Working from a pool overlooking the turquoise sea, with a fitness track, hot tubs and several delicious restaurants to eat from: what better than to “work from home” aboard a luxury cruise liner?
Like many companies in the travel industry, cruises have been hit hard by the pandemic and the resulting tourism slump. Now Ocean Builders has its eyes on the cheap inventory so it can transform cruise ships into floating offices. Ocean Builders is seeking to capitalise on digital nomads who, without the constraints of families or mortgages, can up sticks and work from anywhere in the world – Covid travel restrictions permitting.
The organisation, which is in the early stages of developing floating seapods off the coast of Panama, is calling on the elites of London, San Francisco and New York to join them on their floating office in warmer climes.
Google, Twitter and Dropbox are just some of the international technology giants that have told their workers they will not be returning to the premises until next year thanks to Covid-19.
You might expect woops for joy over the prospect of never seeing your boss again. But for many, office perks like three meals a day, masseuse and hair salon services were the main reason for accepting an otherwise dull desk job.
Some might turn their nose up at the thought of being stuck on a cruise ship with people who just want to work all day, and without kitchens will have to rely on the services of others for cleaning, eating and drinking – not to mention the nightmarish scenario should a breakout happen.
But in many ways, the cruise ship experience will have a familiar feel to those employed by Silicon Valley’s technology companies with extensive facilities in now derelict headquarters.
Younger employees miss the sense of working in a team, and entrepreneurs are looking to make connections that might end up in an investment cheque, or the help of a software engineer who can help bring a napkin idea to reality. Hundreds are said to have registered for an auction to bid for rooms.
“So many people have been working from home during the pandemic, they may prefer their home on the ocean,” says Chad Elwartowski, Bitcoin entrepreneur and founder of Ocean Builders.
“The kind of people that will thrive on the ship are entrepreneurs that want to be in an incubator type of environment where everyone is trying something new in a sort of micro economy.”
Elwartowski says he is in the final stages of securing the vessel from Carnival Cruises, which is looking to offload its fleet amid the pandemic. If all goes to plan, it will begin auctioning 200 cabins on November 5 with a guide price of $25,000 to $50,000. A total of 777 cabins will be available for 2,020 people.
Due to set sail from the Mediterranean to anchor in the ocean off Panama in January 2021, MS Satoshi will be following all Covid regulations and hopes to upgrade the ship to make it more hygienic, he insists.
It is not the first time that the idea of an ocean community has been floated. Sun Microsystems executive Wayne Gramlich and Milton Friedman’s Google engineer grandson Patri launched The Seasteading Institute in 2008, with the backing of Palantir founder and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.
Their goal was to create politically autonomous man made islands built in international waters, furthering Libertarian ideals of free markets and low taxes. The idea courted controversy and public fascination but several attempts to create a seastead have failed.