The Marquette cruise ship is scheduled to hit the waters in late 2016 or early 2017, operating on the U.S. Intracoastal Waterways of the United States. Another residential cruise ship known as MS The World has been sailing since 2002, and the market is expected to explode with the addition of The Utopia, twice the size of The World, set to launch in 2016.

The following review is integrated with Cruise Ship Retirement and How to Buy a Cruise Ship?

According to David Nelson, River Cities Developer, River Cities and The Marquette itself, was his dream and brainchild of 19 years as a live-aboard boater on Mississippi River in St. Paul and 30 years of boating experience.

River Cities is a sophisticated concept that required years of planning. Nelson shares that after years of living on the water he has come to experience the whole world differently and the water has heightened his connection to the weather, the wildlife and the ever changing water itself.

David Nelson and his wife, ReNae, intend to live on the floating condo community Marquette. The Marquette cruise ship, billed as the world's biggest inland passenger boat, will ply the intracoastal waterways and rivers of the United States year-round, with an opportunity to call at a variety of ports. 

"We are a way for people to live aboard and cruise the country," Mr. Nelson said. "The only other alternative would be buy your own house boat or yacht. We've made it not only a less expensive experience, but a community experience."

The Marquette is a mammoth ship bound by U.S. waterways. She will cruise the northern U.S. rivers during the summer months and the inter-coastal waterways and southern rivers during the winter due to climate. Whether you choose to sail on the Mississippi to St. Paul from New Orleans, or cruise the Missouri or Ohio Rivers, you can arrange a comfortable extended trip. The Marquette will also float to the U.S. Intercostal Waterway to Carrabelle, Fla from Brownsville, Texas.

With the goal of following good weather, Nelson has planned for the residential ship to cruise the rivers from Texas to Minnesota and the Gulf of Mexico year-round. Nelson reportedly told CNN: 

“We never want to see snow and we never want to see hurricane season”.

Nelson does not see The Marquette cruise ship as taking a back seat to any other ocean-going condo liner. He admits that the barge's shallow draft won't let his vessel take waves, so The Marquette will never see Venice. But The World will never see Red Wing, Minnesota.

At an estimated cost of US$ 110 million, The Marquette will be the biggest inland passenger ship in the world and will ply the waters of select U.S. coastlines and rivers. In fact, this 5-story community will actually be 4 barges which combine to make a couple of 600-by-54-foot boats that will have separate engines. When navigating narrow waterways like New Orleans-area locks and intracoastal waterway, the vessel will divide in 2, then rejoin in wider waters.

The Marquette

The Marquette ship prices - apartment cost, rentals, fees

In 2014 David Nelson of River Cities claimed they were 30% sold (with token deposits of $1,000 each) and would start construction at 90% pre-sold, at which point buyers will have to put down a more substantial deposit. He added, that unfortunately during the recession they had to go into a marketing “pause” mode but resumed marketing and anticipated floating their first vessel in 18-24 months.

The Marquette cruise ship will feature 185-200 condo units (each with a private balcony), ranging in size from 528 to 924 square feet, and priced from US$ 299,000 to US$ 499,000. There are three options available: a fractional ownership can be purchased for 2 months, half a year or a condo could be purchased for the full year. 

  • 2-month purchase rates range from US$ 54,600 to US$ 84,900; 
  • half year purchase rates are from US$ 161,000 to US$ 264,000; 
  • full year purchase rates are from $299,000 to $499,000. 

If you call to buy one, then you can request certain layouts. Cabin placement is on a "first come first served" basis.

A homeowner's association fee, based on the price of the cabin, of nearly US$27 per square foot per month will be assessed to cover docking, fuel, insurance, salaries. Residents will share the monthly costs of operating the cruise ship, estimated at US$ 1,166 to US$ 2,040 depending on the unit's size (for studios and 2-bedroom units).

The Marquette Ship Specifications

  • Developers & Operators: River Cities Inc, St. Paul, MN
  • Builders: Jeffboat LLC / Trinity Industries Inc.
  • Naval Architects: Shearer & Associates, New Orleans, LA; Lay Pitman & Associates, Jacksonville, FL
  • Interior Design Architect: Truman Howell Architects & Associates, Minneapolis
  • Staff: 34 crew living aboard
  • Composition: 4 Hulls, each with dimensions: Length 300 ft (91.4 m); Width 54 ft (16.5 m)
  • Total Vessel: Length: 600 ft (91.4 m); Width: 108 ft (16.5 m); Height: 47 ft (14.3 m)
  • Tonnage: 12,134 short tons net
  • Propulsion: 4200 hp - CAT diesels w/ Z-drive 360 azimuth propellers
  • Bow Thrusters: 2-700 hp 360 azimuth drop-down propeller thrusters
  • Electrical generation: 1700 kw main source, 1510 kw auxiliary, CAT diesel
  • Draft: 6 ft-7ft (1.8 m - 2.1 m)
  • Speed: 5-7 knots (9-13 km/h; 5-8 mph)
  • Number of Decks: 5 total (4 residential, 1 technical and crew quarters).

