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Scandals And Secrets On The World's Most Exclusive Private Residential Ship

Scandals and secrets on the world's most exclusive private residential ship. Welcome to The World, a floating utopia reserved solely for the wealthiest individuals, a sanctuary for multimillionaires and billionaires that traverses the globe's oceans.

Author:Velma Battle
Reviewer:Michael Rachal
Feb 25, 2024
Scandals and secrets on the world's most exclusive private residential ship. Welcome to The World, a floating utopia reserved solely for the wealthiest individuals, a sanctuary for multimillionaires and billionaires that traverses the globe's oceans.
This exclusive residential ship boasts 165 ultra-luxurious apartments, enveloped in an aura of secrecy. Securing a condo on board is a privilege granted only through invitation - you must be nominated by one resident and seconded by another. A minimum net worth of $10 million is rumored to be a prerequisite.
If you envision extravagant soirées, brimming with mystery and endless champagne - a maritime rendition of HBO's "The White Lotus" - you're not far off, according to one former passenger's testimonial.
"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, a former lawyer, enjoyed six years as a resident of The World. However, in 2019, he decided to sell his residence. His rationale? "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."
Once back on solid ground, Antonucci delved into his journals from his years aboard The World. Inspired by its blend of country club elegance and sorority camaraderie, he embarked on a new venture: fiction writing.
Antonucci has since penned three novels set on a fictional vessel, with his latest release titled "Tides of Betrayal." This gripping tale guarantees readers an immersive journey filled with secrets, sins, and scandals amidst the vast expanse of the high seas.

An Exclusive Invite

Antonucci and his wife first learned about The World through a Wall Street Journal article around 2012. At the time, Antonucci, aged 52, was relishing the benefits of early retirement. Intrigued by the concept, he and his wife eagerly sought more information.
The 12-deck ship, spanning 644 feet, had launched in 2002, offering an allure of exclusivity and luxury. Those curious about life aboard The World could embark on a trial journey as "prospective residents." Before long, Antonucci and his wife found themselves boarding in Belize, ready to sail through the Panama Canal on their sample 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. But the second day, I was saying, 'How many apartments do you have available and when can I sign up?'- Antonucci
Antonucci admits he was captivated by every facet of The World - from its exceptional crew, whom he hails as "the ship's greatest asset" for their adeptness in anticipating residents' desires, to the abundance of exclusive experiences both on board and on land, as well as the meticulously curated itinerary.
"It was like an orchestra with a lot of different parts. Each one was great. But together, it was a symphony," says Antonucci.
Moreover, Antonucci found the current residents to be incredibly welcoming. It wasn't until later that he realized they had all been briefed in advance about his arrival, with instructions to ensure he felt 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."
According to Antonucci, if current residents approve of a prospective resident, they can act as their nominator.
"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.
After a successful trial voyage, Antonucci and his wife proceeded to sign a contract to buy a condo aboard The World. Four months later, in early 2014, they finalized the purchase. Antonucci mentions they would have expedited the process, but there were a few loose ends to address 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.
During Antonucci's time as a resident of The World, his children, who were in their early twenties, occasionally visited their parents on board.
Antonucci staniding beside The World cruise ship
Antonucci staniding beside The World cruise ship

Million-Dollar Purchase

According to Antonucci, each apartment on The World is unique, with some being slightly larger or smaller than others. Although he can't recall the precise figures, Antonucci estimates that he purchased his initial apartment on board for approximately $1.6 million.
In contrast to typical cruise ships, residents have the freedom to renovate and decorate their apartments according to their individual preferences. As a result, Antonucci notes that some units boast modern furnishings and state-of-the-art appliances, while others may retain their original décor untouched for decades. Renovating an apartment on board a ship isn't as simple as running to Home Depot.
"Everything has to be inventoried and shipped months and months in advance in crates - it all has to be approved," says Antonucci.
Altogether, Antonucci owned four distinct apartments during his five years residing on The World.
"Not all at once," he explains. "I had two at once. And then I had the other two separately."
Antonucci gradually upgraded to increasingly luxurious accommodations, with each subsequent apartment purchase priced at around $4 million. While he owned two properties simultaneously, Antonucci would offer the vacant one to friends he invited on board.

