Retire on a Cruise Ship: Is It Really Worth It?

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Retiring is an important milestone in a person’s life. It is an opportunity to reflect on your career and a time to look forward to your golden years. Recently, there has been a spike in news coverage about couples choosing to spend a significant chunk of their retirement on cruise ships. 

While this might sound wildly expensive and impractical when you first hear it, thanks to a combination of a steady decline in ticket prices for budget-friendly cruise voyages, as well as an unprecedented cost of living crisis, this once fanciful-sounding lifestyle has become a legitimate possibility for many retirees. 

Today, we will take a deep dive into the practicality of retiring on cruise ships. Not only will we examine things from an economic standpoint, but we will also look at cruises specifically geared toward elderly and retired passengers. Even if the long-term seafaring lifestyle isn’t for you, we’ll examine the benefits of incorporating regular cruises into your retirement plans.

Is Retiring on Cruise Ships a Practical Option?

In the past, retiring on a cruise ship would have sounded like an outlandish concept. For starters, the costs associated with booking perpetual cruise vacations would have seemed completely prohibitive. However, the current cost-of-living crisis is turning old financial realities on their head. 

Everything from rent, mortgage rates, grocery prices, and utilities has risen unprecedentedly. In other words, most of the primary living expenses associated with retirement have climbed so much that retirement is becoming financially difficult for many retired people. 

On the other hand, cruise vacations are one of the few things that have decreased in cost. Given that the average monthly rent of a 900-square-foot apartment in the United States is now $1,702, if you purchase a low-cost cruise instead, it starts to make some financial sense. 

Remember, this price is just the average for a basic apartment rather than a retirement community with amenities that cater to retired individuals. To live in a half-decent retirement home community, monthly costs can easily exceed $4,500 per month.

Cruise Ship Balconies
Cruise Ship Balconies (Photo Credit: Renata Apanaviciene)

When you consider that even a budget-friendly cruise package on a basic ship will still have numerous entertainment amenities, gym facilities, delicious meals, and a chance to partake in a daily adventure, you can start to see why many retired people are seriously considering spending a significant portion of their retirement on cruise ships. 

Put simply, you could potentially save money spending your golden years on cruise ships rather than spending them in a retirement community.

How Would You Retire on a Cruise Ship?

While it may sound fairly complex, the logistics of retiring on a cruise ship are fairly simple. Basically, you would just need to book back-to-back cruise vacations that depart and return to the same port. 

While it is true that it is a fairly simple concept, it can be quite tiresome and challenging in practice. If, for example, a cruise was delayed due to weather, you could be stranded for days. While you could always book a hotel room near the port, this could be difficult if all the hotels are expensive or fully booked. 

Food and Other Necessities

Modern cruise ships are designed to ensure that their passengers have access to everything they need to enjoy the entire duration of their trip. With that said, spending extended periods on cruise ships would involve some strategic planning from a financial standpoint. 

For starters, you would want to choose a cruise ship that offers all-inclusive packages, meaning all of your meals, drinks, and entertainment options would be covered under a set fee.

While some people prefer the flexibility of only paying for exactly what they want while on board a cruise, this is only really practical for short-term vacations. If you were planning to spend several months or more going from one cruise to another, you would need to have everything included for one predictable fee.

Couple Eating During Cruise
Couple Eating During Cruise (Photo Credit: Gia Javarova)

Not only will this make budgeting your cruise ship retirement easier, but it will also make your time at sea much more enjoyable. Given that you will be isolated from family and friends, you will also want to opt for a cruise ship package with unlimited Wi-Fi access.

Connecting with loved ones through video chatting will help you feel less isolated. Unlimited access to Wi-Fi will also allow you access streaming services and more from your cabin, which will help make it feel more like a home than vacation accommodations. For a world cruise, you would also not usually have to pay gratuities, as everything is included.

What Types of Cruises Are Suitable for Retirement?

If you plan on spending a significant portion of your retirement on cruise ships, you have to ensure that you are looking into cruises suitable for that type of travel. With many retirees choosing to take to the seas, some cruise lines have started tailoring voyages to that demographic. 

For starters, you will want to book a cruise that offers a long-term itinerary. You don’t want to be forced to shift from one ship to another every few days, so look for a cruise allowing passengers to stay for months.

