It’s a well-known fact that where you holiday during your working life can have a direct and significant impact on where you plan to retire abroad. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their free time in retirement in a place that for them held the fondest memories? It’s a fact that some of the most popular holiday haunts are therefore also some of the most popular overseas destinations with retired expatriates; and whilst the thought of a beachfront mansion in Mexico or a condo in the Caribbean therefore makes absolute sense for a retirement home abroad, could you see yourself living out your retirement years on the high seas instead?
If you’re a cruising enthusiast and you like to spend your hard earned wealth and your hard won holidays on a luxurious liner as often as you can, then your experiences may lead you towards contemplating enjoying more of your free time in retirement doing just that which you love best, namely sailing the seven seas on board a cruise ship. There have been many tall tales told of wealthy widows living reclusive lives on board great ships that sail the oceans all year round – and there is actually some truth in many of these stories. Rosemarie Roberts was just one woman who made a home for herself on board a luxury liner for over a decade, and the QE2 was permanent home to Bea Muller for example.
So a precedent has therefore been set and a path has been marked that you can now follow if you too fancy the idea of living in permanent luxury on board a cruise ship. But how practical could this plan be, what are the pros and cons of inhabiting a small cabin and having staff at your beck and call 24 hours a day, and what are the decent alternatives for those who would love to live this life, but who may perhaps baulk at the tens of thousands of dollars such a lifestyle can cost year-on-year? We take a closer look at the bigger picture.
All Abroad! – The Pros of Retiring on Board a Cruise Liner
The benefits and advantages of retiring on a cruise ship are plenty, for example: –
- You can have as many meals a day as you can eat, and the food is always fantastic!
- At usually no extra charge you can call room service and instead enjoy the likes of breakfast in bed or afternoon tea in your cabin – daily!
- Your accommodation will be serviced, cleaned and maintained for you constantly.
- Staff will get to know you, and if you treat them well, they will reciprocate and you will find you enjoy an even better service.
- There is a high standard of medical assistance on board.
- You can swap ships when you want to change your scenery.
- There is daily, high quality entertainment – all included in the price you pay.
- If you want to swim, dance, learn new skills, join an exercise class, worship God, attend a wine tasting seminar, visit exhibitions or a book store, try your luck at a casino and make new friends every couple of weeks, you can do all of this and so much more on a cruise liner.
- You can attend cultural enrichment events, watch the latest movies, go to the theatre, play bridge, take afternoon tea, have a spa experience, listen to live jazz, sip champagne or go down the pub and play darts.
- You can wash and dry your clothes for free, and your room will be refreshed with new cosmetics and bathroom goodies on a daily basis…even saving you money!
- You will never be alone or lonely, you’ll never get bored or have to face the day with nothing to look forward to.
Abandon Ship? – Reasons Why Cruising Your Way Through Retirement Might Not Suit You
Whilst a cruise for a fortnight or even a month can be an incredibly luxurious and stimulating experience, a lifetime of sailing and living on what is really just a floating hotel can begin to become tiring for some people for some or even all of the following reasons: –
- Your ‘home’ is usually a less than spacious cabin that has been furnished and decorated to someone else’s tastes.
- As lovely and comfortable as your cabin is, it is not a home where you can potter about and have the space and freedom that you may crave…for example, your allocated wardrobe space will be just about enough for a couple of week’s worth of clothes, but to fit a lifetime’s possessions in a cruise liner cabin is an impossibility…even if you upgrade!
- Ships have to dock and dry dock, the crew have to have downtime and the liner needs to be out of service to be serviced or refurbished on a regular basis – at which point you become homeless!
- If you want to swap ships you can – but this can be unsettling and upsetting to those enjoying their ‘routine’ and their life on their chosen original liner.
- People who take longer than average cruises can find themselves missing their friends and family back onshore, and that the constant goodbyes they say to their new friends every couple of weeks can become trying as old faces disembark and a whole new crowd boards the ship.
- After a while you may tire of eating out for every meal and of having no real privacy despite being alone in your cabin sometimes.
- You can’t have pets on a cruise and your grandchildren can’t just pop in for a cup of tea.
- The costs associated with living 24/7, 365 days a year on board a luxurious ship are quite steep, as we will soon discuss, and you may still need accommodation when your liner is in dry dock being serviced or refurbished.
- You may not be able to avoid tiresome people, and you may miss the good friends you’re lucky enough to make when they leave after a couple of weeks.
- Constant ‘entertainment’ can be tiring and eating and drinking all day long is bad for your health!
The Practical Aspects of Packing Up and Shipping Out
Determining whether life on board a cruise ship would suit you or not depends greatly on your personality, your likes and dislikes and whether or not you could adjust to residing in a relatively small cabin and paying a relatively high price to maintain your unusual retirement! The most obvious pros and cons have been laid out above, but you will have your very own reasons driving you forward towards your retirement on a cruise ship, and your own concerns that you will need to think long and hard about before you make a final decision.
