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The sea is your back yard

Ultra-Luxe oceanview apts, 1,106 to 3,242 sq.ft., 2 or 3 bdrms, elegantly furnished, $2M to $7M

This wasn't quite the ad that caught the eye of multimillionaire Richard Reed, but something similar to it, which he read in a golf magazine. And it prompted Reed, 60, of Scottsdale, Ariz,. to take the plunge. He bought a two-bedroom condominium aboard the latest twist in seafaring, the World of ResidenSea.

This 12-deck vessel was created to be a tony, floating residential resort. If location, location, location is the governing principle in real estate, the World delivers the best seaside location on the planet: the ocean itself.

Think: owning your own ship without the headaches. While the World wanders the globe on continuous round-the-world itineraries, its residents are to enjoy their own posh digs in a country club atmosphere.

The World boasts 110 owner-occupied apartments that let the super-affluent hop on and off while the ship spends 250 days a year in ports worldwide _ as many as five nights in some of them. The vessel is slated to linger at special events such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Prix in Monaco and the British Open in Edinburgh.

The World may well become the ultimate mobile home for the rich and perhaps soon to be famous, when the ship makes its debut on May 1 and spends the summer cruising Europe before arriving in the United States in September. Tenants on the World are required to show a net worth of at least $5-million before their purchase applications are considered.

If the exclusivity smacks of an " "I'm here and you're not" mentality, not to worry. The World also has 88 luxury "hotel" suites for which passengers can nab voyages of five days or longer.

Despite the ship's globetrotting itineraries and allure for seagoing nomads, most owners probably won't even use their "pied-a-mer" year round. After all, they likely already have a second and third home on land.

The average owner is an executive in his mid-50s who plans to live on the ship three months a year, said ResidenSea president and CEO Fredy Dellis. He expects that only about 300 residents and guests will cruise at any one time, a rarefied community, indeed.

The vessel was initially marketed in Europe. Today, with about 73 percent of the swank apartments sold, the demographics reflect more than a dozen nationalities, including Americans, Norwegians, Germans, Swiss, Brits and Australians. Dellis calls the luxury vessel, "A little League of Nations."

When American Reed spotted the original ResidenSea ad, he was hooked.

"I saw this concept and said, "Hey, this is perfect!' "

Second home, for $2.7-million

Reed ultimately paid $2.7-million for his two-bedroom, 1,353-square-foot apartment and, to decorate it, chose J.P. Molyneux, one of four designers enlisted by ResidenSea to fully furnish the vessel and its opulent abodes.

Reed preferred Molyneux's continental look over his other options _ Nina Campbell, Luciano Di Pilla, and Yran & Storbraaten. Each was commissioned to create 12 possible "looks" for the apartments, right down to the linens and china.

According to Architectural Digest, the World is a "designer ship." Its apartments are created as luxury homes, not mere staterooms:

Each apartment features a veranda (with optional jet pool), fully equipped kitchen, queen-size beds, living room and sitting area, advanced entertainment center with satellite reception and 200 movies available on demand, and a marble bathroom or two with separate tub and shower.

Each is outfitted with fancy Frette bed linens, feather-down pillows and luxurious bath amenities.

Each apartment's au courant communications technology lets owners stay in touch in ways that could rival NASA. Reed can go online on his veranda then pick up his laptop, walk out the door and settle anywhere on the ship and still stay connected to the software business he owns and operates shoreside.

"We've got high-speed, fulltime, Internet connection in the apartment," Reed said. "We've even got our own telephone and fax numbers."

Satisfaction, for a price

No one knows yet if the World will be worth the cost. ShowBoats International magazine noted that, at $1,996 per square foot, Reed's apartment is roughly as pricey as Bill Gates' mansion.

"For just $1.5-million more," the publication noted, Reed "could buy an 80-foot yacht sufficiently seaworthy to sail the seven seas in style."

But Reed already tried that and rejected it. For a decade, he owned a 52-foot, two-bedroom sailing yacht but found that maintenance and chores left him little time for entertaining on board.

He also owned a second home in Breckenridge, Colo., where he vacationed for decades, but he discovered he "never lingered long enough to make friends. And the scenery became boring."

Enter: ResidenSea. The appeal of the World to Reed was its promise as an upscale community where he could make friends. Sailing on the World, he expects, will let him "forge fantastic friendships."

"What's different about this concept is the fact that I really believe it's going to be like coming home," he said, describing a calculus most of us can only dream about.

"You're going to have two homes: You can have your land home and you can have your home on the ship. You are going to know everybody (onboard), and when you head down to have a drink, it's going to be like going to Cheers."

When Reed's not enjoying his ocean view, his two daughters, mother and brother can. "This is perfect for them to kind of see the world for the price of an airplane ticket," the multimillionaire said. "Let everybody have a little vacation. And that includes key employees as well."

But if anyone is really excited by the prospect of sailing the World, it's Reed's mother. "Oh God," she told Reed, "I hope I live long enough to go on that boat."

Ah, yes, the maintenance fee

Indeed, the coming to life of this project was a bit bumpy. The concept was spawned in the mind of Knut Kloster Jr., whose family helped sparked development of the modern cruise industry in the 1970s, Dellis said.

