Could you retire to a cruise ship?

Can cruising replace an on-land retirement?

We’ve all heard the stories, retirees sell up and cruise the world – settling instead for living a life on board with all food and care catered for.

Sounds ideal, right? Just one endless holiday and no need to worry about council rates, dragging yourself to the supermarket yet again or deciding what to do with your spare time.

Instead it’s all fresh air, open seas and buffets as far as the eye can see.

But is it possible? And is it possible in Australia? Would it be cheaper than a retirement home?

It depends

Cruise Passenger has crunched the numbers for cruising versus retirement home and found while basic, budget-friendly cruising compares well against a retirement home in a capital city, simple things such as a shore excursion or flight to another departure destination will easily tip the balance the other way.

A couple recently hit the headlines with their choice to retire to a cruise ship, but their circumstances may have made it more doable.

They were relatively young – in their 50s – so health concerns were probably a minimum, three of their five children were living in their house covering their mortgage and other expenses and they budgeted cruising at US$100 (or about $120 a day).

While you may be able to sort your onshore housing, it’s not really possible to cruise year-round in Australia as the season is limited to October to April and we have limited destinations and cruise lines to choose from compared to the US.

There is some out-of-season cruising on the west coast but they are generally expensive, and dates are limited.

However, if you broaden your horizons and lower your expectations it may be more achievable because you are certainly not going to be able to live on $120 a day on a luxury ship.

It’s a plan

First up, you will need to do a lot of planning to minimise the time spent on dry land. Back-to-back cruising takes a lot of time and effort to get it right.

Try to stay on the same ship for as long as possible for as long as it is cost effective.

Show me the money

Your budget is the next most important consideration.

Currently, there are cruises launching from Australia being advertised at $80 per person, per day, but that does not include fees, taxes, land excursions and gratuities and let’s face it, we’re Australians, nor does it include drinks packages.

And if you are travelling alone, don’t forget the dreaded single supplement.

Budget bonuses are going with second or third tier-level ships, choosing inside cabins and joining every customer loyalty program going around because the more you cruise the more you save.

Your destinations are also important. Asia is going to be cheaper than the Mediterranean, a South Pacific cruise is going to be more affordable than a specialist Antarctic expedition.

Be open minded about the itinerary, you may never have wanted to travel up the Vietnam coast, but price may be your guideline instead.

And don’t forget to add in travel insurance, which could be quite substantial for seniors.

Try before you buy

It’s also a good idea to quite literally test the waters. Book a few cruises back-to-back and see if you enjoy the lifestyle. A one-off holiday cruise you have looked forward to as a break is a completely different experience to living on a ship full time.

You will also be away from family and friends, which could be socially crippling for some people.

A good starting point if you are considering retiring on a ship is the Cruise Guru, which is an Australian comparison site that specialises in discounts, deals and advice.

What do you think about the idea of retiring to a cruise ship? Do you think you can afford it? Why not let us know your thoughts in the comment section below?

Also read: Tourism Australia names our best beaches

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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