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‘We sold everything’: Meet the retired couple setting sail on a 3.5 year cruise around the world

Once it launches, the Villa Vie Odyssey will be one of just two residential cruise ships in operation.
Once it launches, the Villa Vie Odyssey will be one of just two residential cruise ships in operation. Copyright Villa Vie Residences and Grace Distefano Grady
Copyright Villa Vie Residences and Grace Distefano Grady
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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They say living on a ship is ‘no more expensive than living on land’.

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Grace and Jerry Grady have been living out of suitcases for the past couple of weeks. But it is a minor inconvenience if it means fulfilling the dream of a lifetime.

The American-Italian couple, who are in their 70s, are soon going to be two of the roughly 800 passengers on a three-and-a-half-year cruise around the world.

The epic voyage begins on 30 May and will visit 425 ports in 147 countries across all seven continents. The itinerary is timed to catch the spring and summer seasons wherever it travels.

Once it launches, the Villa Vie Odyssey will be one of just two residential cruise ships in operation.

‘We sold everything’

The Gradys moved back to Grace’s homeland Sicily two years ago and have been living in a rental property since then.

Having sold their house in the States, they have spent the last few months selling off their worldly possessions in order to fund their trip.

Grace and Jerry are no strangers to adventure.
Grace and Jerry are no strangers to adventure.Grace Distefano Grady

“In the end, we sold most of our belongings to friends,” says Grace. “The smart ones came right away.”

Since then, they have been living with the bear minimum having shipped several suitcases ahead to the cruise ship.

“I’ve been wearing the same clothes everyday and washing them by hand each night,” says Grace. “No more showing off my wardrobe.”

‘It’s no more expensive than living on land’

The proceeds have gone towards renting a cabin on the Villa Via Odyssey, which will work out at roughly $43,435 (€40,038) for a year.

The cruise is surprisingly affordable. The most expensive annual rental - an outside cabin with a balcony - costs around $72,635 (€66,960) a year.

The Villa Vie Odyssey was built in 1993 and has been given a full $12 million (€1.84 million) makeover.
The Villa Vie Odyssey was built in 1993 and has been given a full $12 million (€1.84 million) makeover.Villa Vie Residences

On the infamous residential megayacht The World, prices start at $2 million (€1.84 million) a year rising to $15 million (€13.8 million).

On Villa Vie Odyssey, passengers pay $89 (€82) per person per day for an indoor cabin, $119 (€109) for outdoor cabins and $199 (€183) for those with a balcony.

For that, guests get unlimited food and soft drinks plus alcoholic beverages at dinner. There is free WiFi and medical checks (excluding medicines and procedures).

24/7 room service, weekly housekeeping and a bi-weekly laundry service are all included in the price.

The way the Gradys see it, they are spending as much as they would living in a house on land but they are getting to tour the world at the same time.

“You don’t have bills, expenses, insurance etc.” says Grace. “It is also a much easier way to travel than trying to book separate trips and flights ourselves.”

“I can’t imagine having to pack and unpack suitcases after each individual trip,” adds Jerry.

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‘It’s always been a dream of mine’

This is not the first time the Gradys have planned to begin a new life at sea.

The couple had booked to join the three-year Life at Sea Cruises trip which was cancelled unexpectedly in November 2023 and left hundreds of passengers seeking refunds.

It has been a long wait, and Grace and Jerry are itching to set sail.

“It has always been a dream of mine to see the world. I want to get this thing going,” says Jerry.

“We are vagabonds, we’ve travelled a lot. I’m not worried about anything.”

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The epic voyage begins on 30 May and will visit 425 ports in 147 countries across all seven continents.
The epic voyage begins on 30 May and will visit 425 ports in 147 countries across all seven continents.Villa Vie Residences

Their intention is to stay the full three and a half years at sea, but should they change their mind, the programme is flexible.

It works on a pay-as-you-go basis with an itinerary split into 16 segments ranging from 35 to 120 days each. Passengers pay a deposit upfront and the remainder 30 days before each segment.

If they wish to leave the ship at any point, they need to give at least six months notice ahead of the new segment for a full refund. They can also return to the ship at any point.

On the other hand, if Grace and Jerry get the bug for life at sea, they could theoretically never live on dry land again.

The cruise, run by Villa Vie Residences, will not stop after three and a half years but will continue to circumnavigate the globe. Every 15 years, the ship will be replaced.

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It is also possible to buy a cabin outright instead of renting. Prices start at $99,000 (€91,270) for an inside room, $149,000 (€137,370) for an outdoor and $249,000 (€229,500) for a balcony.

On top of that, there are monthly fees from $1,750 (€1,613) per person, $2,500 (€2,300) per person, or $4,000 (€3,680) per person respectively.

Owners can then rent their cabin to other people themselves with no commission or through the cruise company for a fee.

Retire on a residential cruise ship

The Villa Vie Odyssey was built in 1993 and has been given a full $12 million (€1.84 million) makeover. Indoor cabins even have a virtual screen to show the view outside.

There are eight decks, a wraparound promenade and a pool. Residents can choose between three restaurants and five bars. Leisure time can be spent in the spa, fitness centre, “interactive culinary centre” or the library.

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It is also possible to buy a cabin outright instead of renting. Prices start at $99,000 (€91,270) for an inside room.
It is also possible to buy a cabin outright instead of renting. Prices start at $99,000 (€91,270) for an inside room.Villa Vie Residences

There is a business centre and internet supplied by Starlink and Viasat 3.

Throughout the voyage, friends and relatives can come and visit. They can have their own cabin for $33 per person per day for up to two weeks.

“All three of our daughters have already looked at the itinerary and thought about when they can visit us,” says Jerry.

The couple is now headed to Belfast where the Villa Vie Odyssey will set sail.

“The biggest thing is the willingness to do this,” says Jerry. “It is the adventure of a lifetime.”

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