The Marquette Cruise Ship Basic Policy

  • Smoking will only be permitted within two specially ventilated lounges on the first deck at the stern of the right and left side barges. Except for these, smoking will not be permitted inside or outside on the ship.
  • There will be no tipping of staff members as "River Cities is not a hotel, but your home". This policy will be in effect for all aboard The Marquette cruise ship. If anyone needs special assistance, the crew will be available on a fee basis. 
  • On a provisional basis, two pets are welcome per residence if they are well mannered. Dogs are limited to 15 lbs (6.8 kg) maximum weight or heavier in case they're under 12" shoulder height. If an owner cannot control excessive barking, the association might deny the dog continued residency. 
  • Family and friends can use owner's condominium while he or she are away. Federal Maritime Commission rules require the owners to list parents, siblings, kids and five friends they will permit to use the condominium while they aren't aboard. All others will lease arrangements through River Cities Management.
  • Leasing the condominium is permitted only through the leasing trust operated by River Cities Management. Owners can lease the condominium shortterm to other guests or residents. Or, they can lease longterm with a 1 month minimum stay for guests of their preferance or lessees found by River Cities.
  • River Cities Management will maintain a sales office onboard. If anyone decides to sell his or her condominium, the staff will assist for a 4% commission (rates may eventually vary). Owners may also use an outside sales agency or sell their units themselves.
  • Fishing will be permitted only off first deck condominiums.

The Marquette cruise ship

The Marquette Cruise Ship Amenities

Amenities Included for Residents

  • Concierge services (available 24 hours per day);
  • Cruising Lounge (a vast rooftop lounge on the bow of The Marquette is a community space for residents, devoted to comfortable viewing);
  • Theatres (equipped to show nightly movies for the community; visiting or local entertainers can use these theaters at the discretion of community);
  • Activity rooms (located on the lower decks of The Marquette with ample space for crafts and activities);
  • Library (a community room with “book swap” shelves to share books);
  • Wildlife Watching (The Marquette will be equipped with pontoon boats for going ashore when the gangways are insufficient. The pontoon ships will be available for group trips for viewing wildlife into shallow waters);
  • Shore Travel (the staff will operate 2 buses for the community to use on land; The Marquette residents will have rental cars available, moved to overnight stopping locations by car carrier semi-trailers. Residents can rent the automobiles when their needs exceed the potential of the buses);
  • Walking Tracks (a 1/5 mile walking track will be housed in the semi-enclosed atrium);
  • Pools and Hot tubs (available for community use, these amenities will be located on the ship's roof);
  • Fitness Equipment (the fitness room will offer exercise equipment, including treadmills, weight machines, step machines, etc.; exercise classes will be considered);
  • Fishing (permitted on the stern of the ship; fishing elsewhere is only permitted for owners of 1st floor deck units; the rental runabouts onboard will be available for fishing excursions);
  • Chipping Course (a rooftop chipping course will cover nearly 1/2 acre);
  • Travel Office (The Marquette does not operate like a true cruise ship, providing entertainment and activities; during a cruise, the ship manager will provide information on entertainment and activities or contract services at locations throughout the voyage);
  • Mail Service (residents will have their mail sent to a year-round "drop" address of River Cities in St Louis, from where the company will expeditiously forward residents mail as quickly as possible via courier service to the boat);
  • Chapel (a non-denominational chapel will be available onboard).

Amenities Available as Fee-for-service

  • Special Assistance (all forms of assistance will be available beyond the limits of usual concierge services, on a fee basis);
  • Phone, TV, Internet (Satellite dish assemblies will provide for VoIP telephone, digital television service and high speed Internet);
  • Restaurants / Deli (a mix of buffet line, full service restaurant, takeout meals and deli will be provided in the 2 restaurants and 2 lounges on the bow of The Marquette; these food services will be offered for a fee; also available in the first deck restaurants will be private party rooms);
  • Grocery Store (to stock essential groceries below ship's decks; The Marquette will be followed by land support vehicle to bring mail, fresh food and other supplies to residents at each night's mooring);
  • Storage Space (The Marquette cruise ship will provide storage space for items such as electric scooters or luggage. Storage space is limited to items needed during travels; storage of personal items like keepsakes should be done on land);
  • Rental Cars (also available for residents of The Marquette; car carrier semi-trucks will transport the rental cars between locations);
  • Rental Watercraft (inboard power boats accommodating 4 to 8 passengers will be available on a rental basis);
  • Golf (2963 golf courses are available within 50 miles of the waterways The Marquette will call home, according to the USGA);
  • Visitor Suites (buyers will be surveyed during the sales process to define demand for visitor suites);
  • Personal services (hair-care, beauty and spa services will be provided).

The Marquette cruise ship will do things differently than other cruise ship condos. The extraordinary vessel won’t be all-inclusive. The Marquette will offer the usual amenities, listed above, but if her residents want other special perks, such as an arranged golf event, water craft rental, storage space, restaurants, phone, TV and Internet, they will have to pay extra.