Luxury real estate hits the ocean with condo ships

When an ocean-front getaway becomes too cliché for comfort, one-up your property-pursuing neighbors with the latest innovation in real estate: condominiums on cruise liners.

This trend in water-bound abodes began in 2002 with the launch of The World, the first ship of its kind offering ownership of its rooms. Managed by ResidenSea, The World inaugurated a movement perfect for the avid traveller who loves the thrill of exploring international exotic destinations, but prefers a personalized space and discretionary itinerary not afforded on crowded, set-schedule cruise ships. Several condo ship companies have joined the fray since, including The Magellan offered by Residential Cruise Line and Florida-based Condo Cruise Lines.

Stopping to port in Hawaii after its slated completion in 2011 will be the newest condo cruise venture to hit the seas: Ocean Residences by the Four Seasons. Currently under construction by Aker Yards, a Norwegian firm laying claim to 15 of the biggest ships in the world, the Four Seasons hotel franchise has in the works a vessel custom-built for its next wave of luxury accommodations. The mid-sized ship is set to house five decks of private residences, as well as 13 decks of recreation rooms for its impressive list of on-board amenities.

“The ship is spectacular,” says Kristian Stensby, chairman and CEO of Ocean Development, the management company overseeing Four Seasons Ocean Residences.

The Four Seasons is a prime example of the opulent living arrangements offered on a condo cruise ship. With 112 residences available, even its standard one- to three-bedroom suites are stunning investments; the ship’s three- to four-bedroom penthouses at 7,860 square feet, however, epitomize the most posh of properties on-board. All residences include state-of-the-art kitchens equipped with Miele and Sub-Zero appliances, and come fully furnished with plush interior design themes. Large walk-in closets allow residents to make their wares at home while at sea for The Four Seasons’ two-year, six-continent sailing itinerary. As well, suites come equipped with the best in modern techonology, including wide-screen plasma TVs and high-speed Internet access. Diligent housekeeping and maintenance staff typical of a hotel stay make the upkeep of the at-sea residence a breeze.

“This will be the second residence for most people,” says Stensby. “It will be equpped with everything you need for a secondary home.”

The lavish amenities made famous by the Four Seasons on land aren’t spared in the slightest in the franchise’s ocean extension. Four Seasons Ocean Residences will delight its tenants with a full-service spa and pool with spectacular 360-degree views from its Sky Deck. Lounges will play host to live jazz music and servings of the finest wines, champagne and caviar. The ship’s Connoisseur Club and Gaming Room will sport what the Four Seasons Ocean Residences’ website calls “Monte Carlo-style sophistication,” with poker, blackjack and roulette tables. An on-board fitness center will include an indoor track and a golf simulator that, through a sensitized screen, allows residents to play on world-class courses without leaving the comfort of their home at sea.

Four Seasons Ocean Residences offers group and family activities on-board and while in port cities. However, a big difference between typical ship-and-shore activities of a condo cruise is the freedom with which residents can exercise the option of formulating their own port days – a resident can disembark and spend time sightseeing at a self-made schedule, or choose to spend the day at “home”on the ship.

“(The ship) will accommodate people spending extended time on board,” says Stensby. “It’s truly a lifestyle product; we don’t view it as a holiday product.”

For prices starting at $1.5 million, a condo on the Four Seasons can be yours. (Prices on other condo cruise ships range from $400,000 to $8 million.) The property, however, is a worthwhile one, if not solely for the sheer lap of luxury to be living in for yourself, but for the indulgence of being at home in a fully private ship.

For more information, visit www.fourseasons.com/private_residences/oceanresidences