Cruise Ship Bought on Craigslist Has a Big Future on Deck

Christopher Wilson in front of Aurora. Photo credit: Aurora Restoration Project.
Christopher Wilson in front of Aurora. Photo credit: Aurora Restoration Project via social media

Gently-used workout equipment collecting dust? Check.

Grannie’s old tea set? Check.

But cruise ships are not something people expect to see when they browse for used products on Craigslist.

So Californian Chris Willson was immediately intrigued when he came across a 293-foot vessel listed back in 2008.

At the time, the retired "pocket" cruise ship, built in Germany, was docked in the California Delta and its then owner was looking to get rid of it. "I kind of posed as a potential buyer, even though I really didn't have any interest in purchasing a ship," Willson told CNN. "It was a little out of my comfort level, to say the least."

Upon inspection, Wilson found that while the ship was in need of restoration, the structure was impressive, and the more he learned about the vessel, the more he was willing to purchase it.

While he didn’t disclose how much he paid for the vessel, Wilson said he was able to work out a good deal with the former owner, and "The next thing you know, I own a ship."

Photo credit: Aurora Restoration Project.
Photo credit: Aurora Restoration Project.

What to do with a retired cruise ship?

Wilson is 'floating' some big ideas for the vessel. He says he plans to turn it into a tourist attraction. It’s taken an estimated USD $3 million and 14 years - all documented on social media - to get the ship this close to becoming a shoreside attraction.

The ship - renamed “Aurora” - remains in California, unable to sail but afloat in shallow water, where Wilson says maritime engineers are confident she can remain.

While he has been funding the bulk of the work to date, Wilson took to social media to raise further funds for the project, and says “hundreds and hundreds” of people are volunteering to help.

And he's hoping the funding tide will turn.

"If the money comes in, she [Aurora] can be made to cruise again," Wilson said. "If it doesn't, she can be a great museum."

His idea of a retired cruise ship as a tourist attraction has precedents... But other dockside cruise ship attractions have something more of a pedigree.

Retired iconic Cunard ship the RMS Queen Mary is now docked in Los Angeles as a hotel/restaurant and tourist attraction.

And the actual Queen’s beloved Yacht Brittania, which was retired from royal service in 1997, is permanently berthed in Edinburgh as an event space and attraction that draws over a quarter of a million visitors annually.

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