Wife of Officer Explains Pros and Cons of Living on a Cruise Ship

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When Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise took over social media, part of the allure was that 274 nights – or nine months at sea – seems like an incredibly long time. But that’s nothing for the Kesteloos, who have spent a combined 45 years living and working at sea. 

The Pros Of Living On A Cruise Ship

Christine Kesteloo and her husband, Pete, consider themselves to be lucky. Christine is allowed to sail for free with her spouse, who is a staff chief engineer on one of Holland America Line’s 11 ships, while he works at sea for six months of the year. This is an unusual set up, as typically crew members are separated from their loved ones for the duration of their contracts, which usually range from two to nine months.  

Once a cruise director herself, Christine has a lot of experience with life at sea and has been documenting her travels on her TikTok channel for more than two years now – long before Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise turned cruising into a social media sensation

At the time of this publication, Christine’s TikTok (@dutchworld_americangirl) has 887.5K followers, and her most popular video, which details the pros and cons of living on a cruise ship for months at a time, has over 14 million views – and ultimately, the pros outweigh the cons for this sailor.

As “wife on board,”  Christine experiences many perks, essentially living a hybrid life where she qualifies as both a guest and a crew member and can enjoy both guest areas and behind-the-scenes areas that are usually restricted to employees.

Some of Christine’s favorite parts is that she gets to wake up in a new place every day (and has already visited more than 100 countries and most recently took her followers with her to St. Lucia), doesn’t have rent or home bills to pay, and every meal of the day is free in the ship’s main dining rooms. 

The Cons Of Spending Months At Sea

Most of the downsides that come with being a “cruise wife” are things that Christine can easily live with, especially as someone who is able to see the rules from the perspective of a former crew member. While Christine mostly gets free reign onboard, she isn’t allowed to gamble, deals with spotty internet service (which she does get a discount on), and has to prioritize guest experience above her own – meaning she can’t disembark in ports before paying guests are done.

Cruise TikTok Living on Cruise Ship

In a video that’s been liked more than 15,000 times and has over 400,000 views, Christine also jokes that being surrounded by so much free food is a test of her will power to preserve her waist line. 

“One of the hardest things about living on a cruise ship is that I know right now, if I just leave my cabin, I can go and have cookies, pizza, a shake, I could have anything I wanted, and I want it, I absolutely want it,” she said in the TikTok. 

But the hardest aspect of spending so much time away from home is being far away from friends and family. Luckily for the Kesteloos, Christine’s parents were able to join the cruise for two months to spend time together. That said, their cruise hasn’t all been smooth sailing – as her dad suffered a medical emergency onboard.


It is cake day on board the cruise ship. It is day 59 of living on board. Our parents are living on board with us pretty soon we start heading towards the Amazon. We have another month to go on board but if you’d like cake stick around. #cake #cakeday #cruiseship #cruise #weliveonacruiseship #cruisetok #cruisefood #foodtok #caketok #hollandamericaline #wifeonboard

♬ 10 minutes ver beat & electric bass stride(1117152) – Aruma

“He didn’t eat properly and the sun here is strong, so dad fell unconscious while eating Cheetos here in this bed and we had to call medical. It was a scary incident for all of us,” Christine shared on TikTok. 

Read Also: Cruise Ship Entertainer Saves Passenger’s Life Just Before Show

While cruise ships are equipped with medical centers on board, the Kesteloo family wasn’t planning to visit it. Thankfully, the emergency ended up being a false alarm caused by low blood sugar from too much sun and not enough nutrition. 

This does bring up another interesting point of Christine’s tenure at sea, which is that cruise ship medical centers do not always take the health insurance policies that are used on land. Indeed, Christine has to pay for her own special traveler’s insurance – which is something that may also apply to more typical cruisers on shorter vacations, too.

But while life at sea may have its hiccups, it’s ultimately like living in a constant vacation – and that does come with a lot of perks. A lot of older solo travelers and couples choose to retire on cruise ships because food and entertainment is included in the cost, guests never have to cook or clean, and they get to see the world.

Holland America Line
Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

If you aren’t sailing for free like Christine, you have a few options to become a long term cruiser. First, some ships offer permanent residences onboard, which is good for cruisers who don’t want to be tied down to a mortgage, property taxes, and home maintenance bills on land. The cost of a permanent residence at sea ranges from $352,000 to $36 million.

For cruisers who want an extended vacation but might not be ready to sell their homes or give up their leases, Snowbird cruises are a good option. These last from 58 to 116 days and cost anywhere from $16,000 per guest to $250,000 – and includes an airfare stipend, beverages, up to 42 free shore excursions, and up to $4,200 in ship credit.

Lastly, cruise lovers can opt to book back-to-back cruises on the same ship. This is ideal for guests who may be elite members of loyalty programs, and may reap more cost savings by taking a DIY approach to their cruise planning.

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