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Can You Retire on a Cruise Ship?

Posted by Erik Fabregat on Mar 29, 2021 5:45:00 AM

Two elderly men sitting on park bench looking at ship wondering if they can retire on cruise ships

Considering cruise ship retirement? Understandable. The benefits and value offered of a carefree cruising lifestyle over a traditional land-based retirement community are clearly apparent. With cruise ship retirement perks like gourmet food, built-in entertainment and global travel, retiring on cruise ships seems a no-brainer!

It’s no wonder more people are considering the option. In a study carried out by the Australian Seniors Insurance 10th Annual Survey, when asked about their latter years, 12% of Australians said they planned on living on a cruise ship! But the question remains - how to retire on a cruise ship? We’ll explore cruise retirement, and why a travel lifestyle makes for a happy retirement. Then, we'll look at an even more desirable solution on the way.

But first up, let’s examine all the essential elements for a happy and fulfilling retirement.


What makes for a happier retirement?

Eldery couple enjoying handicrafts as part of their retirement on a cruise ship

There have been numerous studies on what makes for a happy retirement. While having enough money and a clear retirement income plan certainly plays a role, especially with life expectancy increasing, happy retirees make several other common lifestyle choices. 

The importance of community

An essential consideration for new retirees, single or married, is having the ability to engage and stay connected with a community of like-minded people with whom they can relate. Studies have proven that people who remain socially engaged in their senior years have stronger immune systems, lower risk of dementia and live longer overall. Retirement communities and senior living would seem to solve this problem, but they undoubtedly have their shortcomings. 

Staying healthy

According to a study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, maintaining good health was the number one ingredient for a happy retirement. With more time on your hands, greater focus can be put towards an active lifestyle, eating healthy meals and nurturing your well-being. Cruises facilitate this by encouraging activities such as shore excursions and watersports.


For many a retiree, traveling and retirement go hand in hand. The rise of grey nomads sees retirees exploring their own continent in a caravan or RV. In contrast, others prefer to go further abroad, visiting foreign countries and experiencing new cultures, which can be highly enriching for retirees. Besides the obvious cost benefits, there’s a reason why so many people choose to live the ex-pat life abroad in retirement. Traveling or living abroad brings a renewed sense of adventure in retirement and can bring great fulfillment to people during their golden years.

Giving back

Something is incredibly enriching about giving back to others through volunteering, mentoring, or charity, and this only increases with age. With more time on your hands, being able to positively contribute to society can be fully realized. Often, this reward is the feeling of leaving the world in a better place which brings about fulfillment, an essential ingredient to life satisfaction.

Lifelong learning

Having the mindset of learning all the time facilitates personal growth and keeps you mentally sharp. This can help prevent cognitive decline and the risk of dementia. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing a daily crossword puzzle, although that helps! It can involve taking up a new skill, such as knitting, mastering a new language, or learning more about the world through global travel.


Traveling the world as part of your retirement plan

Retired couple on Bicycles looking while traveling and looking across a lake to Angkor Wat, Cambodia

You can see how a cruise retirement addresses many, but not all, of the points above. World cruises are arguably one of the easiest ways to make global travel a part of your retirement plan. These long-term cruises are typically for 100+ days and circumnavigate the globe. That means 100 days of not having to step onto another flight or check into a hotel room. Your global travel is sorted. You unpack your bags, and your work is done. 

Some cruise lines have special programs for retirees with specially tailored shore excursions and onboard activities. They ensure passengers are of a similar age, mostly over 50, and tailor activities towards them, as well as cruise ship care.

However, full-time cruise ship travel requires a cruise-hopping lifestyle. That’s not to say it’s impossible, as retirees are already living on cruises. Still, they generally stay in hotels between trips and book longer voyages, such as around-the-world cruises, to make it work. The low-end budget cruises are not conducive for full-time living, as  Angela and Richard Burk who have been cruise ship living for years state.


Downsides to living on cruise lines

Busy Cruise Port in Philipsburg, St. Maarten

While traveling by sea is undoubtedly easier than constantly booking planes, trains, and accommodations, back-to-back cruises can become tiring. 

Additionally, while you may meet plenty of people while cruise hopping, you can’t establish a sense of community when everyone moves on. Moreover, the high turnover of people on vacation cruise ships can be problematic. Another issue is that most people on vacation cruises are there on, well, vacation, which is a much different mindset than living aboard ships for your retirement.