Planning By Committee

The majority of residents aboard The World utilize their apartments as a kind of vacation retreat. These individuals often possess multiple residences spread across various countries and are accustomed to jet-setting around the globe at a moment's notice.
During voyages in Europe, Antonucci would frequently alternate between enjoying the luxuries of The World and returning home to New York every other week or so. However, when the ship ventured to more distant destinations, he typically stayed on board for more extended periods.
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. If the ship was somewhere interesting, I would always prefer to be on the ship.- Antonucci
The World strategically schedules its arrival at certain ports to coincide with major events, such as Londonduring Wimbledon or Rio de Janeiro for Carnival. On-board entertainment is part of the annual service fee and features lectures from experts, as well as organized activities like snorkeling, diving, and hiking.
Guests have the freedom to participate in or opt out of the prearranged events. Antonucci reminisces about a time when the ship was sailing south of the Panama Canal. He and his friends spontaneously arranged a trip to the Galapagos Islands, where they spent several days snorkeling and diving.
"You can go off on your own and do that, and then you catch up with the ship, wherever it is," he explains.
Antonucci reveals that The World's itinerary is meticulously planned two to three years ahead, a process he describes as "very complicated." He explains that an itinerary committee, comprising residents, deliberates on the experiences offered at each destination.
Simultaneously, the ship's itinerary director considers various logistical factors such as fuel prices, crew rotations, airport accessibility, visa regulations, and docking fees. The input of the ship's captains is also taken into account in the planning process.
Based on this information, three potential itineraries are presented to residents, who then cast their votes to determine the preferred route.
"It gets very political, as you can imagine," says Antonucci, who was a board member for some years. He says, in his experience, residents of The World tend to be "opinionated."
"Everybody is fairly affluent, and has made money - everybody thinks they have the smartest opinion and the best way to do things," he explains. "They're not used to being told no. And you’ve got a lot of very opinionated people who have opinions on everything from where the salt shaker should be placed on the table, to how far south in the ice in Antarctica the ship should go."
With an abundance of disposable income, why do residents of The World choose to sail on a ship with a committee-voted itinerary rather than traveling to their desired destinations via privately-owned superyachts?
"Oh, that's such an easy question," says Antonucci. "Many of the people on board the ship had yachts too. I've been a boater my whole life. The reason you'd go on The World is so you don't have to deal with hiring crew, figuring out where to buy fuel, writing checks for every little thing. You just write one big fat check every year. And it's all taken care of."
The World cruise ship during a sail
The World cruise ship during a sail

Scandals And Secrets

For numerous residents, the vibrant social scene on board The World is a significant draw. Antonucci describes the ship as "a highly social community." Although children are welcome on board The World, many amenities cater primarily to adults, including a full-sized tennis court, a sprawling spa and fitness center, and an extensive wine collection. Additionally, guests' food and beverages are included in the annual service fee.
"There's a lot of drinking, a lot of partying. And that's the fun of it," he says.
During Antonucci's residency, he recalls that "gentlemen wore jackets and ties." However, during his last visit to the ship in November 2023, he noticed a shift in attire. He suggests that nowadays, you're more likely to encounter people sporting shorts and tank tops rather than black tie attire.
"That's a little unfortunate,| says Antonucci, wistfully.
As a result of the lively social atmosphere on board, Antonucci notes that "affairs were rampant."
"There's a lot of drinking and carousing," says Antonucci, which can lead to "scandals and secrets."
Stuff happens. Some of it is fun. Some of it is people just getting blasted and singing songs and just having a good old time. And that's relatively harmless. And then even some of the affairs and things are harmless - if the people are available, single, that's fine. But there are married people, married couples on the ship, who are not always sleeping with their spouse.- Antonucci
Antonucci says that this atmosphere wasn't for him.
"I had my group of friends and none of my friends were engaged in that - although I'd be lying if I said we didn't have a drink and snicker about it."

Experience Of A Lifetime

Antonucci reminisces about his time on The World with fondness, but he expresses that he wouldn't buy another apartment on board.
"I had seen what I wanted to see, I was ready to do something new in my life," he says of the decision to sell in 2019.
"I bought a place in Florida and decided to get very aggressive about golf. We have horses. We have a dressage horse and a hunter jumper. It was a time to turn the page in my life, which I try to do every couple of decades and try something new."
Plus, Antonucci says "the politics and the gossip on the ship got a little overwhelming."
Antonucci reveals that when residents aboard The World learned of his plans to write novels about a fictional residential ship, some expressed concern, fearing he might divulge their secrets. According to Antonucci, both current and former residents typically refrain from discussing their experiences.
"Many people were offended that I would reveal the inner secrets of The World," he continues. "People begged me, 'Don't write anything about us, don’t include us, blah blah blah.'
After the book was published, Antonucci recounts how individuals who had expressed concern about being depicted in it approached him, questioning why they weren't included. Antonucci emphasizes that his novels are entirely fictional and do not feature any real individuals.
In a statement issued to the press, a spokesperson for The World affirmed that Antonucci had provided written assurances that his works are unrelated to The World or its residents. They clarified that his publications are fictional artistic works centered around a fictitious ship.
The spokesperson expressed the ship's well wishes for Antonucci in his creative endeavors, emphasizing that they understand his works have no connection to The World or its residents. Antonucci reflects on his time aboard The World with profound gratitude, noting that the experience has greatly influenced his life and perspective on the world at large.
"I don't even know where to begin whenever people ask me the most incredible thing I’ve seen," he says. "I could talk about the Solomon Islands. I could tell you how every time we went to South Africa, we would get off and go on a safari for a week. We set a Guinness World Record for being the vessel that traveled furthest south of any vessel in history."
Although Antonucci didn't always see eye to eye with everyone on board, he maintains strong friendships with individuals he met on The World to this day.
"Those are all very, very special memories," he says. "And I'm glad I got to share them with friends."
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Velma Battle

Velma Battle

Travelling Expert
Michael Rachal

Michael Rachal

Travelling Expert
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