If you've got the urge to throw away some money to buy a cruise ship, you should have a banker on speed dial or some really deep pockets. It's not often that you find a classified ad like "cruise ships for sale". However, it does happen from time to time. 

Cruise ships range in price from US$2 million to US$350 million, and come in all shapes, sizes and designs. It's rare to find a big cruise ship priced at less than a few million, although it's certainly not impossible. If you are seriously intending to buy a cruise ship, then you know how you will finance the purchase. Just find your price range.

How much does it cost to buy a cruise ship?

Do you wish to have your own cruise ship built? Naturally, the size of the ship will have an effect on the money you spend. If you're intending to have a shipyard build a vessel that will earn the title of the largest ever built, you'll need a billion dollars. The current title holder, 227,700-ton Harmony of the Seas, cost Royal Caribbean $1.35 billion.  

Impressed? Probably now you'd prefer an average-sized cruise ship instead. A new-build large cruise vessel will set you back at least $700 million, if not more. The cheapest found was for the new AIDAPrima – she cost AIDA Cruises $645 million. The new Carnival Vista, debuting on May 1, 2016 cost Carnival Cruise Line $800 million.

The shock from newbuild pricing convinced you to look for a used cruise ship, didn't it? There are ship brokers who might be able to help you purchase a ship built in the 1980s or 1990s, which was popular in the time, but the cruise line that owned it moved on to better vessels. Such a classic ship might set you back as little as $10-$20 million. Of course, like any used vessel, it is going to need a huge investment to get it into shape to carry passengers, and bring it up to current maritime safety standards and upgrade it with the latest amenities. For example, in 2013 the refit of Carnival Destiny cost Carnival about $155 million, changing her so throroughly that the line renamed her Carnival Sunshine. When built new in 1996 the ship cost about $400 million. 

Simply put, purchasing a cruise ship is an expensive proposition. But don't be upset – perhaps you'll be more than happy renting a cabin for a week as a cruise passenger.

How to Buy a Cruise Ship

Cruise Ships for Sale

There are various reasons why an individual owner or cruise line may put a cruise ship up for sale. The reasons may include the ship being outdated or the owner not being able to maintain it. Here are a few pointers to help you if in the market for cruise ships.

Determine the type of cruise ship that will best meet your needs: 

  • Five-star cruise ships; Three-star ships; Floating hotel ships;
  • Ocean liners; River cruise boats;
  • Luxury catamarans; Casino ships;
  • 1,500-passenger ships; 100-passenger ships.

Do you need a 40-meter luxury catamaran, a 140-meter luxury cruise ship, or may be a 240-meter classic cruise liner? Determine the size that will best suit your purposes.

Where to Find Cruise Ships for Sale?

Here is a list of places on the Internet that regularly advertise cruise ships for sale:

Cruise ships construction is handled predominantly by European and Asian ship building companies. Following are the leading shipyards that create new cruise ships:

Refitting may be required as part of the transfer of the cruise ship. Each cruise line features its own livery (insignia, symbols, uniforms) which may be displayed throughout the vessel. Probably, you will be required to remove any branded materials or trademarked symbols and come up with your own original name and design.

Depending upon your dream, the ship you buy may be repurposed to meet your ideas. For example, many liners were repurposed as cruise ships when cruising became popular. There were also cruise ships that were repurposed as floating hotels. Floating casinos are very popular, as well. And since cruise ships often change hands multiple times, repurposing a vessel for its new role is very common.

Have you ever heard of  a ship called The World? It is a floating residential community that is owned by citizens of 19 countries. As the ship navigates the globe, it stays several days in each port, and the owners live aboard. The itinerary is set by the residents.

Residential ship

Homes at Sea

For anyone who has struggled with the idea of spending savings purchasing a home or using it to travel the world, condo voyages present the perfect solution. These floating communities are becoming increasingly popular modes of fulfilling cruise fantasies with no need to leave the comforts of home. 

Permanent homes at sea offer all comforts of a studio or multi-bedroom apartment on land, plus unparalleled sea views. The idea is growing more and more popular, just like the notion of cruise ship retirement.

In August 2015, Crystal Cruises announced that its three new cruise ships will have up to 48 residences for sale each, ranging in size from 600 sq.feet to the whopping 4,000. The prices have been quoted as being in the multi millions, and the cruise ships compared to New York's uber luxe Baccarat hotel. 

The oldest and largest residential ship on the water is named The World. It first set sail in 2002 and features 165 private residences. The World, which calls itself a "residential yacht", is the most famous ocean residence. Ship's studio apartments are selling for more than $1 million, while the top suites are priced at $13 million. Added costs can be quite steep. Residents pay annual fees to cover staff wages and maintenance, which can be another 10% of the purchase price. May be life at sea is an opportunity only for cashed-up retirees, not for struggling first-home buyers.

However, residents of such a "community-at-sea" collectively own the cruise ship, and can thus choose their itinerary along with the captain. Last year, The World stopped at 104 ports in 30 countries and covered around 41,000 nautical miles. Its itinerary included three in-depth expeditions: Namibia & Mid-Atlantic, which goes from Cape Town to the Canaries; Greenland Expedition, which explores the Faroe islands; and Antarctica Expedition, which passes through Panama Canal. Residents have visited native tribes in Papua New Guinea, gone scuba diving in St. Barths, kayaked among icebergs and tracked polar bears in Russian Arctic. In 2012, The World became the biggest passenger ship to make it through Northwest Passage, a sea route through the Arctic. 

Each unit on The World features a kitchen (there is even a grocery shop onboard, as well as a wealth of port calls in which to stock up), living and dining areas, multiple verandas depending on the apartment size and en-suite bathrooms for every bedroom. The luxury ship features a 7,000-sq.foot spa and gym, two pools, a jogging track, a tennis court and golf facilities, as well as four restaurants, a grill, a deli, five bars, tea room and private chefs for hire. Just like a true floating village, the vessel also has a movie theater, art gallery, library, chapel, medical center, florist and a constant stream of activities, such as classes in cooking, arts & crafts and dance, lectures and plays, and nightly entertainment. The concierge is able to organize access to exclusive events and all reservations around the world. The average age of the residents aboard The World is 64, with a solid 35% under 50. Most residents use the condos as second homes, and stay onboard for a few months at a time, renting out their sea homes for the rest of the year.

Due to set sail in late 2016 or early 2017 is The Marquette, a 200-unit residential ship that will navigate inland waters in the United States. Planned features include theatres, hot tubs, a grocery store and an 18-hole chip-and-putt golf course. The Marquette is already pre-sold, with prices ranging from the more affordable $US 327,000 up to $US 1.2 million.

Also making her maiden voyage soon is the Utopia, a $1.5 billion liner that will be nearly twice the size of The World. The Utopia will have a total of 200 residential units and 16 smaller units for tutors and nannies, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Utopia homes will cost between $ 4 million and $ 30 million. The annual maintenance fee for residents will be about 4.5% of the list price.

The American businessman Bill Powers shared his plans to buy a 3-bedroom unit on The Utopia Cruise Ship:

“This satisfies my wanderlust desire without the inconvenience of packing, unpacking, going through customs, avoiding the wear and tear of travel.”

Living on a condo cruise ship helps avoiding the common travel hassles like packing, unpacking, customs, lost luggage, etc. It also means traveling with an international set of neighbors. Resident families on The World come from 19 different countries, while the crew of 260 - from 40. Residents enjoy up to 5-day stops at each port, and have the chance to join or leave the vessel at any point, because itineraries are set two years in advance.

The sole alternative to such kind of lifestyle is purchasing a yacht, which makes buying a condo aboard a cruise vessel look like a steal.