas sales office in October to market its units, is charging $1.8 million for 1,000 square feet to $10 million for a 3,900-square-foot unit. Homeowners' fees are based on unit size and cost $30,000 to $78,000 a year.

The Magellan is selling its first phase of pre-construction units for $1.9 million to $6 million. When 120 residences -- 60% -- are sold, construction will begin. And after every 25 units sell, the price of the remaining ones will increase by $100,000. Annual "ship operating expense" fees are based on unit size and will cost $96,000 to $240,000.

The Magellan announced recently that it too would offer fractional ownerships of one-month increments, starting at $156,250 for a one-month ownership in a two-bedroom unit.

And over at the Four Seasons, dig into your wallet to the tune of $2.5 million to $15 million for whole-ownership units. Annual maintenance fees are 10% of the purchase price. Fractional ownerships start at about $400,000 for a 28-day share.

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