To help you determine whether you could take the practical steps necessary to make your dream life a reality, perhaps it’s time to grapple with the facts – such as the cost of living on a cruise liner, and how you go about selecting your ship…
If money really is no object for you, then pick your favourite liner – from Royal Caribbean’s brand new Oasis of the Seas, to Cunard’s soon to be launched Queen Elizabeth – and book your place. Alternatively, you need to do your research into which liners offer you the standard of living you’re after, at a cost you can afford. There’s a great resource on the Internet (http://www.cybercruises.com/shiplist.htm) that lists every single cruise liner and company in the world – even those that are now out of business or decommissioned! This resource, or something like it, could act as your start point; you could make your own short list of the companies you like then visit their own homepages to learn more about their ships. With a company you like and a ship in mind, it’s time to look more closely at where that ship sails, and whether you could become part of life on board.
Many companies offer discounts to seniors, and those who book for extended breaks on board their ships, so it will be well worth you directly approaching your preferred shortlist of companies about booking your passage on one of their ships for life! If you explain that you’re of a mind to retire on board and you’d like to discuss securing an ongoing annual rate for your presence aboard their liner, a deal may be brokered that will see you enjoy a significant discount on the book price. If you look online or in brochures to get an idea of what your life may cost you before any discount is applied however, you’ll see it of course depends on the company, the liner, the room you choose and the route you sail.
One of the cheapest ways you can perhaps make your dream come true will be joining a decent ship on a permanent Caribbean loop – you can expect to pay about $1,000 a week with Holland America for just such a life for example.
This can have the added advantage that you regularly re-dock in Florida, so you can catch up with old friends back home and perhaps even maintain some sort of postal address service on land to make aspects of your life easier to manage. However, if your idea of cruising is literally seeing the whole world from the decks of a luxurious liner, there is one alternative that we’ve yet to even mention – you could actually buy yourself anything from a one bedroom apartment right up to a 6 bedroom luxurious penthouse aboard The World – a brand new concept in cruising that’s an exceptionally sumptuous liner specifically designed for those who want to live on board, or travel the world for extended periods of their life.
The World’s own philosophy sums up this exciting opportunity (http://www.aboardtheworld.com/) : –
“Your private apartment becomes your magic carpet and provides you with the ride of your life! Life aboard The World is just the beginning of a lifestyle devoted to the new, the exciting, the adventure and the peace of allowing yourself into cultures and communities only witnessed on television documentaries. Our spacious apartments fitted with all the accouterments found in quality home design, a relaxed atmosphere and a never ending itinerary to the far reaches of the world are all combined to make The World the most unique vacation home experience.”
If you decide to rent your accommodation instead of purchasing an apartment on board, and you’d like to sample just one year of travel before you commit to The World’s lifestyle for example, you could consider boarding on March the 1st 2010, travelling for a year to places as varied and fantastic as Chile, Lima, Thailand, Venice, Dubai, Muscat, Croatia, Spain, Ireland, Greenland, New York, the Caribbean and Antarctica at a cost of $613,800 for a basic studio residence.
However, upgrade and buy in and you can purchase a one bed, two bath apartment styled by Hirsch Bedner Associates Design and literally come and go, join and leave the ship whenever it suits you. There is a spa on board, 6 restaurants, shops, a movie theatre, you can go out for dinner or have friends over for luncheon, socialise in good company or relax in private. You can improve your golf handicap, play tennis, do yoga or workout – and the best thing is, you will be living with and travelling with likeminded people who will become your friends.
One bedroom apartments start from $825,000 (337/31.3 sq ft/meters, studio with bath) and two bedroom apartments from $2,300,000 to £2,950,000 (1,106/102.8 to 1,391/129.2 sq ft/meters). Annual maintenance fees are based on square footage and calculated at $159,00 USD per square foot, and annual food and beverage will cost you $33,180.
Acceptable Alternatives to a Permanent Life on the Ocean Waves
The World perhaps offers a best of all worlds approach to those who can afford to buy in. You can hop on and off and travel for as long or as short a period as you like either by renting or buying an apartment – and you will literally cruise all over the world. Cruising a Caribbean loop or adding in Mexico, Canada and even Alaska can be an option for those who want to get away but not stay too far from home, or alternatively, you could buy a yacht and sail the seas alone!
You may find that you can enjoy your retirement by dividing your time between shore and ship, by perhaps downsizing your home on shore to fund your regular sojourns at sea. Maybe you could also move closer to where cruise liners regularly dock to cut down on travelling time and associated costs of getting to your next cruise. Don’t be put off your dream by fiscal concerns when you can perhaps find a way around them – but just ensure you do enough research to make sure that your dream is really what you want.