Wave of seniors retiring at sea

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?

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Cruising with Orlando
Cruising on a budget

Written by Olga Galacho


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