Alister Punton and Shannon Lee had plenty of experience with real estate and construction projects in Australia. But now they and their Storylines startup are taking all those lessons out to sea—building a whole new kind of community that lets people live, work and play from the comfort of their very own new home aboard a private cruise ship.
Reimagining the cruise ship experience as not just a temporary getaway but as a sustainable community has truly been an exercise in blue ocean strategy.
“This is a ship that people live on, not a vacation cruise ship, so the architects had to design it completely differently than their previous projects,” says Punton, CEO of Storylines. “They started with a blank canvas.”
To determine which features to include—and how people might use the spaces—the team went straight to the source: the ship’s future residents. Based on surveys, focus groups and interviews with residents and supporters (dubbed the “Founders Circle”), the team came up with the project specifications. “If it’s not on the ship, it’s because they didn’t want it,” Punton says.
After considering several existing vessels, the team decided that to truly deliver on its vision, it needed to start from scratch—which meant budget, scope and scheduling changes. Designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden, the all-new MV Narrative will be constructed at the Brodosplit shipyard in Croatia when that phase begins later this year.
Along with serving up all the requirements for daily living—like a pharmacy, bank, school and post office—the ship will offer three swimming pools, a 10,000-book library, a farmer’s market, a wellness center and even a solar-powered hydroponic garden farm.
To deliver what Storylines proclaims is “the greenest ship in the market,” the team designed the vessel to run on clean liquefied natural gas fuel and incorporated reusable energy technologies, among other eco-friendly features. And, in keeping with its focus on environmental, social and governance principles, Storylines has committed to using only biodegradable or reusable items and will donate a portion of its profits toward safeguarding the world’s oceans.
The final product will have a range of housing options—from studios to two-story penthouses—with prices starting at US$400,000, all the way up to US$8 million. That kind of customer-centric design means the project will appeal to a wide customer base that Punton sees including “digital nomads, executive-level entrepreneurs, families, expats and early retirees.”
Staying agile has helped the team truly tailor its design for a diverse community. Though the project was launched in 2016, designers recently amended deck plans to add five new residence types with office spaces, larger and deeper balconies, and they incorporated more entertainment venues for its growing cohort of resident families and execs.
The project ultimately represents a larger shift by the luxury travel industry to create more immersive travel experiences that also allow for remote work and study. Though the MV Narrative won’t begin its 1,000-day voyage across six continents until late 2024, when it sets sail, there will be 1,000 residents on board for a life at sea.
“Now there is a lifestyle opportunity that gives people the chance to live, work and travel the globe at a relaxed pace, from the safety and comfort of home,” says Lee, the company’s co-founder. “They don’t have to live out of a suitcase. They can unpack once and sleep in their own bed every night, waking to a new view every week.”