The Cost of Retiring on a Cruise Ship

What Is a Cruise Ship and What Do They Offer Retirees?

Cruise ships are large ocean-going vessels that typically offer passenger accommodation for anywhere between 100 and 5,000 people. Cruises are available for all age groups but retirees can find cruises particularly appealing because of their many amenities.

The largest cruise ships have spas, fitness centers, casinos, children’s programs, enrichment classes (i.e. dance, cooking, language), and more.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of a cruise varies depending on the length of the cruise, the time of year, and the level of luxury. A seven-night cruise in a standard cabin on a mid-sized ship typically costs between $1,000 and $2,000 per person.

Some cruise lines offer all-inclusive pricing which includes meals, house beverages, most activities, gratuities, and medical insurance. Others allow passengers to purchase add-on packages for premium features such as massage treatments and access to specialty dining venues.

Booking a Cruise vs Buying a Cabin

Cruise lines typically place a hold on the credit card for the full amount of the cruise which can be paid off before or after embarkation. Some lines offer discounts if you book multiple cruises at once and most require payment in full within 24 hours of booking. Other cruise lines offer upgrades such as meal plans, better staterooms, and more.

In 2018, the average person spent about $212 per day aboard a cruise ship, according to Cruise Market Watch, a website that keeps track of the ocean cruise business. This price already includes the ticket cost and all other spendings done on-board including food, entertainment, and other purchases.

On the other side, when retirees decide to purchase a cabin, the cost may be lower for seniors who become permanent residents on a cruise ship. There are several cruise lines that provide retirees the opportunity to acquire an apartment or condo on board, with all of the amenities and food included.

For example, a newer cruise line offers seniors and other passengers the option to purchase onboard apartments for around $352,000 for 172 square feet. For higher-end accommodations, some cruise ships offer permanent homes starting at $3.2 million for up to 1,690 square feet. 

This already includes all sorts of services and amenities including meals and beverages, onboard gratuities, laundry service, and more. The line also has an onboard fresh foods market for people who want to cook their own meals.

The best option for those who want to take more than two cruises in a row is to book long-term cruises. There are cruises that depart every 180 days and go all around the world, with prices starting at $35,899. This already includes daily food and beverage consumption, airfare to ship ports, and other amenities available. Given there are

Assuming two cruises per year at that price, the total annual cost of retiring on a cruise ship would be $71,798.That, indeed, looks like a cost-saving option over a traditional retirement – assuming you have no problem with having a lesser space to yourself than you would on a traditional home.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Retiring in a Cruise Ship

The benefits of retiring in a cruise ship includes:

  • You have access to the restaurants, spas, and shops offered onboard.
  • Reduced worry about finding a home in a foreign country. If you are new to retiring abroad or change your mind while at sea, it is easy to fly back home via the ship’s shuttle service. There are also many more daily activities, tours, classes, and events on board. 

Retirees who live on cruise ships have access to all sorts of transportation options including car rentals, taxis, shuttles, local buses, or trains in port cities when they want to explore the destination.

  • Cruise ships act as a home base for retirees who want to spend time in many different countries.

The drawbacks of retiring in a cruise ship include:

  • The cost of living on a cruise ship is usually much higher compared to retiring in the same country. For example, according to InternationalLiving.com, you can live very comfortably in Thailand for $1,500 per month or less when renting an apartment or villa. On average, expect to spend $2,000 to $4,000 per month on a cruise ship.
  • Limited space and privacy. Cruise ships are designed for vacationers, not for long-term residents, so retirees may feel cramped in their small living spaces. – Less control over the environment. Cruise ships go where the wind and weather takes them, so retirees who prefer an established community may be disappointed.
  • Traffic and noise. Cruise ships are often docked in port cities or at busy terminals, which means lots of traffic and noise for people looking for a peaceful retirement. – Stressful check-in process. Passengers usually must board the ship within four to six hours after arriving at the port. The check-in process is far more hectic than at a hotel since passengers are required to fill out immigration forms, customs documents, and sign waivers.
  • Limited dining options. There are only two restaurants available on most ships, which means that sometimes you have to eat what is being served for dinner regardless of your preferences or dietary restrictions.
  • Limited laundry facilities. Cruise ships do not have large washing machines and dryers like at a typical apartment complex, so you might have to wait a few days before your clothes are clean.

The Bottom Line

Cruise ships offer a wide range of onboard activities including meals and beverages, onboard gratuities, laundry service, and more. The initial cruise ship fee is the cost of a long-term lease arrangement with time considered as a payment. A typical lease agreement allows at least three years and up to five years of continuous residence.

Cruise ships are docked in port cities around the world, and the facilities and services on board are available for passengers who embark or disembark during their stay. The cruise ship company may collect a fee for each day of the cruise at the beginning or end of your stay. Most cruise ships offer transportation to and from the ships, as well as buses and taxis in port cities where they are docked. A few companies will provide business-class flight arrangements and ground transfers to and from the airports.

The decision to retire on a cruise ship should not be taken lightly, and retirees should weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. For some retirees, the advantages of living on a cruise ship outweigh the disadvantages, while others may prefer to stay in one place and enjoy all that the local community has to offer.

Retiring on a Cruise Ship FAQs

It typically costs between $2,000 and $4,000 per month to live on a cruise ship. This includes the cost of your cruise fare, as well as all of your meals and beverages.
Your cruise fare typically includes all of your meals and beverages, as well as onboard gratuities for the crew. You will also have access to laundry facilities, fitness centers, and other onboard amenities.
Most cruise ship companies require a lease agreement of at least three years, but some will offer shorter agreements if space is available.
Cruise ships are docked in port cities all around the world. This includes popular destinations like New York City, Miami, and Barcelona, as well as more remote locations like the Galápagos Islands and Tahiti.
You can disembark at any port where you have docked, but the cruise ship company will charge you for every day that you're gone. So, you'll need to plan your trips carefully before departing from a new location.

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.