‘Scandals and secrets’: On board the world’s most exclusive private residential ship

The World is an exclusive private residential ship that circumnavigates the world’s oceans. Peter AntonucciCNN — 

It’s a floating city exclusively home to the 1%, a playground for multimillionaires and billionaires that circumnavigates the world’s oceans.

Welcome to The World, an exclusive private residential ship home to 165 superluxe apartments. This vessel is shrouded in secrecy and buying a condo on board is an invite-only situation – you’ve got to be nominated by one resident and seconded by another. A net worth of a cool $10 million is said to be compulsory.

If you’re imagining decadent parties, filled with intrigue and free-flowing champagne – essentially a maritime episode of the HBO series “The White Lotus” – you’re perhaps not far off, at least according to one ex-passenger’s account.

“I’m not saying that everything that happened on ‘The White Lotus’ has happened on The World, but I think, in large measure, the comparison is not inaccurate,” former resident Peter Antonucci tells CNN Travel. 

“There are a lot of wealthy people doing playful things, sometimes naughty things, sometimes scandalous things.”

Antonucci is a retired lawyer who spent six years as a resident of The World. In 2019, he sold up. His reasoning? “Once you’ve circumnavigated the globe a few times, you’ve seen it. I had seen what I wanted to see, I was ready to do something new.”

Back on dry land, Antonucci started going through the journals he’d kept during his years on board and decided the “country club meets sorority house” vibe was the perfect inspiration for fiction.

Antonucci’s since written three novels set on a fictional ship, the most recent of which, “Tides of Betrayal,” promises “secrets, sins, and scandals” on the high seas.

An exclusive invite

Peter Antonucci says he's owned four apartments on The World over the past few years.

Peter Antonucci says he’s owned four apartments on The World over the past few years. Peter Antonucci

Antonucci and his wife heard about The World via an article in the Wall Street Journal, in around 2012. The 12-deck ship launched in 2002 and spans 644 feet.

When he first heard about this floating city, Antonucci was 52 and enjoying the perks of early retirement. He was intrigued by the concept and his wife was also excited to learn more.

Those interested are able to book a trial journey on The World as a “prospective resident.” So before long, Antonucci and his wife were boarding in Belize and sailing through the Panama Canal on their taster voyage.

“When I first got on, I thought it was ridiculously expensive. I couldn’t believe the apartments cost so much. I couldn’t believe the maintenance costs were so much and couldn’t imagine why anybody would do this,” says Antonucci. “But the second day, I was saying, ‘How many apartments do you have available and when can I sign up?’”

Antonucci says he was seduced by every aspect of The World – from the crew, which he calls “the greatest asset of the ship” thanks to their ability to anticipate residents’ every need, to the plethora of exclusive experiences on board the ship and on land, and the tightly planned itinerary.

“It was like an orchestra with a lot of different parts. Each one was great. But together, it was a symphony,” says Antonucci.

Plus, all the current residents were very welcoming. Antonucci didn’t discover until later that they’d all been briefed in advance on who he was, and he says they’d been encouraged to make him feel at home.

“When they bring prospective residents on, there’s an email that goes to all the residents,” says Antonucci. “There’s a paragraph or two or three or more about the prospective resident’s background, and inquiring whether you have anything in common with them. And [you are encouraged] if you see them to offer to buy them a drink, offer them dinner, play a round of tennis with them, do something.

“Of course, I didn’t know that was going on – I just thought it was coincidental that all these people came up and said nice things to me. But I got to know a few people, and felt good.”

If current residents like a prospective resident, says Antonucci, they can be their proposer.

“Many people come aboard already knowing people. But others took the ‘prospective resident cruise’ and met people there who ended up sponsoring them,” he explains.

Following the successful taster sail, Antonucci and his wife signed a contract to purchase a condo on The World. They closed four months later, in early 2014. Antonucci says they’d have done it all sooner, but there were a few things to tie up on land.

“I had kids in New York and I have houses and things like that – you can’t just pick up everything and run off to sea,” says Antonucci.

Antonucci’s children were in their early 20s during his stint as a World resident, but they came and visited their parents on board from time to time.

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Million-dollar purchase

Every apartment on The World is slightly different, “some are going to be a little bigger than others, some could be a little smaller,” says Antonucci.

Antonucci can’t recall the exact figures involved, but he believes he bought his first apartment on board for around $1.6 million. 

Unlike on an ordinary cruise ship, residents are able to make renovations and decorate according to personal tastes. That means “some are decorated with modern furniture and really cool appliances, some haven’t been touched in 20 years,” according to Antonucci.

And renovating an apartment on board a ship isn’t super straight forward – there’s no “running to Home Depot.”

There are a lot of wealthy people doing playful things, sometimes naughty things, sometimes scandalous things.

Peter Antonucci, former resident of The World residential ship

“Everything has to be inventoried and shipped months and months in advance in crates – it all has to be approved,” says Antonucci.

All in all, Antonucci owned four separate apartments during his five years on board The World.

“Not all at once,” he explains. “I had two at once. And then I had the other two separately.”

Antonucci upgraded each time to something a little swankier – he says the subsequent apartments he purchased were around $4 million.

During the period when he owned two properties, he’d offer the empty one to friends he invited on board.

Planning by committee

Most residents on board The World use their apartment as a vacation home of sorts – these are people who likely have multiple residences across multiple countries, and might be found private jetting their way across the globe at any given time.

When the ship was voyaging Europe, Antonucci would regularly come and go, enjoying the luxuries of The World every other week or so, and heading home to New York in between.

When the ship was further afield, he’d usually stay on board for longer stretches.

“If it was somewhere far away and it was a whole lot of fun, you know, in the Maldives or the Seychelles, Australia, New Zealand, somewhere like that, I would go and spend a good amount of time there,” says Antonucci. “If the ship was somewhere interesting, I would always prefer to be on the ship.”

The World also times its arrival at certain ports with significant events – like London for Wimbledon, Rio de Janeiro for Carnival.

On-board entertainment is also included in the annual service change and includes lectures from experts and organized activities such as snorkeling, diving, hiking.

Guests aren’t tied to the preorganized events. Antonucci recalls one time when the ship was “down south of the Panama Canal” and he and his friends “got a plane or a boat and went down to the Galapagos and went snorkeling and diving for a few days.”

“You can go off on your own and do that, and then you catch up with the ship, wherever it is,” he explains.

The World’s itinerary is planned two to three years in advance, says Antonucci. That planning is a “very complicated” process, according to https://berdasarkanapa.com Antonucci. He says there’s an itinerary committee, made up of residents that weighs in, focusing on the experiences available at each destination.

Meanwhile Antonucci says the ship’s itinerary director “looks at things like fuel prices, crew changes, where you have the biggest airports, where you have the most accessibility, visa requirements, docking fees.” The ships’ captains also weigh in.

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