Unchartered waters: Is cruise ship property the new real estate?

With Australian property prices up 35% since 2020, Millennials and Gen Z buyers are desperate and looking for alternatives. Enter a slightly weird yet feasible substitute: cruise ship real estate. On board Storylines’ MV Narrative, digital nomads can work while travelling the world – at a surprisingly affordable cost. Is this the next hot property investment?

Millennial and Gen Z wannabe homeowners, rejoice – through-the-roof housing prices are set to plunge this year and into 2023. 

Average home prices are expected to decline by around 9% in 2023.

But housing costs have ballooned so greatly, it would take a bubble burst to reduce housing prices back to 2020 levels.

New homeowners are presented with a unique alternative: cruise ship real estate.

Storylines’ MV Narrative, a new residential cruise ship, is scheduled to launch in Asia by late 2023. The goal is to make living on board a ship affordable, but also to attract families and location-independent workers.

Cruise Critic Editor-in-Chief Colleen McDaniels notes growing interest in travellers living at sea:

There’s a strong interest in retiring on board —to be able to take a passion and truly immerse themselves in it, once they have the time and financial abilities to do so.

With living fees starting at USD $2,152 per month – cheaper than rent in most major cities – workers have a better cost of living (and scenery) by literally working overseas.

Alongside the “community at sea” The World, the Narrative is the second residential cruise ship in existence. 

Is this yet another short-lived, dystopian alternative to increasingly inaccessible city living? Or could ocean-bound homes be the new hot property investment?

Digital cruisers

Currently, 52% of cruise ship passengers are over 50 years old. Only 21% are between the 20 and 39. But Storylines founder Alister Punton is determined to diversify his target demographic.

Many of The Narrative’s prospective residents are not your typical cruisers. They come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds – professionals, business owners, remote workers, even families with homeschooled children. Then of course you have the usual cohort of adventurous retirees.

In an attempt to create the ultimate work-life balance, Storylines has constructed a business centre with shared workspaces, quiet areas, and small meeting spaces. 

As Sales Director Irina Strembitsky comments: “Our resident business owners can enjoy the breathtaking destination or the passing scenery, even while working.”

With Storylines’ Guest at Sea program, investors can rent out Narrative property to offset the cost of ownership, while the company handles marketing and maintenance to make things easy.

With cruises selling out more than a year in advance, the market is hot for would-be investors looking to delve into cruise ship real estate.

Would you swap a static and extortionate home in Sydney or Melbourne for a breathtaking view, lower rent prices, and worldwide travel? If you’re built for the digital nomad lifestyle, why wouldn’t you?

It’s in tandem with this growing working movement that, in addition to The World and Storylines, four residential cruise lines and yachts are scheduled for development by 2025.

Working overseas… literally

Deciding to spearhead a new startup or work remotely on board a cruise ship is a rare but growing trend.

Over 20 years living and working on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Mario Salcedo appeared on the rader of Royal Caribbean Senior VP Mark Tamis. Tamis notes, “There’s a sense of home for all of our guests, especially those that spend a majority of the year sailing on our ships. Mario… has an ‘office’ on the top deck of every ship he sails on and VOOM streaming internet service so that he can work from anywhere in the world.”

Storylines features entrepreneurs Mark and Monica on their testimonials page, a couple who – as both experienced on-ship workers and property investors – have added a Storyline property to their international portfolio. In Mark’s words: “If you’ve got to work, you might as well have a great view”. 

Well-timed property investment made fortunes for Boomers and some of Gen X. 

Now, the RBA has hiked rates from 0.1% to 3.1% and it isn’t expected to stop. The “great Australian dream” is dying as 67% of Aussies between 18-34 believe they’ll never own a house in their area.

But sipping onboard martinis on a year-round basis comes with a cost: environmental pollution. Cruise ships produce more carbon emissions than 12,000 cars and have even been caught discarding trash, fuel, and sewage into the bottom of the ocean. 

But even as the effects of climate change hits the world, atypical solutions present themselves in the form of decommissioned cruise ships.

Architectural designer Abe Desooky explored the possibility of taking advantage of decommissioned cruise ships: “As we move closer to environmental decay and climate change, cities like Miami need to start coming up with solutions that are atypical and so I think taking decommissioned ships and not just using them for hospitality is something that should be happening now.”

CallisonRTKL, a US-based global architecture firm, explored converting decommissioned cruise ships into affordable housing. 88% of Americans in Miami expressed strongly supported the proof-of-concept.

With over 40% of Aussie companies allowing full-time WFH and employees looking for a better work-life balance, the future of the cruise ship real estate industry offers an enticing – if a bit wacky – alternative.

It’s innovative ideas like this that could keep not just remote work but the budding digital nomad movement afloat (pun intended).

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