A company that had hoped to sell cruise ship staterooms as year-round residences have dialed back their plan and is now offering daily, weekly and monthly rentals.
The Ship You Could Call Home
The operators of MS Satoshi, a 30-year-old cruise ship once known as P&O’s Pacific Dawn, have shifted focus from trying to sell ‘cruise condos’ to offering short- and long-term rentals for tourists once the ship arrives at a permanent anchorage about 30 minutes offshore from Panama City.
The 804-foot, 12-deck vessel is currently en route to Panama from Greece, with a scheduled drydock stop in Gibraltar. Company officials say the MS Satoshi has been repainted and renovated in preparation for its new role.
The ship’s anchorage will be a five-minute boat ride from popular tourist destination Taboga Island, and shuttles will be offered to ferry guests from the ship to the island’s restaurants and beaches.
The ship was acquired earlier this year for an undisclosed price by a company named Ocean Builders. Chief Operating Officer Chad Elwartowski is a Michigan-born software engineer turned bitcoin trader who has been both a proponent of and controversial figure within the seasteading movement. (Seasteading, for the uninitiated, is the concept of a floating community with what they call “significant political autonomy.”)
The original plan was to sell both living and retail space on board in an effort to create a self-sustaining community. The 777 staterooms were to be auctioned off in blocks of 100, but the Ocean Builders website indicates that only about 10 of the first available collection wound up selling by the time the first round of bidding had closed on November 28.
How Much Are The Rental Rates?
According to the website for Viva Vivas, a spinoff company that is handling rentals of the staterooms aboard the MS Satoshi, nightly rates will range from $88 for an interior cabin to $885 per night for a suite that sleeps four.
For a one-year lease, prices start at $1,311 per month for interior cabins. Balcony staterooms will go for $2,777 per month, while mini-suites will set you back $3,818 per month. Six-month leases range from $1,468 per month to $4,276 per month.
“We’re going to focus on tourism and getting people on the ship and not focus so much on real estate,” Elwartowski recently told Cruise Industry News. “I will still sell the cabins, but the prices will be higher. Most people have been saying that they want to come and stay on the ship and see what it’s like before buying.”
Many Questions Remain Unanswered
From the beginning, details of the project have been vague and ever-changing.
As Cruise Radio reported in October, questions raised by potential bidders during video chats were often met with indefinite responses. Even as bidding was opening on the first spate of staterooms, the contract which would be signed by the concerned parties had not been fully hammered out.
The MS Satoshi is taking reservations for long- and short-term rentals beginning January 3, 2021. Recent comments by Elwartowski suggest that early visitors will likely find a work in progress.
“This will be a new experience for all of us so we must manage your expectations. The Satoshi will be more of a floating hotel than a cruise that you may be used to with free food and free everything,” he wrote on the Ocean Builders blog. “While week one will be a lot different from week 30 we fully expect it to be an adventure for anyone coming to join us.”
He added: “If you have ever been on a cruise ship that you considered too crowded or did not enjoy waiting in long lines for everything then this ship experience is for you. We fully expect a gradual start as this is a completely new living experience that will take time to grow and build on what is essentially a floating village aboard a 249-meter ship.”
According to Viva Vivas, the Hamburg, Germany-based Columbia Cruise Services has been engaged for technical, operational, and hospitality and crew services. The company will provide food service on the Satoshi — buffet-style and in-room dining — at least until private restaurants are up and running. But so far, there has been no word of any such businesses making plans to open aboard the ship.