Can you live on a cruise ship? Yes, and here’s how much it costs

Austin Wells loves to travel the world.

But he doesn’t like long flights, jet lag or a restless everyday life.

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And that’s why Wells, 28, who lives in San Diego, has rented a residence aboard a luxury boat that he will move into and work from for at least three years as it sails around the world. It comes complete with medical services, a farmers market, private kitchens, and a gym, as well as 24-hour room service, a co-working space, and a spa.

His room is on a mega-cruise ship called MV Narrative, which consists of more than 500 private rooms and apartments that will house around 1,000 residents who will live on board more or less permanently.

“What excites me the most is not having to turn my daily routine upside down to see the world,” Wells told CNBC via video call.

“I walk from this model where you want to go anywhere, you pack a bag, you get on a flight, you rent a room, now to my condo, my gym, my doctors and dentists, all my grocery stores the world with me” he added.

Wells – whose job at MetaReality Labs, the augmented and virtual reality division of , is completely remote – planning to continue working hours on the US West Coast while the ship visits European cities.

“My working hours will shift to evenings, nights and very early mornings. But that gives me the opportunity to … maybe see a city mid-afternoon and then start my work day around 6 or 7 p.m.,” he said.

“This is probably the first time ever that there’s even been an opportunity to have a standard job and even consider working and living from a floating apartment complex,” Wells added.

What is the MV Narrative?

The MV Narrative is an upscale liveable vessel being built by Storylines, the brainchild of co-founder and CEO Alister Punton, a former construction and real estate executive who never cruised before founding the company, he told CNBC.

Noticing that large ships tended to be scrapped, Punton and co-founder Shannon Lee saw an opportunity to redesign them instead.

After a few false starts – they bought and redesigned two ships that proved unsuitable, either for the lifestyle expected by residents or because they failed to comply with new environmental laws – they commissioned a new ship. MV Narrative is currently under construction in Split, Croatia, from where she will set sail in 2025.

A computer generated image of a sleeping and living area aboard MV Narrative. Rental apartments range from $875,000 to $8 million.


There will be 11 types of residences on board, with the largest – “Global” at 1,970 square feet – being spread over two levels, with up to four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large balcony, a dining room for six and a walk-in closet .

Some apartments are on a deck with a champagne and whiskey bar, cigar lounge, and small pool at one end, while others have viewing lounges and event spaces.

Other facilities spread across 18 decks include 20 restaurants and bars, a 10,000-square-foot 24-hour gym and spa, three swimming pools, a school, library, bank and office space. The ship will also have a theater for performances and movies, though extravagant entertainment won’t be the focus unlike traditional cruise lines, Punton told CNBC.

Where the ship will go

The MV Narrative will dock in ports for about three to five days, which Punton says is longer than average for ships of the line, to allow residents to explore. “Most people … will be traveling around the surrounding towns and taking day and overnight trips, renting a car and going out for three or four days and meeting the ship at its next destination,” he told CNBC via video call.

An example itinerary might anchor in Rome for three days, then Naples for three days, followed by stops at smaller locations such as the coastal towns of Sapri and Marsala, and finally reaching Venice before continuing on to Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Greece and then on goes turkey.

The ship will also go to the Arctic Circle. In total, it will travel around the world for about three years (full itinerary to be announced).

Storylines’ first cruise ship, MV Narrative, is scheduled to set sail from Croatia in 2025.


Wells plans to spend time exploring on land as well. “Revisiting all of Europe is what I think I’m particularly keen on…so many of the interesting parts of Europe are towards the center in my opinion,” he told CNBC.

What it costs

Wells spent approximately $300,000 on a 12-year lease for an entry-level Discover studio that includes a murphy bed, pantry, desk and separate shower room in 2500 square feet. (Most leases are for either 24 years or the life of the ship — around 60 years — but as an early customer, Wells was offered a shorter option.)

Punton wanted the MV Narrative to be more affordable than other houseboats. The World, for example, is a luxury liner where a penthouse apartment costs around 20 million euros ($20.5 million) and only around 150 to 200 people are on board at any one time.

While MV Narrative’s units are still expensive — at around $1 million to $8 million for a lifetime lease of the vessel — she introduced fractional ownership options in November with a 25% stake starting at around $600,000, the allow residents to stay on board three months a year.

A computer generated image of the bathroom in a “Global” penthouse residence aboard the cruise ship MV Narrative. Such units will be on two levels and will be sold for around $8 million.


“All-inclusive living fees” are in addition to the purchase price and start at around $2,100 per person per month and cover things like food and beverages from the ship’s restaurants and bars, laundry, fitness classes and medical exams.

“We’re still competitively priced in the market,” Punton said.

Residents can also rent out their units when they are not on board – regardless of whether they are full or partial owners. According to a calculator on the Storylines website, a studio apartment like the one Wells bought could bring in around $4,500 a month.

who buys

Wells expects to be one of the youngest adult residents on board — around 30 when he moves in. Residents will range from midlife entrepreneurs to families with children, he said.

Children can participate in the ship’s “World Schooling” program, which combines online learning with small-group classes, field trips and workshops with experts from the countries where the ship docks, according to Storylines’ website.

A rendering of a residents’ lounge aboard the MV Narrative cruise ship, which is expected to carry around 1,000 passengers.


Retirees and those nearing retirement are also buying into the ship, Punton told CNBC. One prospective resident is an emergency room nurse with about 30 years of experience who is interested in working part-time on MV Narrative’s medical team, Punton said. He also hopes to recruit owners from other professions, such as acupuncturists and physical therapists.

“I always tell people you can drink pina coladas by the pool all day if you want and not lift a finger … But that gets old pretty quick.” So you want to keep going [the job] you do, right, so this is a way for people to do that,” Punton said. “It’s a fundamental difference [between] us and a cruise.”

Storylines headquarters will also be based on the MV Narrative, with company executives living on board. Punton will be moving onto the ship with his wife and two children, who are currently two and five years old.

A computer rendering of the living quarters of an “Envision” residence aboard the cruise ship MV Narrative. This type of residence has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large balcony. It costs from $3.3 million for a long-term lease.


“For me, you know, I’ve been on this project for almost seven years. And until we reach the water, it will be a decade. It’s a long part of my life. And of course I want to live the lifestyle just like everyone else,” he told CNBC.

Wells hopes to make lifelong friends on board. “The goal is to actually have a community of residents on this ship. And so you’ll make new friends, you’ll largely travel the world with them, which may be a way of forging some of the deepest friendships you’ve ever had. ‘ he told CNBC.

Did Punton imagine someone living on the ship for the rest of their lives? “People actually can [own] forever…so that it can actually be bestowed on their lands and passed down through the generations…and their family can live on on the next ship.”

A second ship is on the cards once the homes aboard the MV Narrative are nearly all sold (about half have been purchased so far), Punton said.

“We have identified a really big market here. And there are a lot of people who want to get involved and want to be a part of it,” he said.

– CNBC’s Tom Huddleston Jr. contributed to this report.

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