Cruising into the Sunset: One Man’s Plan to Live Full-Time on a Cruise Ship

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Have you ever wished you could sell everything you own and sail into the sunset? Single father Gary Payne is doing just that.

Villa Vie Odyssey in the Norwegian Fjords

As his children grow up and prepare to fly the nest, Gary is swapping his traditional life for a permanent world cruise aboard the Villa Vie Odyssey.

In this exclusive interview, he explains his motivations, how he will deal with the practicalities of life on the waves and what he’s most excited about on his solo voyage…

Gary Payne
Gary Payne

What led you to purchase a cabin on the Villa Vie Odyssey?

I’m a single dad, and my kids are now living more with their mum. They are also getting to university age, so they will be fleeing the nest.

I’ve gone without, saved, and invested my whole life. My health has gone downhill a bit since splitting from my ex, and I want to spend time on myself and do what I’ve always strived to do… Travel more. 

Have you cruised much in the past? 

Not really a proper cruise. Nothing more than a night or 2 days. I know, I’m crazy!

Restaurant on Villa Vie Odyssey

Why did you choose Villa Vie Odyssey over any of the other ships that offer full-time living at sea?

Currently, there are not many options to reside on a ship as opposed to buying back-to-back trips.

“The World” won’t entertain you unless you’re worth millions. A couple of other start-ups tried to start a cruise, but never even got a ship.

Villa Vie Residences has a ship, has a dry dock booked, has ports booked, and looks like the first “affordable” option. 

Villa Vie Odyssey

Also, it goes around the world slowly. It takes 3½ years to go around once, stopping at over 140 countries and staying at each place longer, meaning residents can explore each place a lot better, and immerse in the local area. There are even plans to help out in some communities with voluntary roles if you like. 

I also like the fact it’s a smaller ship, so can get to places other ships can’t reach (such as up the Amazon). 

Aft deck on Villa Vie Odyssey

The ship has a rich history, sailing for Cunard, Norwegian Cruise Line and Fred. Olsen previously. Did that influence your decision to choose this particular vessel?

Not at all. I signed up just before the ship was announced. The funds went into an Escrow account, so I would be protected if things went wrong. 

What type of cabin have you chosen?

I’ve purchased an outside room. I’m looking forward to seeing all the different ports each week through the window.

A lot of people wonder “How can you live in such a small space?” But I see it as – my cabin is my bedroom. The ship is my house.

My house has a gym, bars, restaurants, games room, and ever-changing views. I never need to do laundry or cook or clean ever again (there is a teaching kitchen for residents to use if you want to).

Culinary arts centre on Villa Vie Odyssey

There is also a large business centre for those digital nomads to work from.

Business centre on Villa Vie Odyssey

The way the pricing works, the costs are good for solo travellers. Inside cabins are at a reasonable price, but selling out fast.

The monthly fees for all-inclusive living are low comparable to living in the UK if you consider no bills, car tax and insurance, all food, drinks, housekeeping, laundry etc. 

What features on board the ship are you most excited about?

It’s great to have a gym, spa and games room, but I’m particularly excited that the top deck has gyroscopic telescopes. Imagine the sky at night with no light pollution at all!

Observatory on Villa Vie Odyssey

I like the fact we can buy our own drinks and bring them on board, and even store them behind the bars. I also like the fact we stop in most ports for between two and five days. 

I also plan to take the opportunity to volunteer with people from the local communities to learn more about the places we go.

How do you anticipate integrating into the onboard community?

As far as I know, I’m currently the only UK resident (I’d love for more to sign up). I know there are several from other countries, but the vast majority are from the US.

I’m looking forward to learning new sports (they all seem to love pickleball, so we are getting a court on board), and I like expanding my cultural acquaintances. 

I have a little trepidation about being such a minority, but I’m looking forward to cheering on England and Team GB in major events like the Olympics. 

I think I’ll avoid playing scrabble. It could lead to spelling arguments!

Pre-cruise, we currently have a social app where we can chat and get to know each other. I know lots of names and faces already.

We are invited to help make decisions regarding the ship (i.e. naming the ship “Odyssey”). Several of our requests are already being acted on. 

We also have lots of interest groups set up so we know who shares what interests for onboard activities and to find like-minded souls. 

There are also a few webinars and Zoom meetings each week explaining both trip progress and advancing social aspects.

How will you manage the practical aspects of living at sea?

We will have both Starlink and ViaSat 3 wifi, so can make wifi calls and Facetime with family and friends. We will also be able to have mail sent to us on board via a central land-based address.

Healthcare is a concern as a UK citizen who is used to the NHS. There is a medical centre, pharmacy, doctors and dentists on board. However, any procedures over and above the included health checks would be charged.

I am struggling a bit to find an insurer who will cover anything over 90 days away from home but I think I’ve found one.

Villa Vie is in discussions with an insurance provider about this to get a discounted cover for any residents who sign up. It’s a relatively new concept. I’m waiting to see what my options are. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

How long do you intend to live on the ship?

I foresee myself being on board permanently, other than for any major personal or logistical events. 

It takes 3½ years to circle the globe once, but then it just carries on and does it again. Residents will be consulted about future itineraries.

I’m most excited to visit Antarctica and Micronesia. Plus, we will be in Rio for a week during the carnival.

Do you have any apprehensions or concerns about spending such a long time at sea?

I have several concerns, naturally. It’s a big change. I’m concerned about not seeing family members. They can visit very cheaply, but not everyone is able to travel. 

What if you don’t get on with some residents? You can’t avoid them on a ship. Then again, it’s the same on land I guess!

Then there’s the (as of now, unknown) cost of medical items and insurance. And what if I get really seasick?

But on the whole, I’m super excited to set sail and begin my new life at sea.

Pool deck on Villa Vie Odyssey

Note from Jenni:

I would like to thank Gary for taking the time to do this interview. I’d love to follow in his footsteps and explore the world by cruise ship one day! It’s a fascinating journey and I wish him all the best.

If reading this has given you the urge to do the same, take a look at my guide to living on a cruise ship to see how Villa Vie Odyssey compares to the other options that are available to you.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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