Home-at-Sea Cruise Ship Company Seeks Senior Living Partnerships

Senior living at sea appears to be moving closer to reality.

A company called Storylines is targeting the summer of 2020 to launch a cruise ship retrofitted with 630 living units available for purchase. And it’s possible that some of these nautical condos will be owned by senior living providers.

“We see ourselves as potentially a feeder for land-based aged care,” Storylines Co-CEO, founder and Chairman Alister Punton said Tuesday at the Senior Living 100 conference in Laguna Niguel, California.

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Punton described a few potential ways that senior living providers might get involved with Storylines.

One scenario would be that a senior living company purchases a certain number of cabins and offers new residents one or two years of living at sea before making the transition to the senior living community on land.

Such an option could potentially help overcome the resistance that older adults may have to transitioning from their single-family homes into a retirement community, Punton suggested.

Another alternative could be that a senior living provider reserves a certain number of cabins for residents who want to leave a land-based community during the winter, to spend the season in warmer climates.

Punton floated these ideas during a Tuesday morning presentation. By late afternoon, he had already been approached by several interested senior living organizations, he told Senior Housing News. This was the first time that Storylines did outreach specifically to senior living providers, but the company has been laying the groundwork for doing so.

For instance, the ship is being designed with the lifestyle and health needs of older adults in mind, from wide doors and passageways to an on-site medical clinic and a helipad for medical evacuations. Storylines is also in discussions with insurers to design a plan for seniors, who would not be covered by Medicare while cruising in international waters.

Additionally, Storylines could design a deck specifically for an independent living or assisted living type of customer, accommodating full-time medical or nursing staff, Punton said. He envisions that the ship will most naturally be an alternative to independent living rather than higher levels of care. He’s aware of regulatory and licensure concerns that come into play in more intensive care settings on land, and Storylines plans to partner with an expert in these areas to ensure compliance should that become necessary, he told SHN.

Storylines anticipates that most of its residents will be baby boomers ranging in age between 55 and 73, likely empty nesters who own more than one home and are avid cruisers. However, the company is also seeing interest from 20-somethings. They’re drawn to the itinerant lifestyle and have jobs that allow them to work remotely, Punton noted.

Moreover, an entire deck of the ship has been committed to Morpheus London, a design house and real estate development consultancy that specializes in luxury projects. The firm is designing Deck 7 of the Narrative for its clientele.

The mix of ages on board could be another selling point for older adults who desire intergenerational living, Punton said.

And senior living providers could add to the ship’s age diversity. Some senior living providers said they are interested in offering time on the ship as a perk for their workers, Punton told SHN.

The cost to purchase a cabin on the Narrative ranges from $299,000 to $3.2 million, with monthly fees starting around $1,900. This would cover some basic on-board amenities, including a certain allowance for food, and allow for a sufficient capital reserve.

The owners of cabins will be able to re-sell them as they would a traditional condo, and Storylines will help facilitate that process, Punton said. He acknowledged that because the expected life of the ship is about 20 years, a cabin would be a depreciating asset; but he believes people are buying in for the value of the lifestyle, not to cash in on a resale.

In terms of what on-board life will be like, there are several amenities in the works, such as:

  • A variety of restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines
  • A micro-brewery and potentially a gin distillery
  • A market garden where vegetables will be grown
  • Cooking areas where residents will be able to prepare their own meals
  • Golf simulators and other types of entertainment that are typical of cruise ships

The ship is planning a global voyage at a leisurely pace, spending three to five days in ports. This should enable people to join and depart the vessel with relative ease, if they are not living on it year-round, Punton said.

This is not the first time that a company has proposed creating ships where older adults can spend their retirement years. Other projects have not come to fruition, but a key difference is that those ventures were proposing to build new ships, which is far more difficult and costly than converting existing ones, according to Punton.

Indeed, the cruise ship industry is facing a glut of ships, with 124 new vessels projected to come online by 2027. As older ships are taken out of service, Storylines should have plenty of opportunities to add to its fleet, Punton said. The company plans to ultimately launch a new ship every 18 months.

This may sound aggressive but is “quite manageable,” Punton said.

From a capital perspective, he’s comfortable and confident. Some backing for Storylines comes from a family with significant experience in the cruise industry.

Punton is aware of the Latitude Margaritaville communities under development, and he points to their popularity as one sign that older adults are craving new versions of retirement living. He proposed that forward-thinking senior living providers may want consider novel options like Storylines as a way of serving this expanding consumer base.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version to clarify that monthly charges start around $1,900 and to remove certain details, including the name of the ship, that Storylines informed SHN have not yet been finalized. The original version of the story stated that the ship will be retrofitted in Vietnam. This was incorrect and SHN regrets the error.

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