Retirement on a Cruise Ship: How much does it cost?

When you consider retiring, you probably see yourself living a carefree, travel-filled, gourmet-food-loving life with lots of time to do as you choose.

As it happens, that sounds a lot like cruising. Retirees find cruising to be the perfect way of life because it includes food, entertainment, housekeeping, and more, in addition to enjoying yourself on the ship as you go from port to port.

Taking care of the yard, cooking or washing the dishes, or phoning a plumber are not concerns. It also appears that you might acquire all of this for comparatively less money than it would cost to live on land, considering how reasonably priced cruise tickets are.

Retirees doing just that have been the subject of significant news articles. They have decided to spend their golden years on a cruise ship rather than in a conventional retirement.

That would cost how much, though? Though it’s not cheap, it might be less than you think. Using genuine data from the cruise companies, we have chosen to examine a real-world case and price the cost of living aboard a ship.

How much does retiring on a cruise ship cost?

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About retirement budgets, the typical annual cost of commercial independent and assisted living facilities with extras like meal plans, cleaning services, activities, and transportation is about $60,000 per person, or $164 per night. (Obviously, your location, the features, and the degree of luxury will all affect the price.) I evaluated facilities with amenities and payment plans closest to what you could get on a cruise ship to see if retiring onboard may match (or surpass) what’s offered on land.

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Retirement on a Cruise Ship

While it’s often possible to bargain with cruise lines for a reduced price on a long-term contract, I discovered that, even without any special arrangements, I could reserve 52 consecutive seven-night Caribbean cruises from Miami on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Celebration, for about $43,000 per person in an inside cabin. That comes to about $118 per person, per night. (Consider carefully if you could live in a windowless room all year round.)

Looking for the least expensive Carnival cruises on older ships, I could typically find inside cabins for less than $50 per night and balcony cabins for about $110, including port taxes and fees. In other words, your annual cruise cost may be as little as $18,250 per person. Unfortunately, you have other expenses to think about besides the fare.

Should you choose to return home or change ships, you would need to budget for flights between ports and sporadic hotel stays. In addition, there are staff tips to think about, which over a year can come to thousands per person.

All of that makes the annual requirement for a couple or a single traveling alone (which necessitates single supplement fees in double occupancy cabins) somewhat over $50,000.

Although there is no maximum limit to how much you may spend on retirement, either on land or at sea, here are some instances of what I discovered: A balcony stateroom aboard the Cunard Queen Elizabeth would cost roughly $64,000, or $175 per night, per person, for a year. One might arrange a balcony cabin for a year on the P&O Cruises Britannia for about $53,000, or $145 per night per person. You might see a lot of the globe using either choice.

In contrast, a year aboard a deluxe cruise line like Silversea, Seabourn, or Regent Seven Seas will set you back at least $200,000 ($548 per person each night). The good news about that pricing is that cruises on those lines include laundry, alcoholic beverages, sightseeing, gratuities, and most specialty restaurants.

Retiring on a residential ship

Age Policy on Cruise Lines, Age Policy on Cruise
(Credit: Celebrity cruise)

Purchasing or leasing a cruise ship cabin aboard a luxury home ship is an option to sailing on a conventional cruise line during your retirement years. The most well-known of them is The World, although there has been a lot of talk lately about the startup Storylines and their MV Narrative, a residential ship that will be launched in 2025. Victoria Cruises Line also intends to launch two renovated ships in spring 2023 as residential ships for long-term living.

Logistically, ownership makes a few things easier, and your sole outlays will probably be for port fees and/or travel when you decide to get off the ship. One way to help defray the cost of your cabin is to consider renting it out when you’re not using it.

Stories, for instance, sells staterooms for quarterly seasonal shared ownership or for the duration of the ship. Additionally offered are leasing options lasting 24 years. Along with the initial purchase or lease price, tenants will pay an all-inclusive monthly living fee per person that includes food and drinks, housekeeping, laundry, Wi-Fi, and, of course, ship fuel.

How does this alternative stack up financially? Buying a 237-square-foot inside stateroom with a virtual window for the duration of the ship costs, on average, $1 million. A lease for 24 years runs about $650,000. Storylines also levies an extra all-inclusive living fee to cover onboard amenities (meal, housekeeping, Wi-Fi, etc.); for an inner stateroom, this fee is $2,586 per person per month, depending on double occupancy, or $62,064 yearly for two persons living together. Living expenses for a one-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom apartment averaged $111,000, with purchase prices averaging $2.7 million.

For the sake of comparing the prices to those of conventional cruise ships, the MV Narrative’s inner cabin costs $85 per person per night, while the one-bedroom suite costs $152 per person per night. These amounts are on top of the initial outlays for leasing or purchasing.

Your cost per night (beyond your purchase or rental price) may be less than when you cruise conventionally if you can afford to buy or lease a cabin. You may, however, want to consult with an advisor before investing your retirement funds in a startup company that hasn’t yet launched a product because MV Narrative isn’t currently under construction and isn’t scheduled to be built at one of the major cruise ship construction yards.

What about retiring to a cruise ship appeals to you?

