The couple who ‘sold everything’ to live on cruise ships for the rest of their lives
John and Melody Hennessee plan to spend the rest of their lives cruising around the world – and they reckon it could be as much as half as expensive as their life on land.
The couple, originally from Florida, sold almost everything they owned three years ago, including their main business and their home, and bought a motorhome to travel around the United States.
But then John, 76, got tired of driving, says Melody, 64.
Then they saw an advert on Facebook for a 274-day cruise with Royal Caribbean, and their journey to a permanent life at sea began.
The pair are currently cruising around the Dominican Republic as part of the latest in a series of long-term sailings, which have taken them to places including Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific.
But while their new life is more exciting, they say it is cheaper too.
“We now have a telephone bill, a ship bill, and a few credit card bills for when we go ashore, but that’s it,” says John.
“We no longer have a mortgage or the expense of homes. We no longer have vehicle insurance, property insurance, or utility bills. The list goes on. We are certain cruising is cheaper.
“Right now it is probably close to half of what it was when we lived on land.”
At the moment, their life is planned in monthly chunks, as they hop from ship to ship – and they are booked up to December 2024.
But soon they will be taking up a more permanent residence on Villa Vie’s residential cruise ship – one of the first of its kind – where as many as 30% of those on board will be permanent residents.
The ship will circumnavigate the world every three years, largely following the warm weather, but life on board Villa Vie won’t come cheap.
An inside cabin starts at $99,000 (£78,000), but a balcony villa with views of the ocean costs $249,000 (£198,000) – and that is not forgetting the almost $8,000 (£6,369) monthly fee.
The ship is still being constructed, so while they haven’t set foot in their new home, they have seen digital renderings that have given them a good idea of what to expect.
It will be bigger than a traditional cruise ship room, with a kitchenette and pull-down bed in the living room for guests.
“We wanted to buy a cabin so we can design it how we want. It’s going to be home for us, for probably a minimum of 15 years on the ship,” Melody says.
Housed in a former Fred Olsen cruise lines ship, the Villa Vie Odyssey is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound transformation and will enter service in May 2024, launching from Southampton.
“Every operator has its own world cruise,” says founder and CEO Mikael Petterson.
“And they just get longer and longer and longer. So why not push the envelope and create the ultimate world cruise where you don’t stop and you just keep going?“
Mikael has a background in cruising and is the former managing director of Life at Sea Cruises.
Life At Sea advertised three-year global sailings, but the project was cancelled before the ship could depart. Mikael had stepped away before it ran aground, after voicing concerns over the choice of ship.
“We learned a huge amount from that experience,” he told Sky News.
So far, around 85% of occupants are American, but Villa Vie have just signed their first British couple.
Those living on board will be able to bring their families on to the ship for free – once they’ve paid the port fees – and a set number of cabins will be reserved for them.
There will be a business centre and private offices, allowing digital nomads to work from anywhere in the world.
Mikael says almost half of cabins are singles, with a third being business owners and those who can work from anywhere in the world.
With the ship averaging an age of almost 60, residents have a dentist and doctor on board for routine procedures. For more serious health scares, there is a hospital – and a two-person morgue for the worst-case scenario.
Melody and John say “overindulging” is their biggest problem on board. They try to walk as much as possible around the ship, and on a day at port can walk as many as eight miles exploring.
The ship will dock slightly longer in ports – for three to five days at a time – and the couple can even choose to stay longer and fly on to meet their new floating home at a later place.
John’s son is 54, and Melody’s daughter is 43, but they aren’t worried about losing touch with them.
Several cabins aboard Villa Vie will be reserved for friends and family to visit, and with the itinerary planned years ahead, Melody says some family members have already staked a claim on when they are going to come join them.
And they aren’t worried about getting bored.
“We are just water people. We are both boaters, and we love being on the ocean,” Melody says.