Kloster originally sowed seeds for the World back in 1995, envisioning a project nearly double this ship's size. But financial and timing vicissitudes ultimately scaled it back from $700-million to its final $384-million price tag.

In addition to the hefty purchase price of each apartment, owners pay a hefty maintenance fee amounting to between 5 and 6 percent of the purchase price. For Reed, this comes approximately to $150,000 annually. For those who bought in at $7-million, the figure approaches $400,000 a year.

Almost apologetically, Reed explained his extravagance: "I've always been prudent," he said. "I don't know how prudent I'm going to be now that I'm 60. There's a time to save and a time to spend."

Among the miscellany covered by the maintenance fee: daily maid service, port charges, staff salaries, dry-docking and maintenance and insurance. It also covers membership in the ResidenSea Club, which includes:

Six restaurants and cafes, theaters, cinema, casino, shops, a driving range and real grass putting green, a tennis court, two swimming pools (one under an all-weather dome), a health spa and a track. Club members also enjoy reciprocal golf privileges at other private clubs around the world.

Covered, too, are round-the-clock room service, concierge, security staff, doctors, nurses, X-ray equipment and operating facilities.

Yet owners still must pay for food and beverages, as well as any indulgences in the ship's Clinique La Prairie spa.

While cruise ship passengers typically get meals included in the price of their passage, Reed wasn't shocked by this lack.

"I think the menus are pretty reasonable" he said. "And they've (ResidenSea's condo board) tried to keep the costs down. I don't really think it's going to cost me any different when I'm (aboard) than what I'd spend here in Scottsdale."

Menu options on the World don't exactly fit Everyman's budget. At Portraits, a restaurant that will serve contemporary French fusion cuisine, beef tournedos cost $48, fresh fish $45 and appetizers range from the high teens to $28.

The lunch buffet at Tides, a self-serve ocean-view restaurant featuring Mediterranean cuisine, costs $28.50. A full English breakfast at the Marina runs $21.50, but the Continental breakfast, a relative bargain, is $14.50.

Cost-conscious owners, however, may purchase meal plans. For dinner only, these range from $75 per person per evening to $95 for dinner in the fancy Portraits; a plan covering all meals (except those in Portraits) runs $125 per person per day.

If Reed doesn't feel like "going out" for dinner, he can try the World's equivalent of dining in. He can buy provisions in the ship's market and prepare meals himself; he can ask room service to deliver dinner; or he can request that a particular restaurant deliver a fully prepared meal. With sufficient lead time he can even have one of the ship's chefs rustle up something in Reed's own kitchen.

ResidenSea provides a variety of entertainments and arranges shore excursions through its concierge services. A partnership with upscale Abercrombie & Kent creates and operates ground programs around the globe.

ResidenSea's continual series of lectures, concerts and classes include navigation, language, cooking arts, computers and photography. It also will mount rotating museum exhibitions.

"Say we're going to Rio next week," Dellis explained. "We'll have on board the week before people who will lecture about Brazil. We will have some entertainers from Brazil. We will have films and movies about Brazil. We will have very well-known explorers coming on board and talking about Brazil. Or we will have artists coming on board and talking about it and exposing Brazilian art in our art gallery."

For all its rarefied privilege, life on board the World won't be a cathedral to formality, Dellis predicted.

This "is not a cruise ship," he said. "So it is not regimented. You don't have a captain's welcome party, where everybody dresses up. You don't have a captain's farewell party. You really live in a resort community, and you do as you please."

Despite the exclusivity, ResidenSea actively seeks passengers to rent the 88 suites, which range in size from 259 to 648 square feet _ much larger than most cruise-ship staterooms. ResidenSea offers several booking alternatives _ some at bargain rates compared with the per diem costs associated with ownership.

Freelance writers Arline and Sam Bleecker specialize in articles on cruising.

Or just visit the "World,' if you prefer

The World of ResidenSea wanders the world on a continuous globetrotting journey. Although the ship's core of resident/owners will determine all future itineraries, voyages for its inaugural year are fixed: The ship cruises Europe and the Mediterranean this spring and summer, and Canada/New England in autumn. Next year plans are to ply the waters of the South Pacific and Asia.

Considering that its owner-occupied suites cost between $2-million and $7-million, it's a given that most mortals will never walk up its gangway. But the World's 88-room hotel makes suites available in various arrangements:

These guest accommodations can be booked for any of 30 itineraries, ranging from five to 17 days. Rates, in the least-expensive suites, range from $4,995 to $15,295 a person and include roundtrip airfare, gratuities, port charges, meals and onboard beverages, including fine wines and spirits.

For deeper pockets still, you can buy blocks of days, from 30 to 300, to use at your discretion over 24 months. Rates for this arrangement range from $41,395 for 30 days to $480,000 for 300 days, per suite. But these don't include meals.

You can even rent an apartment when an owner is not in residence, for $2,100 to $6,000 a day.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call toll-free 1-800-970-6601 or log onto the Web site at www.residensea.com.

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