The World

On Top Of The World: Owning A Private Residence At Sea

Welcome aboard The World, the largest privately owned residential yacht on the planet, where a select group of individuals have made the high seas their home.


  • Launched in 2002, The World is the largest privately owned, residential yacht on earth with 165 luxury Residences.
  • In-depth expeditions and one-of-a-kind experiences are complemented by world-class amenities and service.
  • Getting a glimpse of the inner workings of The World Residences at Sea is a rare opportunity very few ever get to experience and very few will ever see.
  • Visit for more stories.


In the realm of luxury living, where opulence knows no bounds, there exists a realm beyond the shores, where some consider the waves their neighbours and the horizon a constant companion – at least, that’s what The World website says, and for a private community concealed at sea, that’s about as much as most will ever get to know about it.


During The World’s stop-over in Cape Town this year, The Sandton Times had the very rare privilege of boarding the vessel, and gaining an exclusive behind the scenes look of what makes The World go round. We’re taken on a tour of The World Residences at Sea by the Residential Director, who is everything a Residential Director should be. A touch of dry humour, with a dash of decorum mixed with a good dose of discretion and a generous helping of experience, anecdotes, and knowledge in abundance.


The World
The World visits South Africa in 2024 as part of a global itinerary that includes an array of interesting and exotic destinations. Image: The World Residences at Sea

Owned by a diverse community hailing from 20 countries, the Residents of The World share a passion for exploration, culture, and adventure. Imagine a floating apartment building, where each home is fully owned by its Resident, collectively owning the ship itself. From selecting destinations to governing ship operations, Residents are intricately involved in every aspect of life aboard The World, akin to shareholders in a prestigious venture.


The World continuously circumnavigates the globe on an itinerary selected by the Resident community through a voting process. Itineraries are determined approximately three years in advance by a team comprised of a Resident Itinerary Committee, the two Captains and the Director, Itinerary Planning. Every corner of the globe is a possibility. The Ship visits approximately 100 ports of call annually. Longer stays in port average three days and allow Residents to explore these destinations, all of which are chosen for their individuality, authenticity, and allure. The more experiential, the better.


The World
The World main swimming pool area for those looking to take a plunge and a break from a day of sightseeing. Image: The World Residences at Sea

Stepping aboard this maritime marvel, we’re immediately struck by the meticulous attention to detail and modern elegance that permeates every corner. For an unassuming exterior, The World has a meticulous and modern interior which is kept in mint condition – the maintenance is truly impressive. The World takes the phrase ‘in ship shape’ to a whole new level. And its onboard attractions are extensive. From a fully-fledged spa, fitness centre and salon to a coffee shop, retail boutique, bar and nightspot, award winning restaurants, cigar lounge, pool area, the only full-size regulation tennis court at sea and even some professional golf lessons by an onboard PGA pro are on the menu. It’s truly remarkable.


It’s also an incredible life for the children who live onboard with their parents. Unlike kids whose education comes from the pages of a geography book, theirs is truly hands-on learning filled with unlimited occasions to experience first-hand locales and cultures across the globe. For visiting youngsters there is a dynamic Youth Program with counsellors who run special programming during the summertime and Festive Season. The nautically themed steakhouse at the back of the ship has an indoor swimming pool, which the kids can use. This area also doubles up as an entertainment space for the young at heart onboard, as the pool is covered, and tango classes or flamenco dancers take to the floor.


The World
With a few thousand bottles of wine onboard, The World boasts a wine collection many may have only ever seen in wine guides. Image: The World Residences at Sea

But beyond its lavish amenities lies a sense of community and camaraderie, where Residents come together to share experiences, passions, and pursuits. Whether piecing together a colossal jigsaw puzzle or engaging in thought-provoking lectures ahead of an expedition, it seems life aboard The World is as enriching as it is indulgent.


During our walkabout, the Residential Director points out a 64’000 piece jigsaw puzzle that one of the Residents had picked up during a port visit. With nowhere to really set it up, the ships carpenters kicked into gear to build a custom table in one of the public areas, where Residents could meticulously piece together the puzzle. It’ll be on display for 3-days, then most likely disassembled and put back in the box. It’s so large, the option of sealing it with resin and mounting it on a wall, was just not an option. But not to worry as there are many other pieces of art that adorn the ship, most of which are owned by the Residents, picked up on one of the many stops and publicly displayed for all to enjoy – well some of it.


The World
For those opting to do some home cooking, an onboard grocery store offers a wide array of products and fresh produce. Image: The World Residences at Sea

There is that spot on the wall, now adorned with some contemporary keyboard art, that used to feature Comedian, aka the ‘banana duct-taped to a wall’ by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, which sold for a cool $120’000 at Miami’s Art Basel. It also resided on the ship for a brief period before it lost its a-peel. The banana was meticulously and ceremonially replaced every 3 days, and the former objet d’art was then added to a breakfast smoothie – a rich drink for breakfast, in so many ways. For those who prefer something a bit more traditional, there are a few more classic pieces ranging from Picasso to Chagall in various public and private spaces.


While some call The World their permanent abode, others balance their seafaring lifestyle with professional endeavours, thanks to high-speed internet connectivity that keeps them connected to the world beyond the waves. Whilst the continuous changes in time-zones become challenging, it’s not impossible to combine business and leisure whilst onboard. As ports come and go, so to do the Residents, who select which schedules and voyages they’ll join and which they’ll use to plan a trip to their home on land, only to re-join The World somewhere else.


