Many passionate cruisers dream about living full-time on a cruise ship or taking voyage after voyage after voyage so it seems like a favorite ship truly is home.
For one retired couple, they’re doing just that on Carnival ships, and were recently recognized for meeting a 1,000 day milestone – the equivalent of two full years and nine months at sea!
Virginia Couple Retires at Sea
Robert and Nancy Houchens of North Garden, Virginia, a small town 175 miles from the seasonal homeport of Norfolk, recently reached their amazing milestone of 1,000 sailing days while on the Spirit-class Carnival Pride, their favorite Fun Ship.
To commemorate the occasion, Robert asked crew members to help arrange a surprise for his wife, and the momentousness of the achievement caught the attention of everyone on board.
The couple was able to pose with numerals to mark their days at sea, and celebrated with many of the crew members. After so many cruises – at least 15 aboard Carnival Pride – the couple considers Carnival crew members to be family.
“We have family all over the fleet, meaning the team members on board. They have become family to us!” Nancy said. “Now we try to figure out what team members are on a particular ship, and that’s how we pick which cruise we want to go on. After cruising for so long, we’ve got a lot of [extended] family and we love them.”
Many cruise travelers are quickly impressed not only by the incredible service crew members provide, but by the friendliness of the crew and how happily they work to make every passenger’s vacation a special and memorable one.
This might mean cookies on the pillow at night for young cruisers, a special towel pal to welcome guests back to their cabin after the evening’s entertainment, playing that favorite song for a romantic dance on the promenade, or helping fulfill special requests as needed to make any cruise an amazing getaway.
Because the Houches are so well known to the cruise line, they were invited to cut the ribbon as Carnival Pride returned to service in Baltimore on September 12, 2021, after the ship’s pandemic-related operational pause.
How to Sail So Much?
Cruises are known to be affordable, but cruise after cruise after cruise can add up to an expensive travel budget. So how did the Houches save so much to be able to spend so much time at sea?
“Our goal was to sell everything we owned and pretty much live on cruise ships,” said Nancy. “We’ve done a pretty good job of it since we’ve retired.”
Many couples downsize after retirement, when children have moved out of the house and so much space may no longer be needed.
The Houches began sailing more than 20 years ago while their children were still living at home, but that is no longer the case, and the couple now has more disposable income to spend on their favorite getaways.
Cruising is also a great value, even more so as guests build loyalty with a single cruise line and may be offered deep discounts to welcome them back on additional voyages.
Furthermore, careful planning can make cruising even more affordable. The Houches are currently on back-to-back sailings of Carnival Pride, meaning two cruises without needing separate airfare to reach different homeports, and without other incidental costs such as pre- or post-cruise hotels or airport transfers. This can be a great savings, making a cruise even more of a phenomenal value.
Carnival Pride is homeported in Dover, UK for the summer, offering alternating 9- and 12-night sailings. The 9-night cruises visit a variety of ports throughout Norway, with phenomenal scenic cruising along the Norwegian fjords.
The 12-night sailings, on the other hand, visit exciting ports in Holland, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Denmark, for true immersion into the diverse cultures of northern Europe. In November, the ship will reposition to Tampa for the winter and spring.
Changing Cruises Over Time
The key to enjoying so many cruises over so many years is to be flexible and adapt to everything a cruise line offers. Carnival Cruise Line is well known for offering great venues and activities for all ages.
“We used to do the nightclub, partying and staying up all night, but now we like to relax,” Nancy said.
Both Nancy and Richard highlight the adults-only Serenity retreat as their favorite place on a Carnival ship.
Ultimately, however, it isn’t the ports, ships, food, activities, shows, or anything else that keeps loyal cruisers like the Houches returning.
“We cruise Carnival because of the people,” Richard said. “It isn’t the destinations for us anymore, it’s the journey — and the biggest part of the journey is the people.”
The couple has no plans to slow down their cruising enthusiasm, and plans to continue cruising as much as possible through their retirement years.