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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 28, 2002

Luxury condo docking in Hawai'i

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

They may live on a $264 million luxury liner, but by all accounts the fabulously well-to-do passengers of The World are a pretty down-to-earth bunch.

The $264 million luxury liner The World docked at Hilo yesterday morning en route to Lahaina and Honolulu.

Kevin Dayton • The Honolulu Advertiser

One crew member described them as "just normal people like you and me, somebody who's been successful."

In another sign they are people of the people, the security staff reports only one passenger who disembarked in Kona was wearing a suit.

But The World is no ordinary cruise liner, and the owners of the cabins on board aren't quite like you and me. They get to sail around the world constantly, and they paid millions of dollars for the privilege.

They can work on their golf swing at the on-board driving range, polish their serve on the tennis court on the top deck, shop for rocks in the on-board House of Graff diamond boutique, gamble in the ship's casino or shake bootie in "Quantum," the ship's nightclub and lounge.

You can't do any of that, but you can go down to the pier and gawk if you like.

The World stopped off the coast of Kona on Christmas Day, docked in Hilo early yesterday morning and left last night for Lahaina as part of its round-the-world itinerary that includes Australia, Vietnam, China, Japan and Russia by midyear.

The ship will be at sea on New Year's Eve and arrive in Honolulu at 8 a.m. New Year's Day.

The concept behind The World is to "travel the world without leaving home," according to ResidenSea, which operates the vessel. Owners buy units in a luxury liner that cruises the globe continuously, visiting ports to explore.

About three-quarters of the 110 private units have been sold, and another 88 units are rented to travelers. The average price of a rental is about $1,000 a night, said Lisa Bailey, manager of communications for ResidenSea.

The most modest pricing is a discounted "promotional" rate that can go as low as $500 a night, but Bailey acknowledged the view from those cabins isn't the greatest. They don't have a veranda, Bailey said, because the massive 150-passenger life-boats are mounted outside the window, partially obstructing the view.

The World has a staff of about 300, most working as hotel or other service personnel for the 300 or so passengers. That compares with 1,000 or more aboard a comparably sized conventional commercial cruise ship.

Celebrities might be on The World, but ResidenSea isn't about to tell you who, Bailey said. The company will not reveal the identities of any residents or guests on board.

"It's not a celebrity haven, that's for sure. There are some well-known business people, but it's not a ship that celebrities flock to," she said. "This, to them, is a private home, so they're not so willing to speak to the media most of the time, and if they do it's anonymously."

She described the owners as "mostly entrepreneurs," self-made business people, about 40 percent from Europe and an equal share from the United States.

During a brief break in the Hilo rain yesterday morning, passengers hurried down the steps from the ship to the pier and into waiting tour vans for visits to the volcano and a tour of the windward coast and waterfalls.

"The tours are wonderful, the people are lovely, the crew is spectacular," marveled one woman, who said she joined the vessel in San Francisco and plans to leave it in Sydney. She declined to give her name, as did most of the passengers and staff.

Bob Sabes, who owns a unit and described himself as a "semi-retired entrepreneur" from Las Vegas, said he had left and rejoined the ship several times. His favorite feature, he said, is "the location. It's everywhere."

If life on The World sounds appealing, and you have the means, there is one more penthouse unit available on Deck 8, Bailey said. This little three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath has two verandas, one on the side and one to the front.

It is offered for $5.2 million, a price that Bailey said the company considers non-negotiable.

The reason?

"Demand," she said.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com or 935-3916.