The World
The nautically themed steakhouse at the back of the ship with the stern marina platform, offering a wide range of water-sports. Image: The World Residences at Sea

Food, drinks and general expenses that make life on the ship possible are managed in very similar ways to some of Johannesburg’s most prestigious, members-only golf clubs, where a certain net worth ensures the ship sails on. Along similar lines, the use of mobile phones in public areas is discouraged and suitable attire with a dose of discretion is to be expected. We head over to the cigar lounge and dining room, which features some exquisite décor and regularly hosts black tie dinners, inviting Nobel laureates and innovators onboard to host an informal talk with a select group of Residents.


The average occupancy at one time is approximately 150 to 200 Residents and guests making the atmosphere quite intimate. Whilst the youngest Resident is 21, the average age is mid-60s. It takes approximately 3 years for the ship to circumnavigate the world if passing principally from west to east, or east to west, around the planet. For larger voyages where the ship travels out in one direction and then returns in the other, for example when the ship travelled from Europe westerly through the Panama Canal, then around the Pacific Rim before returning easterly through the Panama Canal and back to Europe – this also took approximately 3 years. The average duration of ownership for most Residents is 7 years. Some, affectionately called inaugural Residents, have been on the ship since day one. Others have just been welcomed onboard.


The World
One of the approximately hundred ports of call for The World annually, from an itinerary designed and decided upon by the Residents. Image: The World Residences at Sea

We’re invited to dine onboard and one of the Residents hosts us for lunch. She admittedly is different to many of the other Residents on the ship, who range from entrepreneurs to top earning professionals, inventors, and self-made business tycoons. She is a 4th generation heiress to a family legacy which institutions, hospitals and public buildings are named after. Whilst she spends a lot of her time actively involved in philanthropy, alongside a list of personal passions, she first became a passenger as a result of having had the chance to sail with The World for a brief period of time as the winner at a charity auction.


So what keeps Residents occupied on this unmatched voyage around the world? Our Resident host aims to watch every nominated Oscar movie in each category before the year is out. And whilst watching the Japanese animated movie ‘The Boy and the Heron’ with Portuguese sub-titles in Brazil proved challenging, there should still be enough English-speaking cinemas left in the world to finish the over two-dozen titles before the year is out. She also loves theatre, opera and street art tours, which the onboard Concierge Team can arrange in each port of call.


The World
Cocktails and canapes overlooking Hong Kong…it’s all possible on a cruise around and on The World. Image: The World Residences at Sea

If movies aren’t your thing there is always the opportunity to have a front-row seat to watching a volcano erupt, sail alongside the A23 iceberg that broke free of Antarctica or watching the aurora borealis unfold whilst tucked into an overnight Bali bed on the upper rear deck of the ship complete with telephone to order your evening champagne or sunrise breakfast. A seasoned expedition team comes aboard for the more cardio intense high adventure expeditions. The Medical Centre staffed with a doctor and nurse, as well as a physiotherapist and fitness specialists, keep Residents fit for an active lifestyle.


We settle for a luncheon on the stern of the ship, overlooking Table Mountain and the Cape Town city skyline on a crystal-clear day, whilst navigating the custom designed menu for this leg of the trip, focusing on an array of Cape and South African inspired cuisine. There’s even a Good Hope cocktail on the drinks menu and dessert includes some South African favourites. Our Resident host looks forward to a delivery of new dance shoes today to better twirl in dance classes taught by the onboard Fitness Team. Packages from i.e. Amazon can be shipped to the corporate office in Fort Lauderdale in the United States and then forwarded on to the ship, wherever it is in the world. Each apartment even has its own letter box for correspondence on the ship and from abroad as well as its own storage space for luggage, golf clubs, diving gear, and other personal items in decks down below.


The World
An apartment on The World – there are a handful of apartments ranging from studios to three bedrooms available. Image: The World Residences at Sea

Of course, such privilege comes at a price, with ownership costs encompassing apartment fees, refurbishment expenses, and annual contributions towards ship operations. Yet, for those who call The World home, the rewards far outweigh the investment, offering a lifestyle that transcends the ordinary and embraces the extraordinary. Currently, there are a handful of apartments ranging from studios to three bedrooms available and interested parties may submit an inquiry and possibly have the opportunity of an in-person viewing. We get a chance to view an original apartment, with its mahogany and burgundy interior, and another apartment with a rather more aquatic theme, all in white, with no expense spared when it comes to homely luxuries. The wallpaper is even a shimmering mother of pearl.


On a journey where visits to Tristan da Cunha (the most remote inhabited archipelago on the planet) are not completely unthinkable and a polar plunge from the stern marina platform is par for the course, The World stands as a beacon of luxury and travel unlike anything else. The allure of the open sea and visiting foreign lands from the comforts of home wait for those fortunate enough to call it their own, life aboard The World is an endless odyssey of discovery, adventure, and memories.


As the sun sets on another port, we’re escorted back on land and brought back to earth, as The World prepares to set sail once more. Maintenance teams have been spraying down the hull the whole afternoon. Having experienced but a slice of the life onboard this exclusive domicile at sea, Residents of The World can truly say they are on top of the world, in every sense of the phrase.


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