- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2006

For anyone who has ever been on a cruise and thought how great it would be to never leave ship, sun and service behind, Don Allen may have a solution.

It’s a 90,000-ton ship called the Orphalese that offers all the luxurious amenities of an ocean cruise — and you can live on it, too.

The ship, which Mr. Allen promises will offer world-class food, entertainment, decor and crew, will feature 200 residences (for owners) and 265 hotel suites (for guests) when it sets sail in the fall of 2008. It will cruise from one world-famous event to another, giving cruise lovers a chance to sample the Cannes Film Festival in France, run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, or join the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.

Plans call for the ship to dock at a port close to each event and to hold themed parties on deck that correspond to the happenings on shore.

“It’s got to be so much better than going from palm tree to palm tree to palm tree,” Mr. Allen said. “At the Cannes Film Festival, we’ll have studio executives staying on board, we’ll have filmings on the ship. You’ll be in that environment,” he said.

The idea for the Orphalese was born when Mr. Allen was on a Bahamas cruise for salsa dancers. The dancers on board held competitions with salsa dancers from ports of call, thrilling the others on board.

“The enthusiasm was so great,” he said. “The anticipation, the challenge, the desire to win was so great that it was an excitement that spread throughout the ship.”

The enthusiasm for on-board events gave Mr. Allen an idea.

“There’s that saying, ‘If you can bottle it, you can make a fortune.’ I tried to figure out a way to bottle it,” he said.

Mr. Allen, whose business background includes stints in the health care, computer and entertainment industries, formed the ship’s parent company, Orphalese Global Strategies Inc., in Los Angeles in 2000. The company has started buying steel to begin building the ship in Helsinki, Finland.

Plans for the Orphalese, named after a mythical city in Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” include an 80,000-square-foot retail mall, a casino, nightclub, spa, pool, gym and other typical cruise ship amenities.

The hotel suites will run about $1,000 per day per person, double occupancy. The residences, which come with a price tag of $1.8 to $10 million and a monthly assessment of $2,500 to $6,500, are scheduled to go on sale late next month. About 12 have already been reserved, said Mr. Allen, who expects the ship’s permanent residences to be sold out by summer.

“You can think about buying a place in Vail or in the Hamptons. You have to remember, it’s going to stay there,” he said. “And if you don’t want to go to Vail that year, you’re not really going to use the place that much.”

Orphalese owners will “use it mostly as a second, recreational home,” Mr. Allen said. “A large number will stay on board forever.”

Mr. Allen’s business plan looks pretty ambitious considering the Orphalese’s competition, a residence cruise ship named the World, was only 60 percent sold when it made its maiden voyage in March 2002.

The World offers 165 residences, which cost anywhere from $825,000 to $6.3 million each. About 95 percent of the ship’s rooms have been sold so far.

The World operates in a similar fashion to the Orphalese business plan, cruising around the world, stopping for an average of 2 days at various ports. But it does not stop at specific events. At the moment, it is cruising from Honolulu to Kobe, Japan.

There’s also the Magellan, a residence cruise ship similar to the World.

Residential Cruise Line Ltd., a Phoenix company, plans to begin building its 70,000-ton vessel once it sells 60 percent of the ship’s residences — at $1.8 million to $8 million a pop.

The Magellan will feature the usual amenities plus a marina, helicopter with landing pad and observatory with astronomer. It is expected to be christened in the summer of 2008.

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