If the idea of spending three years on a cruise ship made you claustrophobic, it’s time to look away now.
Life at Sea Cruises – which is due to depart in November for a three-year round-the-world cruise – reckons that people are so enthused by the idea of sailing around the world nonstop, that they’re going to continue the journey indefinitely, making it “the cruise that never ends.”
Individuals will still have to sign up for three years – but now they can start at any point in the itinerary, making it a rolling three-year cruise, rather than a set one.
Not that latecomers will get a rehash of what they missed. To appeal to customers who want to stay on, the itinerary will continue to new destinations, rather than returning to previous ones. The cruise will then continue indefinitely says Holmes, who adds, “It’s become the cruise that never ends.”
Holmes says that major destinations such as Easter Island, Dubai and all of India are not on the first itinerary for logistical reasons, and are expected to appear in year four.
There will now be seven potential start locations in the first year of the cruise, which departs Istanbul on November 1.
‘The cruise that never ends’
“Once the ship was announced in May there were a lot of people who wanted to come, but November was too soon to sell their homes, make plans and pack up their lives,” she said.
“We made a list, started brainstorming and said, ‘We were going to restart it – why don’t we just extend it?’”
Some fully signed-up clients had also been hit with health issues.
“We’d said from the beginning we’d refund in full for anyone with medical problems, but we had people saying, ‘I don’t want a refund, I just want to get this treated and come on board,’ so we thought we’d give them an opportunity too.
“We also had residents asking what would happen if they wanted to keep going [at the end of three years] so we started looking at itinerary options, seeing what places we could add.”
Those who can’t make the Istanbul departure have a chance to join at Barcelona on November 6, the Bahamas a week later, or Rio de Janeiro on December 20, just in time for Christmas on board.
There will be three more stops in central and north America in the first half of 2024 as well.
An ‘affordable’ lifestyle
Holmes says the new system shouldn’t affect the company’s policy to sell only 85% capacity.
The ship – the MV Lara – can carry 1,400 passengers, but Holmes promises “we won’t ever sell full capacity – we don’t want residents to have that experience. We’re trying to keep it at 85%.” Occupancy is currently at over 50% for November boardings.
The cruise is also launching a “Dive Around the World” program after Holmes – a scuba instructor herself – noticed that many of the guests were keen divers.
There’ll now be an on-board dive shop, run in tandem with Scuba Diving International (SDI), with a full-time instructor joining the ship’s crew. Passengers will be able to get scuba certification as they travel, and there’ll be opportunities to dive around the world, linking up with SDI-vetted diving schools.
Guests will also be able to take part in ocean clean-ups and coral propagation efforts as they travel.
The new policy is the latest change in what has been a baptism of fire for Life at Sea.
Miray parted ways with some of the project’s founding team in May – a schism that is now at the heart of a legal dispute brought by Miray.
Many would-be cruisers canceled their reservations because of the confusion, although new bookings have now overtaken the original numbers.
While they aren’t the first to offer permanent (or semi-permanent) cruises, Life at Sea remains the only (relatively) affordable option for long-term cruising, says Holmes.
“It’s $3,500-$4,000 per month, and you can go see the world. We can offer this to the average earner, or a person who just retired from the average job.”
Current pricing starts at $38,513 per year per cabin for two people. Everything is included – right down to the on-board healthcare. Solo travelers pay an additional 85% for single occupancy.