A British expat and his wife are buying a £1million apartment on a residential cruise ship – so they can show their two young daughters the world.
Mark Hunter, 50, and his 46-year-old American wife Beth look forward to being on board when the Storylines vessel Narrative is due to set sail in 2024, by which time their girls will be aged 14 and 16.
The family has bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom residence with a forward-facing terrace on the ship, which has its own garden farm, medical centre, 10,000-book library, microbrewery, cinema and bowling alley – plus 20 dining and bar venues.
The 547 residences cost up to £6million each and there’s even a dog park for pets. The girls will be able to take part in a ‘youth education programme’ – a kind of travelling school.
As well as three pools, Narrative will have a marina deck that’s level with the water, so passengers can take out jet skis, kayaks and sailing boats – or even plunge straight into the ocean – when the ship is moored. The aim will be to circumnavigate the globe every 1,000 days, spending several overnights in most ports.
Storylines announced in March 2021 that Brodosplit in Croatia would build the ship and the first steel would be cut this year, though work is yet to start.
The Hunters plan to spend three months at a time alternating between living on the ship and at their home in Los Angeles.
Beth said: ‘We’ve always wanted to travel the world as a family – we thought about buying our own boat but realised there is so much time spent on maintenance, chores and provisioning that we would only have a day or two each week to explore.
‘When we learned about Storylines, it ticked all the boxes. Instead of a 50ft sailboat we’ll have a 700ft ship – quite the trade-up. We’ll have plenty of time for exploration and adventures because we won’t have to bother with shopping, cooking, cleaning or laundry.’
The couple met when Mark, who’s from the Lake District, moved to California 17 years ago with his work in the film industry. Beth grew up in New England and is an environmental sustainability consultant. They adopted their children – whose names they have asked me not to publish – from Russia in 2011.
Asked whether they or the girls would be lonely on the ship, Beth said: ‘We hope our family and friends will sail with us for a couple of weeks here and there. We will also be making new friends on board, of course.
‘Our daughters get along well with other kids of all ages. They want to set up a Scouts troop and do child-minding and pet-minding on the ship. As a family, we want to start a board game club.’
Beth realises the girls will miss out on some group sports practices, but added: ‘It’s important for them to have a global education. We lead a privileged life and we want our children to see first-hand how people live in other parts of the world. We want them to experience the beauty of the planet but also the issues that need addressing so they can be a part of the solution someday.’
As to their days ashore, Beth said: ‘We will spend a lot of time exploring with local guides who can show us all the highlights of the area. We are looking forward to learning about evolution in the Galápagos and ancient civilisations in Giza and Alexandria, as well as about our roots in Russia, Scotland and the Azores.
‘Our youngest loves animals so we’ll do safaris in Africa and we’re also looking forward to seeing the Arctic wildlife. We like kayaking, snorkelling and hiking together and will learn to dive. We can’t think of a more comfortable and convenient way to see the world.’
Another holidaymaker who’s invested in a Storylines apartment is Suzanne Lankes, also from California. She said: ‘I was looking into a 110-day voyage with Princess costing £38,000 a couple of years ago when a flyer came in the mail from Storylines. I thought this is the perfect lifestyle for me and less expensive than cruising every few months.’
Suzanne’s son, daughter-in-law and three-year-old granddaughter live three hours away from her. She said: ‘They would like me to move closer but I really don’t want to become a built-in babysitter. I’m divorced and both my parents have passed on. Now is the time for me – if not now, when?’
Now retired, Suzanne intends to spend a month on land with her son’s family for every three months she’s on the ship. Sometimes they’ll fly out to stay on board with her.
She said: ‘I believe the experience on Storylines will keep me healthy and young. I will be using the gym and spa along with the yoga and tai chi classes, the golf simulator, maybe even dancing, and will be getting much more daily exercise in the pools, the ocean, playing tennis, walking around the ship and exploring every new port. Not to mention the stimulation of the mind by experiencing new and different places and people, and learning from the historian on board.’
Suzanne will make extra money from letting her home as an Airbnb and renting out her cabin when she is not at sea. She said: ‘Of course I will miss my family and friends, but I can get off the ship any time I want and visit them for as long as I like.
‘My best friend for 40 years moved to Georgia four years ago. I see her three or four times a year – soon she’ll be visiting me on the ship. Other friends will come on board too and I can’t wait for my granddaughter to visit me!’
Suzanne is clearly looking forward to starting her new adventure in two years’ time. She said: ‘I want to thank Storylines for giving me my dream and my life back. Just when I was thinking that I would be winding down as I get older, I am revved up and ready to go!’
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