Living on a Cruise Ship: What You Need to Know

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Few people would turn down a getaway at sea. After all, imagine sailing into the sunset on a stunning cruise ship. It’s a glamorous way to vacation and a unique experience for anyone wanting to explore the world.  

But while it’s true that cruises are a great way to vacation, have you ever thought about living on a cruise ship full time? Choosing to retire on a cruise ship or to simply call a cruise ship home and live life at sea can be an extremely rewarding and unique experience. 

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, then this guide is for you. Keep reading and let’s take a look at this unique opportunity, what it’s like, and how to turn it from a dream into reality.

What It’s Like Living on a Cruise Ship

Living on a cruise ship might sound like a dream to some of us, but the reality is that there’s a lot more to retiring on a cruise ship than just packing your bags and setting sail. Here are the pros and cons of living on a cruise ship that you should know about.

Worth Reading: What is the Passenger Vessel Services Act and How Does it Impact Cruises?

The Pros

One of the biggest benefits of living on a cruise ship is that you get to explore the world – and we literally mean the world. On normal cruises, you typically visit one or two countries.

However, as a permanent cruiser, you’ll be able to visit as many different countries as you want, getting to see the whole world in your retirement. Talk about adventure!

What’s more, once you’re in port you’ll have the opportunity to participate in numerous shore excursions. Long-term cruises often offer shore excursions at lower prices or even completely free, making the change to participate in unique excursions far more possible.

Cruise Shore Excursion
Cruise Shore Excursion (Photo Credit: shorex.koss /

Outside of seeing new places and getting a taste of adventure, there are also some practical reasons why you should choose to live on a cruise. Life on a cruise can actually save money because you don’t have to worry about purchasing food, paying for gas, or covering other land-based expenses. 

On a cruise, all your food and entertainment are included in the cost of the cruise. While you pay a lot upfront, you can actually end up saving money by doing away with monthly car payments and gas bills, utility costs, and grocery bills. 

The Cons

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and seashells onboard a cruise. There are a few downsides to living on a cruise and being aware of them is important for staying comfortable and enjoying life at sea. 

One of the first downsides is that living on a cruise ship can be fairly expensive. That doesn’t just mean the cost of your living space, either. Tips, excursions, medical care, and premium dining options can quickly take a toll on your wallet. 

Over Packed Suitcase
Over Packed Suitcase (Photo Credit: Kostikova Natalia / Shutterstock)

Another thing that you’ll be making a dent in when you choose to live on a cruise is your belongings. Since there is limited space onboard cruise ships, you won’t be able to bring all your personal items with you. That can mean either downsizing or renting storage space on land where you can store your extra possessions. 

Finally, when you choose to live on board a cruise ship, you won’t have access to the same type of medical care as you could get on land. While there are medical facilities onboard, they may not be equipped to assist with certain conditions.

Be sure to clear it with your doctor before signing up to live or retire on a cruise ship. Doing so can prevent you from getting sick on a cruise and being stuck at sea without access to the help you need.

How to Live on a Cruise Ship

To make life on a cruise ship a reality, there are several options available to you. Knowing these options is the first step to giving up your life on land and setting sail for the foreseeable future.

Snowbirds in Residents

If you’re wanting to live on a cruise but aren’t ready to permanently sell your home or transition away from life on land, snowbird cruises are a great choice. These cruises allow you to set sail for the winter months but return to shore for the spring and summer. 

Snowbird cruises can range anywhere from 58 days to 116 days, allowing you to stay at sea for as much or as little time as you’d like. The costs for these cruises start at $16,000 per guest but can go as high as $250,000. However, these cruises include a number of additional benefits including:

  • Free economy airfare up to $499 per guest
  • Free pre-paid gratuities up to $1,656 per guest
  • Free beverage packages
  • Up to $4,200 in ship credit
  • Up to 42 free shore excursions

While the initial cost might seem high, these extra amenities and credits can make life at sea far more affordable. And, they will make it more enjoyable, too!

Buy a Cruise Residence

Another option for anyone looking for a permanent shipboard residence is to buy a cruise residence. Ships such as The World offer private studios, one, two, and three-bedroom apartments on board.

The World Cruise Ship
The World Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Aleksandr Samoilov /

To call one of these ships home, you’ll be expected to pay anywhere from $352,000 to $36 million. On top of that, residents are required to pay yearly maintenance fees as part of their budget. 

When choosing a cruise residence, you can also look for ships that are built for your purposes. For example, The World is tailored toward retirees while Storyline Cruises are tailored towards digital nomads and working professionals to call home.

