Recently I read these numbers in an article in “The Week” magazine: CNBC reports that a day on Princess Cruises costs about $135. A day in a private room of a nursing home costs $253. When you compare the monthly costs, Princess Cruises adds up to about $4,200, and the private room at the nursing home is nearly $8,000. According to Genworth Financial, the national monthly median cost of an assisted living apartment is $3,628, or $119 per day, just a bit less than the cruise ship.


Wow,I thought, luxury rather than lethargy for a retirement residence!

There are loads of variables, of course, but I love thinking about a cruise ship as a retirement option.

Although a cruise ship carries 3000 or more passengers, I confess that retirement to a cruise ship appeals to the “social hermit” in me. I want to live in seclusion while still being able to interact with helpful and interesting people whenever I choose to open my door to them. Staff and other residents on a ship do not intrude uninvited, as they tend to in assisted living. Plus, cruise ships have a higher ratio of employees to passengers than assisted living facilities.

What’s not to like about the idea of sitting out on my stateroom balcony, writing and reading to my heart’s content, watching the ocean from which we evolved? Or maybe just napping in that deck chair? And visiting foreign ports for new experiences, encounters, and writing-topics without having to schlep luggage. And having meals waiting for me and/or room service (whenever I choose) would be a great perk. Laundry service is available for a fee, as it is in assisted living.

How about medical care? I found this info from the British Medical Journal: Cruise ships have superior health facilities—one or more doctors, nurses available 24 hours a day, defibrillators, equipment for dealing with medical emergencies, and the ability to give intravenous fluids and antibiotics . . . Assisted living facilities almost never have doctors on site and seldom have nurses available 24 hours.

The authors of the BMJ article calculate that the long term cost for a person to live on a cruise ship from the age of 80 until his or her death would be $230,497 compared with $228,075 for an assisted living facility.

And what if several friends-of-the-heart all “retired” to the same cruise ship together . . .?? That would be far less hassle than creating a co-housing community (several of us have already tried that option).

One of my friends says she’d “rather stay on terra firma, thank you.”

Another friend wonders about “burial at sea.” That’s an option for someone connected with naval military service (with lots of permits and hoops to jump through), but not from a cruise ship. Cremains might be scattered from a cruise ship, but they don’t have crematoriums on board.

There is one enterprise, Storylines Cruise Line, that is creating floating condominiums for passengers to purchase and own that become part of their estate, to be sold or bequeathed as you choose. The first of this company’s residential ships, The MV Narrative, is to set sail in mid-2020, with condos starting at $155,000.

To me, the most important thing about considering a residential cruising retirement is that it has gotten me out of the box of thinking that a regular assisted living residence or a nursing home are the only options available for when I need more assistance than I can affordin my own home. This possibility can encourage my friends and me to broaden our ideas and think more creatively in our conversations about our futures. Perhaps we can find situations that we could welcome instead of dread. If nothing else, it’s fun to brainstorm, as wildly as possible, because – who knows? – we might just dream up something great for ourselves!  Bon voyage.

18 replies
  1. Cynthia Trowbridge
    Cynthia Trowbridge says:

    I wish I enjoyed cruising more than I do. I have only been on one cruise with Crystal Cruises which is fairly highly ranked. One Las Vegas floor show a decade is all I can handle, have no interest in casinos, no longer have the strength to dance every night and tend to spend weeks, rather than hours when I visit other countries and do not need food available at every moment of the day.
    I did find the lectures leading up to and the experience of going through the Panama Canal was fascinating piece of historic achievement. Of course, if there happened to be a wide variety of authors and knowledgeable folks in wide ranging topics, that might bring the idea into focus for me.

  2. Claudia Walker
    Claudia Walker says:

    I love the cross pollination going on here and the fact that Cynthia and Carolyn are mutual friends! Both of you help my soul to sing and think outside the box! Love, Claudia

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Oh no – I decline that job. However, I’ll gladly be the Captain-whisperer, subtly influencing major decisions . . .

  3. Victoria Stevens
    Victoria Stevens says:

    One of the ideas Jay and I had to put our land to good use was to build clusters of cabins for groups of retirees who need some care, but not 24 hour care. Who want seclusion, but still have connection. Who want to live in a space where the final years are embraced and celebrated, not feared and exploited. Communal living with a very different intent and specific needs. Theoretically it’s a very good idea, we think, and there is a burgeoning need for this type of option. We have a friend nearby who is a trained nurses aid and worked in nursing homes, but left devastated by how we care for our aging elders… she would like to re-imagine how we care for people during their final years. We just need to find the right group of people who want this type of solution to help us re-imagine what is needed, scope it out, and invest in building it.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      All right! THat makes two responses (so far) with possibilities of land-bound communities looking for elders. May I assume that I may pass on your contact info to potential resident/investors? I know your land is beautiful, and your intentions are clear . . . both excellent places to start.

  4. Helen Day
    Helen Day says:

    As some one who has travelled on ships,this is a great idea they have great entertainment, my husband is in a nursing home and the people who come to entertain although it is very generous of them to give their time sometime it is painful .to listen to.

  5. Corrine
    Corrine says:

    What a creative, intriguing new idea! We desperately need options for retirement that offer excitement instead of dread. Thanks for opening the conversation.

  6. Carolyn North
    Carolyn North says:

    How about this: Find a community of younger people you REALLY like, and believe in their work, be it farming or co-housing or whatever, and join forces with them as “elder.” You help support the community’s efforts financially, and they help support you in your old age and death. Best is if they honor you personally, listen to your hard-earned wisdom, laugh with you and love you. It then becomes a mutual extended-family situation in which you are mutually in love with one another, trust one another and support one another. I have the honor and opportunity to be just such a one at the Wild and Radish Farm in the East Bay area across the Bay from San Francisco in El Sobrante. We’ll be building my strawbale cottage soon and meanwhile I am simply a part of all community decisions and joys, distractions and despairs. Like when Cocoa the sheep died of old age recently and we all mourned her passing together…We’ll be writing about our experience together more and more as time goes on, and hoping that others consider it as an option for their old age – especially if there’s enough money to go around. If you can afford a nursing home or a cruise ship, this is certainly affordable for you! Carolyn North

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Wonderful, Carolyn! Now how do we make the connections between those communities needing some resident elders, and the elders who would love to support them financially in return for being “adopted”?

  7. Yvonne Palka
    Yvonne Palka says:

    What an intriguing idea! Who knew that retiring at sea could be such an option! I’m amazed that the cost is less than a nursing home and just about the same as assisted living.


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