Wish you lived here?


Apartments costing up to €30m on a luxury cruise ship will be pitched at Ireland's rich list next week. Michael Parsonsreports

Ahoy there! Ever dreamt of A life on the ocean wave? Those evocative words, from the regimental quick march of the Royal Marines, conjure up a fantasy of enduring appeal. But imagine living permanently aboard a luxurious ship sailing the Seven Seas on an endless voyage of adventure and discovery.

Glamour on the high seas has long been synonymous with absolute privilege and fabulous wealth. Why, even the word "posh" originated from the cabin preferences of the aristocracy plying the route from Southampton to Imperial India (Portside Out, Starboard Home).

Part of the appeal is the privacy which offers the perfect backdrop for the most scintillating romance. As every boy knows, all the nice girls love a sailor.

Think of Edward and Mrs Simpson scandalously skinny-dipping into the Mediterranean from the lavishly-appointed, four-masted Sea Cloud; Aristotle Onassis whisking the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy on board the Christina to his private island in the Aegean; or Dodi Fayed shielding Diana from the paparazzi while they bobbed aboard his yacht off St Tropez.

But maintaining such opulence at sea can be ruinously expensive. Why these days, not even the Queen of England can afford the indulgence of a floating palace, the HMS Britannia having been decommissioned in 1997 by spoilsport landlubber, Gordon Brown.

But what if you could share the expense? Well, a US consortium is developing a solution - a floating complex of apartments and penthouses - which allows some of the dizzying treasure-chest costs to be split between like-minded wealthy individuals and families.

Ireland's richest people are being invited to what is possibly the country's most exclusive ever property launch next Tuesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin. Meanwhile, the Big Apple's billionaires will attend a similar event taking place in New York.

An American developer will present what they claim are "the world's most outstanding private residences on the world's most luxurious private ship".

The 13-deck vessel, appropriately called Four Seasons Ocean Residences, will contain 112 fully fitted and furnished homes - ranging from one-bedroom apartments to sumptuous penthouses - which are being offered for sale on a 50-year leasehold basis with prices from €2.8 to €30 million.

The ship, to be built at the Aker yards in Finland, will be launched in 2010 and permanently circumnavigate the globe from Bergen to Brisbane. It will spend an average of 250 days in port each year and drop anchor at major international events such as the Rio Carnival, the Monaco Grand Prix and even the 2012 Olympics in London.

A 24-hour concierge service will co-ordinate special activities and arrangements in the various ports of call.

For those too world-weary or jaded to step ashore, the ship will provide an impressive range of diversions, including a 1,021sq m (11,000sq ft) spa, four restaurants, a casino, a gourmet market, a business centre, a helipad, putting greens, a driving range, a marina facility providing ship-to-shore service, diving expeditions and a launch for jet skis.

Two designer shopping malls will be called "Fifth Avenue" and, if talks with leading Irish designers and retailers are successful, "Grafton Street".

Every whim has been thought of, from the rules regarding pets (under 15lbs, so you may not quite get away with that diamond stud-collared panther) to onboard medical facilities.

A full schedule of activities for children is planned - though, frankly, they really should not be seen, let alone heard, on a ship.

Owner-occupiers may live permanently onboard or come and go as they please at any time or place from Antwerp to Auckland and will be pampered by the starched-to-perfection staffing and hotel-style services provided by the company which also runs Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

The sailing itinerary for the first two years has already been established and will please people who measure out their lives in mother-of-pearl caviar spoons and like to plan meticulously.

Those old questions which can divide families, like: "Where shall we go for Christmas?" (Charlestown, Nevis, in the Caribbean as it happens); or scupper a marriage: "Where have you booked for St Valentine's Day?" (will Florianapolis, Brazil do?), are easily resolved.

Apart from all the places you'd expect - Bali, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Cape Town, Monte Carlo, St Petersburg, Sydney, to name but a few - there are intriguing stops in the most far-flung and impossibly exotic destinations.

After 24 months it will be up to the Residents' Association to tailor-make future itineraries. Which makes a nice change from discussing the bin charges don't you think?

That the main launch is being undertaken simultaneously in Manhattan and Dublin clearly shows the rising wealth and power of the Republic of Ireland and the huge rise of millionaires in Dublin and Ireland generally.

The Dublin launch precedes similar parties in Paris, Moscow, Berlin, Monaco and Madrid, an indication of how seriously important Irish investors are taken in the international property market, says Paul Daly of Savills HOK, who will be handling sales in Dublin.

To get on the guest list, you'll need to have "liquid assets" (no pun intended) of at least "€5 million plus property assets of over €2 million".

The developers anticipate that 40 per cent of buyers will come from the US; 30 per cent from Ireland and Britain; 15 per cent from continental Europe (the majority of these from Russia); 10 per cent from the Middle East; and 5 per cent from Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Singapore).

Let's hope they all know the words to the Sailors' Chorus from H.M.S. Pinafore: We sail the ocean blue, And our saucy ship's a beauty.