Then, while it’s exciting visiting multiple destinations around the world, do you get to truly experience them? Most cruise lines only dock at port for the day. If you’re lucky, an overnight stay. This makes cruise ship life rushed, trying to see all the main attractions in a concise amount of time. What if you want to explore inland? Not a viable option as you would likely miss the boat.

What if you could get all the benefits of retirement living on cruise ships while maintaining a strong sense of community that traditional land-based retirement villages offer? What if you could integrate your living arrangement with exotic travel experiences and get the best of both worlds? 


Residential cruise ship living for retirement

Storylines resident lounge designed for cruise ship retirement living

The demand has been so high that residential cruise ships are now being built, specifically designed for living aboard. As this new wave of vessels rolls out, more people approaching early retirement can rethink how they spend their golden years.

Living on a residential cruise ship means world-class chefs, medical staff, and waking up to a new destination every week. They have facilities and activities to stay active and get routine medical care so you can achieve longevity to enjoy your around-the-world adventure.


What are the costs for a home aboard a residential cruise ship?

Library and chess board surrounded by book shelf with balcony and sea in the background, designed for retirement living at sea

There are several factors to consider regarding how much you pay to buy a property and live on a residential cruise ship. First, there’s the cabin type you choose. Or, in the case of this kind of ship, a condo.

For example, Storylines MV Narrative has several different configurations to choose from. The entry-level home is an inside studio with a virtual window, which starts at around US $1M. Then the range goes to four-bedroom penthouses priced at around US $8M and everything in between. 

There are also shared purchase options available, whereby you can buy a quarter of a luxury home at sea. This offers you the perfect seasonal vacation home that transports you to a different region of the world every time you use it. Undoubtedly more beneficial than your typical beach house.

When considering the costs, remember that your home transports you worldwide. If you were to do similar global travel from your land-based home or retirement village, you would need to add those travel expenses on top of the cost of your home.


How much are the ongoing fees and what do they include?

The other primary consideration to take into account is the ongoing fees and what services these include. Residential ships have annual fees to pay expenses for the maintenance and upkeep of the vessel, much like you would pay body corporate (HOA) fees in a condominium complex. 

Storylines’ annual fees cover that and meals, fuel, and other associated costs. These start at around US $85 per person per day, which is comparable to the daily living expenses in most major world cities. As a result, your spending is limited to when you visit ports, with many of your onboard living expenses already taken care of.


What is Storylines at Sea?

MV Narrative residential cruise ship for retirees

Storylines is a luxury floating community where you can continuously circumnavigate the globe without ever leaving home. Life on board MV Narrative focuses on health and wellness for optimal living. The onboard community is guided by eight principles:

  • Discovery: We don’t cruise. We discover.
  • Lifestyle: We are not a vacation. We are a lifestyle.
  • Experiences: We don’t have itineraries. We have experiences.
  • Participation: We don’t observe. We participate.
  • Contribution: We don’t consume. We contribute.
  • Mindset: We aren’t a demographic. We’re a mindset.
  • Community: We aren’t guests on a ship. We live here.
  • Global Citizenship: We are not tourists. We are citizens of the world.

Interestingly, these principles closely align with the factors mentioned above that make for a fulfilling and happy retirement.

Now, a luxury life filled with world-class amenities and international travel is more accessible for those planning an enriching retirement of luxury and adventure. The benefits and offerings of a Storylines lifestyle outclass all other travel lifestyles popular with retirees, like motorhomes, vacation homes and cruise ship hopping. 

  • Your opinion matters - Storylines is a very tight-knit community with a collective voice. Even the ship’s itinerary can be determined by a majority vote.
  • Fresh food 24/7 - The room service includes certain food and drinks menu items. 
  • Friends & family are welcome – As this is your home, your children, grandchildren, or friends are welcome onboard. 

  • Truly experience destinations: Storylines spends up to five days in port, enabling you to experience much more than the tourist sites.

  • Better than home - You will never have to cook, clean or do laundry again.

  • Vibrant lifestyle – Pools, spa, wellness center, golf, fully-equipped gym, organic juice bar, salon, water sports of every type, high-speed internet, medical facilities, outpatient therapies, 20 dining and bar concepts, an onboard brewery, entertainment & enrichment and so much more. 

Check out the state-of-the-art, beautifully appointed and ultra-modern residences available in various sizes and styles. If full-time living at sea differs from your liking, check Storylines shared purchase options, offered on a limited number of residences.

Topics: Early Retirement

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