Remember when super yachts were the big billionaire boating trend? Then mega yachts became the cool thing when billionaires needed just a bit more space. Well forget all of that, because there is a new billionaire boating trend: cruise ships. The rich and famous are now renting out entire cruise ships for the ultimate in luxury travel. Super yachts and mega yachts provide a taste of a lavish life but they are limited in space. With a cruise ship, rental space is not an issue. An entire 200-capacity cruise ship with staff rents for $500,000 a week (and up).
Russian billionaire Kirill Pisarev recently sold his $21 million super yacht because he realized the boat was too small for himself, his wife, and their four kids. Steven Spielberg also ditched his super yacht because it was too small.
At the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix, Windstar Cruise Lines's 212 passenger cruise ship Star Breeze was chartered by one very rich person. His guests were able to come and go at will and enjoy all of the on-board activities. A seven-day rental of the Star Breeze costs anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million, depending on the level of attention you require from the staff and the food and booze you want on hand.
Crystal Cruise Lines's charter rates for their Esprit vessel start a bit lower than the Star Breeze. The Esprit can be rented for $500,000 per week. If you wanted to rent a super yacht for the same 7-day time frame, it would cost $731,000.
But is there really a market for cruise ship rental?
The answer to that is… maybe. This luxury travel option is a definite niche market, but it is perfect for the super wealthy who feel limited by the number of guests even the largest of mega yachts can handle. Typically, super and mega yachts can handle 12 to 36 people. Staff is included in those numbers.
The upside to cruise ship rental is that it costs the billionaire host less per person to invite friends, family, and business acquaintances onto a larger ship. The downside is that the level of service and luxury is a step down from the very personalized service on a super yacht.
The truth is, there is enough of a growing demand for this type of travel that the design of many new ships being ordered by major cruise lines are designed specifically for private rental. Crystal Cruise Lines' 63- guest Crystal Esprit is an example of this–it was built for private charter. France's Ponant Line has added four ships to its fleet, each with just 132 cabins.
When you consider that the world's most expensive yacht, the Eclipse, cost Russian oligarch $1 billion to build, well, the $500,000-$600,000 rental price for a cruise ship doesn't seem so bad.