The ResidenSea Requirement

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

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When he saw an ad for ResidenSea in a golf magazine four years ago, Richard Reed wasn't really looking for a second home. But ResidenSea (www.residensea.com), a new concept in cruising, offers something no other second home can: a chance to see the world from a 12-deck ship.

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"I thought it sounded interesting," says the Scottsdale, Ariz., software developer. "I was a yacht owner at the time, and I have to admit it was a real hassle. When you go out to sea, your guests sit on board and drink martinis all day and you stay below and do all the work. I thought: wouldn't it be nice to sit on deck with my guests, sipping martinis?"

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It didn't take much to persuade Reed to trade his yacht for a luxury apartment on the company's new vessel, called The World of ResidenSea. His 1,450-sq. ft. suite has two bedrooms, a balcony and high-tech trimmings like an entertainment system with surround-sound audio, a computerized telescope for stargazing ("You can actually see the stars when you're at sea," he says) and an electric piano.

But don't let Reed, or anyone else on The World, hear you refer to the $330 million vessel as a cruise ship. "This isn't a cruise ship," insists Fredy Dellis, ResidenSea's chief executive. "This is a luxury resort at sea." The World's 110 residences aren't priced like any cruise ship, either - luxury or otherwise. A two-bedroom, 1,100 square-foot condominium starts at $2 million. That doesn't include a five percent annual maintenance fee for the upkeep.

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In many respects, however, The World looks like a cruise ship. The vessel, expected to embark on its maiden voyage later in March, offers a health spa, several upscale restaurants and a driving range for golfers. The look and feel of The World is decidedly upscale, but not ostentatious or excessive. Naval architects Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten, known for their work on The Silver Cloud and Sea Goddess I, clearly were going for a simple, elegant and functional design.

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So what makes The World special? Well, walk past the full-size tennis court, the putting green featuring real grass, the sand trap (yes, sand trap) and talk to some of the residents, and you'll get the impression that this isn't your average vacation at sea.

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"It's more a concept of a village," says Dellis. "You have the feeling you're at a luxury resort. This is a unique lifestyle experience. It's something that's very, very different from anything else."

Some details of Dellis' "village" are already clear. Itineraries aren't set arbitrarily by the company or the captain, but are voted on by a committee of owners and investors. The ship will cross the globe, making port calls at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Prix of Monaco, the British Open in Edinburgh, and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. They'll be longer than typical cruise stops, allowing passengers plenty of time to disembark and explore.

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Reed, who also owns a condominium in Breckenridge, Colo., says he thinks of his ResidenSea apartment as a home away from home and is looking forward to meeting the other owners. "I'd like to spend six or seven months a year at sea," he says. "It's easy to stay connected to the outside world with my high-speed Internet connection, so there's no concern about being cut off from the outside."

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In other respects, too, the World isn't exactly a closed community. Besides its 110 apartments, the ResidenSea vessel offers 88 rental accommodations that have been specially priced for The World's premiere: Rates start at $500 per day for five days. If you want to splurge, you can also rent one of the residences for $2,100 a day. Residents will be allowed to sublet their apartments, too.

Early reviews of the ship are promising. Last week, The New York Post reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger is rumored to have bought one of the luxury apartments, and that Madonna and Roger Moore are said to be interested as well. The paper called it "the ultimate address." Architectural Digest described the ResidenSea vessel as "a designer ship" whose apartments are created as luxury homes, not mere staterooms.

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But the project isn't without critics. The Seattle Times' Erik Lacitis blasted The World for fine print in its contract that says residents are buying only the right to live onboard for 50 years. "In addition, there are annual maintenance fees ranging from $60,000 to $270,000," he writes. "Minor costs, I'd think, when you're really, really rich."

If The World's success is measured in how many luxury apartments it's sold, then the project is in good shape: According to Dellis, there are only 30 units remaining. That's good for at least $160 million in the bank, assuming that the average price of an apartment is $2 million. With some condos priced at $6.8 million, however, the total could be much higher.

If a measure of its success is in how often it's been imitated, ResidenSea and its owners can embark on their maiden voyage with confidence. The World is, as they say, not enough. Dellis says several other ships are trying to copy the idea of creating a city at sea. "Although," he adds, "they won't do it as well as we will."

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