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(Credit: Daily Update)

It’s travel itself for many. Every day scenery changes might be a motivating approach to life. Some people can find even a trip that repeats to the same ports more appealing than staying at home.

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Top on most people’s lists of retirement objectives is just not having to bother about food preparation, grocery shopping, or house maintenance; all of them would fit into a cruise ship retirement. Another retirement goal is avoiding severe weather. You can arrange your retirement cruise schedule so that you are always sailing away from the cold and snow.

An other advantage is the mood on board a cruise ship. Not at all like the typical senior living community. People eager to board any ship you choose are probably going to be on board. That kind of thinking can spread. Being with young people—not merely those in retirement—can also add attraction to life on a cruise ship.

You get to meet new individuals when you live aboard a cruise ship. Some weeks or months would see a shipload of new faces. A year could bring you a lot of new pals. Every cruise they take, some vacationers become friends with the crew members. The chance to remain on board and develop such connections over extended periods could be too good to pass up.

Then some just like to be among other people and have fleeting conversations with them. The social scene aboard a cruise ship may appeal to even introverts more than a more isolated retirement.

Other expenses

7 best River Cruise Ship Dining, River Cruise Ship Dining
(Credit: Prague Boat)

If you’ve cruised previously, you are aware that the expense of a cruise is not just the cruise fee, which is the biggest outlay of funds. Daytimes in port and onboard spending are other costs.

The good news is that, unlike the cruise ticket, you are totally in charge of these outlays. Never want to spend a dime? Though it looks a little unrealistic, you can achieve it.

In SEC filings, Royal Caribbean Group, across all of its cruise lines, reports onboard revenue as about 45% of passenger ticket income. That implies that the “average” cruiser would spend about $21,000 a year at a standard cruise ticket of about $47,000 per person.

That number, of course, is derived from the typical traveler who is living it up while on vacation and probably spends more money per day than a retiree would while on board. For example, we doubt a resident of the ship would regularly purchase drink packages, gamble, or dine at the specialty restaurants.

A figure of half that, $10,500 per individual or $21,000 per couple, seems more probable to us.

How about splurging in port? Once more, a retiree visiting a port might spend somewhat differently from someone traveling on vacation. Probably not on the menu are drinks, seaside trips, or mementos. Rather, for a change of pace, we see someone wishing to go to a grocery store, pharmacy, or have lunch off the ship. In such situation, we believe a retiree handling their budget should be able to spend up to $8,000 per person ($16,000 per couple) throughout the year.

How to Spend Less Money Retiring on Cruises

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(Credit: Times of India)

Still dream of retiring to a life at sea, but the prices shown here are a little too much for your budget? For most people, spending almost $160,000 a year to live on a cruise ship is unquestionably excessive. The positive outlook? These suggestions will help you cut expenses significantly:

  • Choose Less Expensive Lines/Ships: We priced out cruises on one particular Royal Caribbean ship for this example. Some lines, meanwhile, offer less priced cruises on older ships. Looking into other possibilities could save you tens of thousands of dollars in a year.
  • Retire “Part-Time” at Sea: Cruise rates change a lot all year long. A summer trip can cost hundreds of dollars more than one in the fall or winter. You can take use of this to your benefit if you wish save money. So plan your low-season voyages and spend your retirement at sea. To save a great deal, though, make other plans during the hectic summer months.
  • Watch the Onboard/Port Spending: As was already established, the one area where you have the greatest control is your onboard spending. You can prevent adding significantly to the yearly expenses of retiring on a cruise by being frugal here. While living like you’re on vacation every day might not be as much fun, we would much prefer budget while living on a cruise than not be able to sail!

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Planning a cruise ship retirement: an overview

Deciding whether to make cruising a more permanent retirement choice can be done by taking an extended voyage. When I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas last year, I met a woman who was organizing the cruise line’s 274-night globe tour. This lady was trying out some storage solutions that she thought would make her life easier while on her long vacation. She was taking with her stuff most weeklong cruisers would never consider, from under-bed rolling plastic containers to drawer organizers.

Her goal was to increase her Royal Caribbean loyalty level as well. Highest loyalty level members are eligible for benefits that will save money when retirement time comes. Top of the list of important benefits at the upper tiers on the major lines is free laundry, followed by spa treatments, speciality restaurant meals, Wi-Fi savings and free or discounted cruise nights. Even opulent cruise lines like Silversea and Seabourn offer free nights and discounts to top loyalty members.

Higher your retirement status, the more benefits you begin with, but if you sail on the same line for a whole year, you’ll go up the loyalty ladder fast.

The woman I met was increasing her status point total with inexpensive single trips on Royal Caribbean’s smallest ship, which yield double points. Whether or not they cruised the same number of times, status is shared with spouses or domestic partners who live in the same home. Using double point deals, such as the one Celebrity voyages is offering this year on European voyages, or booking higher-level suites are other methods to improve status.

Selling one’s house (or getting it ready to be rented) and getting rid of extra stuff and rehoming pets are other first steps toward cruise ship retirement. To help with residence regulations and money management that might enable you to cruise even longer into retirement, you should also speak with a financial counselor.

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