Storylines residential ship
Render Courtesy: Storylines

Depending on your age and preferences, you may also want to choose a cruise line offering amenities and well-being facilities specifically tailored to an older demographic.

Some ships offer amenities to entertain older passengers and help them socialize and exercise with people their age. This can help counter the effects of loneliness that some retired passengers can experience when they stay on a cruise ship for too long. 

As mentioned, you must ensure the cruise line you are traveling with has suitable onboard medical care. Consider contacting the cruise line and asking about their treatment facilities; they will gladly share this information with you.

To learn more about a couple who actually retired on a cruise ship, consider the story of Robert and Nancy Houchens of North Garden, Virginia, who recently spent 1,000 sailing days while on the Spirit-class Carnival Pride. They chose Carnival because it is their favorite cruise line, but with careful planning, you can create the same experience on any cruise line, including Royal Caribbean, Disney, or MSC.

The World Ship
The World Ship (Photo Credit: Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for something a little more long-term, there are residential ships available, too. The World, the largest private residential yacht on Earth, offers 165 residences, ranging from studios to sprawling two and three-bedroom units. Residents collectively own the ship, and every three years, it dry docks and undergoes extensive renovations to elevate the lounges, restaurants, and other facilities.

Another option for a residential ship is Storylines, which bills itself as a “luxury residential community at sea,” boasting a garden, 20 restaurants, three pools, a microbrewery, and a 10,000-book library over 18 decks.

According to NerdWallet, the average monthly expenses for a single person in America is $3,693. Storyline’s all-inclusive living fares start at $2,152 per person per month – roughly $1,500 less. The purchase price also includes things such as laundry service, meals, and beverages

What Are the Risks Associated with Retiring on Cruise Ships?

While retiring on cruise ships can make sense for some from a financial standpoint, it should not be seen as a miracle solution to retirement logistics. For starters, you need to consider proximity to family. By spending significant time at sea, you will almost certainly have to face the realities of distance from family and other loved ones.

This sense of isolation during cruise retirement can be difficult for many people, especially if they have children and grandchildren with whom they are close.

Sure, the solitude and sense of adventure can be relaxing and exciting at first, but after a month or two on the water, most people will begin to miss the sense of community they could rely on before setting sail. 

Cruise Ship in Port
Cruise Ship in Port (Photo Credit: Quirky Badger)

Then, of course, there are always concerns about accessibility for older retirees. Navigating a cruise ship and various ports, and certain destinations can be difficult if you have mobility issues.

While it is true that most modern cruise ships are equipped with access ramps and elevators, they are not purposefully designed for the needs of elderly residents in the same way that a standard retirement community would be. 

Plus, most of the health care and facilities that cruise ships have are made for short-term visits and emergencies rather than having the same medical capabilities you would get with a standard hospital on land. Even if you are in perfect health at the start of your retirement, it is always wise to anticipate the medical realities of aging.

It would be wise to look at a health insurance plan that can cover more than regular cruise insurance, especially with the long-term cruising you would be doing.

Finally, living out of a suitcase can be tiresome, especially as you enter your retirement years and want to settle into a permanent lifestyle. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I bring personal belongings on a cruise ship? 

While you can certainly bring personal belongings, you are still restricted by the standard luggage allotments. Most do not let you exceed 100 kg or eight pieces of luggage. This is because cruise ships need to take weight very seriously for the ship’s stability and for its overall fuel efficiency. 

What happens if you experience a medical emergency on a cruise ship? 

If you suffer a serious medical emergency at sea, a cruise ship’s medical facility will be able to treat you. However, any long-term care would need to take place on shore. So, the cruise ship’s medical team would most likely have you transferred to an adequate healthcare facility, which may or may not be covered by your medical insurance. 

Final Words? 

Retiring on cruise ships might be unconventional, but it is growing in popularity, especially as more people face the harsh financial realities of retiring during a cost-of-living crisis

While it can be exciting and adventurous for a retiree, it has drawbacks, especially as a long-term retirement solution. If you can’t afford to live on cruise ships for a long time, we recommend a more practical solution of simply incorporating regular cruises into your retirement. That would give you the perfect mixture of adventure at sea and the comforts of home and family.

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