Book Continuous Back-to-Back Cruises

If you want to take more of a DIY approach to living on a cruise, you can follow in the footsteps of Mario Salcedo and simply book back-to-back cruises. With this plan, you’ll need to be prepared to fly from port to port every now and then. 

Docked Miami Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov /

Most cruise lines publish itineraries for up to two years in advance, meaning that you’ll be able to book your cruises well into the future before needing to schedule your next booking. 

Plus, most cruise lines offer rewards and loyalty programs for regular cruisers. That makes it easier for you to hop on board and set sail without racking up too many costs. 

Tips for Life on a Cruise Ship

So, you’re ready to take the plunge and live on a cruise ship? To make the transition to a life on the high seas, we’ve put together a few tips. Follow these suggestions to make your transition to your new lifestyle smooth sailing. 

Test it Out

Before you commit to living on a cruise line, try going on cruises with a few different cruise lines. Setting sail with various cruise lines will not only help you figure out whether you actually like this lifestyle, but it will also help you compare which cruise lines you like best. 

You could try doing a world cruise, a grand voyage that lasts longer than a month, or simply book numerous back-to-back cruises to see if you actually enjoy full-time cruising. Doing so will help you get a feel as to whether living onboard a cruise ship would be a viable option for you.  

Talk to a Financial Planner

It’s no mystery that cruise ships are expensive, and if you’re planning to live onboard a ship permanently you need to be prepared for those extra expenses. Meeting with a financial planner can help you determine what you can afford and can offer you budgeting tips for keeping your finances in check while you sail.

Budgeting for Living on a Cruise Ship
Budgeting for Living on a Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Natalia Danchenko / Shutterstock)

Make sure you also think about any monthly bills that you’ll still be responsible for while at sea. Perhaps you’ll need to pay for a phone bill. Or, you might have an insurance policy that you need to keep up with. 

Speaking with a financial planner ahead of time will help you maintain your living expenses on land without going overboard at sea. Both of these strategies will make it easier for you to switch to living on the cruise line full time. 

Talk to an Agent

Once you’ve figured out whether or not cruising full-time is a smart choice for you financially, it’s a good idea to speak to a travel agent. He or she will be able to help you create a personalized cruising experience that helps you live the lifestyle you’re looking for on your cruise. 

On top of that, travel agents are able to get you some sweet deals. They might be able to help you save some money during your cruising experience or to hook you up with some upgrades while you cruise. 

Pre-Plan Your Medical Care

Remember how we said that medical care on cruise ships can be a little hairy? Before you commit to living full-time on a cruise ship, you’ll want to talk to your primary care provider. He or she will be able to help you get any critical medication filled before you head onboard. 

You should also note that most standard US insurance plans don’t work at sea. You’ll want to get special insurance policies if you’re planning to live on a cruise ship full time. 

Stay Social Onboard

When you spend a year at sea, it can be easy to feel lonely. Your friends and family are far away and letters can be few and far between thanks to the remote nature of living at sea.

Cruise Passengers

If you’re planning to stay full-time onboard a cruise ship, make sure to take the time out of your day to socialize with other passengers. Partner up with someone at a card game event or invite a guest to join you for a shore excursion. No matter how you choose to do it, make sure to stay social while onboard.

Make a Schedule

While you can certainly choose to take a go-with-the-flow approach to cruising, this can often lead to getting into a rut. Plus, if you’re working, it can make it tough to stay focused and stay on task while cruising. 

If you’re planning to live on a cruise full-time, creating a schedule can help you fit into the cruising lifestyle. You can also make new friends by attending the same activities and socializing with the same group of people. 

Think About Your Eating

It’s no secret that cruises are a foodie’s paradise, offering a number of unique dining options that leave cruisers’ mouths watering. However, all that fine dining and rich cuisine will quickly go to your waistline if you’re not careful. 

If you’re planning to live full-time on a cruise, you’ll need to make good nutrition a priority. You can try asking for sauces on the side or swatching out the fries for a plate of salad. However you choose to do it, it’s important to make your health a priority.

Set Sail and Live on a Cruise Ship

Living on a cruise ship can be an amazing experience. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the world in safety and style, taking advantage of all types of amenities that you wouldn’t be able to experience in an on-shore residence.

Also Read: Cruise Ship Lingo – Bow vs. Stern, Aft vs. Foward Cruise Terminology

Whether you’re looking to retire on a cruise or simply set sail on a year-long cruise, this guide makes it clear that living on a cruise can be a reality if you want it to be.

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