Spending retirement years on a cruise liner

More retirees are growing sea legs and hitting the deck permanently.

Spending retirement years on a cruise liner

Have you ever dreamt of retiring on a cruise ship? Think about it: all meals provided and plenty to keep you occupied, all for as little as $100 a day. It may not be as far-fetched a notion for Gerard who, in Travel SOS, has asked Olga if it’s really possible.


Q. Gerard
I read somewhere that a woman is spending her retirement on a cruise ship. She says it’s cheaper than living on the land. Could this be possible? How much would it cost?

A. In what is a ‘thing’ for some American retirees, a sea change is taken quite literally as many opt to live the rest of their lives on a cruise ship.

Their reasons are varied but for most it is the lure of ‘cheap housing’ when compared to retirement village living. For often much less than $100,000 a year, they can eat whatever they like for free, have access to medical services, don’t have to worry about maintenance or housework, they avoid the cost of a car, can enjoy a variety of entertainment and activities, and they get to travel around the world. Here is a snapshot of some seafaring seniors who don’t mind talking about their ocean-going ways:

  • Traveller, Mario Salcedo, 68, has been on 950 cruises over 20 years. The Miami investment manager said he wanted to escape the corporate rat race. He is semi-retired and runs an online financial business while sailing.
  • Florida widow Lee Wachtstetter, 88, has lived aboard Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity luxury liner for a couple of decades. It was her husband’s dying wish that she keep cruising for as long as possible. She lives in a private stateroom that costs around $200,000 a year and is affectionately known to the crew as Mama Lee. She chose the Crystal Serenity because she loves to dance and, in her belief, the ship has the best dance hosts.
  • Then there was British pensioner Beatrice Muller, who paid only half of the official cruise fare on the QE2 due to loyalty bonuses from five previous world cruises. Ms Muller had worked out that living in luxury on the liner was cheaper than the equivalent lifestyle on land. She paid $4500 a month, whereas the minimum fee for a basic room in a nursing home is $2600. She died aged 94 in 2013 after having written a book about her escapades on the cruise liner.

Going one step further, there are companies such as Cruise Retirement which target passengers over 50 years of age who want to live onboard permanently. Its Enchanted Explorer liner has modern one to three-room apartments with their own living rooms, decking and ensuites. The passengers have access to all the usual trappings of a cruise holiday, but at the end of the day, they come back to their ‘home’.

According to CruiseCritic.com.au, long, world cruises are not offered regularly, sell out fast and have itineraries published two years in advance. But it may be a good way for you to get a feel for a life at sea.

If you have a Travel SOS question, email it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer, or find someone who can.

Can you see yourself retiring at sea? Would you sell your home to go and live in a cruise liner?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    26th May 2018
    Olga: you are living in doe doe land again.
    $100 a day = $36,525 a yearThat means you need to stump up around $73,000 a year And then you cannot get trips for $100 everywhere so are you going to do the same loop again and again and again?
    Add to this your price is an Inside Cabin which has no natural light and you cannot swing a cat.
    Don't know where you get this from.
    26th May 2018
    Yeah, it’s not all beer & skittles. There are FAR better and way less expensive alternatives to living in a cramped box and eating yourself to death. Some of those people are morbid obese from that lifestyle.
    I’ve lived on the road in tropical Asian locations for virtually peanuts for the last 7 years. Not hard to lease a beachside apartment for a few hundred dollars a MONTH in many locations that the “ obedient workers” save all year to holiday in.
    You’ve got dirt cheap airfares within the region as well. I’ve met several Expats living very well in SE Asia for $1000 a month.
    Easily done if you know what your doing.
    26th May 2018
    Mick, living on a cruise ship does happen. On a cruise a few years ago we had a conversation at dinner with an lady of mature years who told us she lived on the ship. She explained her late husband had been a captain for the cruise line (I think it was Holland America but I can't be sure) and he arranged for them to retire onto the ship. When he passed away she kept the arrangement. I did not ask about the financial arrangements. She told us she had no children and she was quite happy living 'at sea'.
    Keith, living 'on the road' is not everyone's 'cup of tea'. I have no inclination to do so in Australia yet alone SE Asia, irrespective of the relative costs involved. However if you like it, enjoy it. If I won Tatts I would seriously consider living on a cruise ship, well for a year or two maybe.
    27th May 2018
    Your account may be factual Eddy but the devil is always in the detail. If the person you met had been married to a captain in the line then you are discussing a highly discounted rate. The other issue I mentioned above is that of being on the SAME ship or moving around. If on the same route you'd go nuts in under a year.
    Either way living on a cruise ship would be a degraded existence. Not for us so good luck if you choose that as an option. As bad as living in an apartment on Flinders Street near the station in Melbourne. Only for the mentally challenged from what I can see.
    26th May 2018
    $100 a day would be for a tiny windowless cabin. To get a window or a balcony could easily be double. A single person travelling on a cruise would need to pay a single supplement too. Also, every time we've gone on a cruise, our additional charges (laundry, gratuity, shore costs) have almost equalled the cruise price.

    The internet on a ship costs a fortune. If you need to see a doctor, you'll pay hundreds of dollars. If you're really sick, they'll offload you at the next port.

    Note that the article does talk about it costing $100,00 to $200,000 per year and that sounds more realistic to me.
    27th May 2018
    Good analysis. I have seen the above 'stories' before. Stories are all that they are because no detail is ever given.

    2nd Jun 2018
    Quite right there Mick. I am currently on the high seas on a 35 day cruise and we pay $11000 each for a balcony cabin. Food is included but every drink is extra. This $100 a day sometimes applies to fill a week-long cruise at the last moment, no long ones are offered at that price.

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