Sail Smoothly Into Retirement

Senior couple enjoying retirement cruise

Retire to a Life on the High Seas!

In several of our previous blog posts, we have explored a variety of options for lifestyle choices once the downsizing process is complete.  There are retirement communities, retirement condominiums and even the possibility of life on the road when downsizing to a Recreational Vehicle (RV).

But what about life on the high seas?

For many retirees, the option exists to live anywhere in the world. You’ve worked hard your entire life, and want to enjoy the Golden Years. We discussed how living full time in an RV is a great option for retirees who want to see the country and who do not feel the need to tie themselves down to any particular location for a long period of time. A similar adventure can be had on the water, sailing from port to port, experiencing a variety of cultures and places.

Perhaps you’ve heard about Beatrice Muller. From 2000 to 2008, Muller lived aboard the QE2 cruise liner. When the QE2 was withdrawn, Muller didn’t give up her dreams of living on the sea. From 2011 to 2014, she lived on five different cruise ships: Queen Elizabeth, Adventure of the Seas, Celebrity Silhouette, Queen Mary 2 and Celebrity Equinox. She even wrote a book about her lifestyle.

Muller is not the only person to have ever lived aboard a cruise ship full time; however, she is one of the more well-known.

Benefits of Living on the Sea

In addition to the ability to see new places and meet new people without ever leaving the comfort of your (cruise ship) home, there are added benefits to choosing this kind of lifestyle.

One of the most important is the cost. While some may assume it is pricey to sail about from port to port aboard a luxury cruise ship, a 2004 study conducted by Dr. Lee Lindquist revealed that living costs and benefits offered by cruise ships were similar to those of assisted living communities. In his study, Dr. Lindquist claimed that cruise ships only cost about $2,000 more than assisted living over the course of a 20-year life expectancy for retirees.

Retirees who have saved well or who have accumulated wealth throughout their lifetimes also have the option of spending more for luxury accommodations. One such option is a “residential yacht” called The World. Launched in 2002, it offers 165 residences that range in size from studios to three-bedroom apartments. The homes and the ship which houses them are owned by the residents, who determine the destinations for the ship. It is possible to live on The World full time or just part of the year.  The World is not limited to a certain age of resident; however, the average age of residents currently making their home aboard The World is 64.

Drawbacks of Living on the Sea

Just like with any other housing option in your retirement years, there are both pros and cons to living a life on a cruise ship or luxury liner.

One of the biggest drawbacks is the inability to bring many things with you. Unless you are among the segment of retirees who are able to afford the million-dollar accommodations of luxury options such as The World, the reality is, you will only be able to bring a vacation-sized amount of items with you, which generally amounts to a suitcase or two per person.

Cruise ship residents also must disembark when a cruise officially ends, and make arrangements while the ship is at port. Making these arrangements month after month may become tedious and inconvenient.

There also are certain health risks that come with living on the sea full time. Seniors who have mobility issues may wish to avoid this kind of retirement lifestyle, as the risk for falling increases on a cruise ship, which can at times encounter rough seas.

Healthcare options also are greatly limited while living on a cruise ship. While cruise ships are required to have an on-board health professional, that person is likely not going to specialize in geriatric care. If there is an emergency that requires more than the on-ship doctor can handle, you will either be facing the expense of an airlift ambulance service, or waiting until you reach the next port to receive additional care. It is worth noting that many health insurance companies also will not cover the cost of care for subscribers who are living permanently on a cruise ship, so you will want to check with your provider to see if you are covered before making the decision to downsize to this kind of lifestyle.

Lastly, cruise ships are not equipped to handle those with dementia or other memory-care conditions. They also do not offer the levels of care that can be found in assisted living communities.

In short, a cruise ship lifestyle may be ideal only for seniors who are still in excellent health.

Downsizing for the Sea

If you have considered the risks and benefits of spending your retirement on a cruise ship and have decided the positive outweighs the negative, there are some things you will need to do in order to prepare for the shift from homeowner to cruise ship dweller.

First and foremost, you will need to significantly downsize your existing belongings. As previously mentioned, cruise ship rooms, on average, are small and can hold roughly two suitcases full of belongings per person. If you find you are unable to part with some of your lifelong possessions but are unable to take them with you, another option is to place them in storage. The cost for storing belongings depends on the area in which you live and the amount of items being stored.

Once you have downsized appropriately, it is wise to consider speaking with a travel agent or other business that specializes in this kind of extended travel. Discounts are available for seniors through select cruise liners, but you have to know where to look. Services such as those offered by companies like American Discount Cruises and Travel are ideal when considering downsizing to a cruise ship. As a general rule, longer cruises are the better choice when planning to live full-time on a cruise ship. The longer cruises do not repeat the same route every three to seven days, which means less time scrambling on and off the ship and finding accommodations while it is in port.

Do you have some tips you would like to share about downsizing to a cruise ship in retirement? Please share them with us in the comments.

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann

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