The Aquatic Life

Luxury living is now possible on even the most watery foundation.
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I don't like to admit it, but the only reason my friend, who refers to the ocean as "sexy," comes to visit is to catch a glimpse of the river flowing two blocks from my house. She blames her Greek heritage.

Greek or not, humans have always been drawn to water, which has prompted much of classical literature, precision war strategy and various nautical disasters. But we always come back, mystified by that vast expanse of liquid, often wondering what lies beneath. (I, for one, spent hours at the beach as a child searching for mermaid tails.)

The occasional cruise holiday is such a tease, knowing you'll have to return to homes firmly planted on less tantalizing terrain. While few of us would advocate a Waterworld scenario, especially one with a fatalistic, sun-bleached Kevin Costner, many of us have entertained wild dreams of a life on the high seas.

Finally, two innovators are taking water living to a new reality.

Oceanfront Property

Although it looks like a grand cruise ship, the

Magellan

will be a home address, not a vacation spot.

"We see it as the perfect marriage between travel and living," says Teri James, a representative of

Residential Cruise Line.

This is the cruise that never ends -- the

Magellan

will circumnavigate the globe every two years, with 300 ports of call in 150 countries, letting passengers take the ultimate vacation from the comfort of their own homes.

The

Magellan

, which is being built in Aker Yards, France, was designed by internationally acclaimed ship architects Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten. It's set to launch in spring 2010.

Already the hype is escalating and raising some very high brows.

At the

Men's Luxury Toy Expo in Arizona last month, Residential Cruise Lines representative Jeff Wells said a greatest advantage of owning one of the coveted ocean-bound condos is that it's an financial asset. Plus, "everyone has the best view in the house," he continues. "Vacation homes just sit in one place." A condo in Florida will always be a condo ... in Florida.

Generally, Magellan buyers are looking for a place to call home, but to some it's a stellar business investment. "There's a gentleman who's buying quite a few units that he will use to wine and dine his clients," James notes.

While a good mix of people showed interest at the Expo, the average serious buyer is around 50 years old and retired (unless you've got a very patient and well-paid personal pilot, getting to the Manhattan office from Tunisia, Panama or Fiji would be rather trying).

For the younger crowd, there's a partial ownership option. Buyers can choose which months to live aboard and then can rent their condos for the rest of year like any other residency.

The numbers of full and fractional owners are split 50-50, says Wells.

The luxury units range from two to five bedrooms and span the ship's 15 decks.

The

Magellan

is 60% larger than any other residential cruise ship, which means more room for amenities like six restaurants, an observatory staffed with a Russian astronomer, a retractable marina and nightly Broadway-style entertainment.

Or, "let's say we're at the coast of France and

someone wants to go have lunch at the Eiffel Tower," says James. Two helicopters from the ship's all-weather heliport can easily take residents on and off the ship, which docks at each port for one to three days.

There simply is no competition for Residential Cruise Lines, which is owned by prominent Arizona real estate developer Randall B. Jackson.

And for those of you who think the international hype sounds eerily similar to the Titanic, think again. Iceberg-detecting ability has advanced quite a bit in the past century, and the ship can pretty much outrun any storm, assures James.

Calmer Waters

Waterstudio.NL, started four-and-a-half years ago, is the only architectural firm in The Netherlands completely focused on water. Since one-third of this country is reclaimed land, this firm has the right idea.

"We

are getting some financial results back from water," says Koen Olthuis, architect for Waterstudio.NL.

The Netherlands' history is steeped in water. The houseboat trend started 80 years ago, when retired cargo ship operators docked their concrete ships and converted them to permanent residences along Holland's canals, says Olthuis.

Today the Dutch live in houseboats primarily for the view and their structural uniqueness.

"In Holland we have a lot of water and the cities are very dense," says Olthuis, who notes that houseboats have gone from a solution for low-cost living to an upscale residential option for the rich, some of whom have ordered privately designed houses or live in floating apartments.

Take, for example, the Watervilla Aalsmeer, a moored luxury condo with a streamlined design. The living room was carefully shaped by a sculptor to look like an elongated piece of rock, and the house includes an under-the-waterline lounge and 20-seat cinema.

More then the view, though, is the convenience of water living. France, which has a lot of flood zones, welcomes Waterstudio's floating and semifloating abodes.

The company has projects worldwide, such as Dubai's floating cruise terminal project, which the company will present this month. Once completed, it will be the first floating harbor in the world where three Queen Mary cruise ships can enter at the same time.

"Technically, anything is possible," says Olthuis, who mentioned one of their most impressive buildings still being designed, a 300-foot tall floating hotel tower which turns one degree every minute. The floating houses and apartments, which look the same as their landlubber brethren, only differ in foundation.

American companies have called about technical solutions for New Orleans and other projects, but no formal housing requests have been made in the U.S. yet.

Whether it be for convenience or to satisfy a lifelong water craving, taking up residence on the great blue is sure to be an addictive experience. You might never want to set foot on dry land again.

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