Meet the trend of spending retirement on cruise ships

(CNN) — Angelyn Burk fell in love with cruising from the moment she stepped aboard a mega-ship for the first time in 1992 to sail the Caribbean.

Now that the 53-year-old has retired from her job as an accountant, she and her husband, Richard, plan to sail off into the sunset forever, retiring aboard a cruise ship.

The Burks, who last lived in the Seattle area but have been without a fixed address since May 2021, tallied up what they can afford to spend on a daily basis during their retirement years.

Angelyn says that figure works out to $100 a day or less for the two of them to cover their living expenses (capped up to $135 a day, if necessary).

“This year we managed to secure 86 cruise days at an average cost of $89 a day for the two of us,” he says by email. “This includes room, food, entertainment, transportation, tips, port fees and taxes.”

“This fits into our retirement budget,” he says, adding that frequent cruising has earned the couple deep discounts on future trips through loyalty programs.

Most of the 86 days the Burks booked this year are in Holland America, with about a week spent on a Carnival ship. And among the many destinations the couple will visit are Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Alaska, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“When planning cruises, I try to stay on the same ship as long as possible, as long as it’s profitable,” says Angelyn, noting that the couple plans to spend most of their retirement years living on cruise ships rather than on land.

As for the advantages of moving aboard a houseboat for retirement, he says, they are obvious.

“Where else can you have your resort take you to different countries while relaxing by the pool or sleeping in a comfortable bed?”

retirement cruises

Angelyn Burk is a big fan of relaxing on a ship while traveling between destinations.
Credit: Angelyn Burk

A tempting retirement or work plan

Thinking of retiring on a cruise ship? You are not the only one.

Deciding to retire or work on board a cruise ship is something unusual in general, but it is not new.

Before the pandemic, which disrupted some long-term stays on cruise ships, Crystal Cruises (which filed for bankruptcy in early 2022) and Royal Caribbean Group had at least two passengers who lived aboard their ships for years and who They became celebrities in cruise ship circles.

One of them, Mario Salcedo, continues to work while doing cruises. Nicknamed Super Mario, Salcedo has lived on Royal Caribbean cruise ships for more than two decades. CNN Travel tried to contact him through Royal Caribbean, but the line says its main cruiser is no longer giving interviews to the media.

“There is a feeling of home for all of our guests, especially those who spend the majority of the year sailing our ships,” Mark Tamis, a senior vice president for Royal Caribbean International, says in a statement to CNN Travel. “For example, one of my favorite guests, Super Mario, has an ‘office’ on the top deck of every ship he sails and VOOM’s streaming internet service so he can work from anywhere in the world.”

retirement cruise

Angelyn and Richard Burk Credit: Courtesy of Angelyn Burk

Another famous long-time cruiser, “Mama” Lee Wachtstetter, spent years aboard the Crystal Serenity and wrote a memoir, “I May be Homeless but You Should See my Yacht.” In her book, Lee details some of her cruise ship journeys, such as a rogue wave in the Mediterranean and the time she was kidnapped by a tuktuk driver in Thailand.

In March 2017, when the cruise website Cruise Critic posed the question “Would you retire at sea?” in a survey on their website, 59% of respondents said they would love to retire at sea or at least try for a couple of years (another 27% of respondents said, “Maybe, if the price was right” ).

“It’s something that’s certainly aspirational,” says Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “We hear from our cruisers all the time that retiring on board is something they would be interested in doing.”

McDaniel points to the comfort factor of cruising – “seeing the world from home, with all the meals prepared, great service and things like laundry on board” – as one of the main draws for people considering retiring on board. .

Having an integrated community also attracts people who want to move to cruise ships for the long term. Crew members can become like family to many long-term passengers, says McDaniel.

Potential cost-benefit

And the affordability of cruising compared to retired life on land is another plus point, he says.

“Assisted living is not a cheap proposition. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars a month, depending on where you stay,” says McDaniel.

“So cruising is potentially a much more profitable way to retire.”

Malcolm Myers, 88, who once spent 10 months straight aboard the Seven Seas Voyager, a Regent Seven Seas ship, says that while the luxury line isn’t cheap, the average cost is comparable to what you pay at your High-end senior community in Stuart, Florida.

“If I have to move to a senior center [de atención más integral] in my community, the cost of living on the ship would definitely be better,” Myers says in an email to CNN. “And I would have a variety of entertainment, lectures and restaurants, and medical care available to me at no additional cost.”

Cruise Critic’s McDaniel points out that while cruise lines have a medical center on board, it’s not the same as being next to a hospital.

“There’s not much they can handle on board,” he says, so it’s important to have evacuation insurance and shoreside options for medical care in case you need medical care while on the cruise.

retirement cruise

Ralph Bias, right, and his husband, Mark Zilbert, called in Luxor, Egypt during a 120-day world cruise aboard the Seabourn Sojourn in 2012.
Credit: Amazing Cruises Inc.

Interest in world cruises is booming

McDaniel points to the shorter world cruises and Grand Voyages (typically 30-40 days) offered by many cruise lines as a way to “dip into” long-term cruising to see if retirement in a cruise is something that may interest you.

And he says he thinks there’s a “real link between people willing to spend 100-plus nights on a ship and people who might see retirement on one as a real convenience.”

Global cruise bookings are booming, says Ralph Bias, president of Miami Beach-based Amazing Cruises, a luxury cruise booking agency that saw its revenue and bookings double from 2020 to 2021, and almost triple in 2022.

“2023 is poised to be our biggest year yet, with World Cruises and Grand Voyages leading the way and accounting for around 50% of revenue,” says Bias.

Oceania Cruises recently reported a single-day booking record for its 180-day round-the-world voyage, which sold out within 30 minutes of opening for bookings.

Due to high demand, Viking Cruises will offer two parallel world cruises for the first time in 2023/2024. The 138-day itineraries have 57 ports of call in 28 countries, sailing from Fort Lauderdale in December 2023 aboard Viking Sky and Viking Neptune.

Even if you don’t book a world cruise, it’s possible to book back-to-back cruises that don’t repeat ports, Bias says.

“Silverseas, Seabourn, Regent… all of these luxury cruise lines plan their schedules so that most of their itineraries don’t repeat themselves,” says Bias. “So you can say you want to go on the Seabourn Ovation and be on it for three months and never repeat a port.”

“I have clients who book for months and months,” he says.

cruise retirement retirement

Suzanne Lankes, pictured aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas in March, purchased a Storylines cruise residence.
Credit: Suzanne Lankes

A concept tailored to residents

A new residential cruise ship adds options to the market for living on board.

Suzanne Lankes is a retiree from Monterey Bay, California who has already cruised more than 55 times around the world. The idea of ​​retiring on a cruise ship first occurred to her when she saw The World, a luxurious floating megaship with 165 homes, docked in the Caribbean for a stopover.

But when he called to inquire about prices to purchase a residence aboard The World, it was out of his budget.

“They wanted me to prove I had $8 million in the bank or they wouldn’t even talk to me,” he says. “So I was disappointed.”

But when Lankes heard about a new, more affordable option set to sail in 2024, he became one of the first people to own a residence aboard the MV Narrative, a ship run by a “residential community at sea” startup called Storylines.

cruise ship storylines

Storylines’ “residential community on the sea” will have 524 one- to four-bedroom units.
Credit: Storylines

The ship will feature 524 residences and services including 20 restaurants and bars, an onboard education program for families with children, a movie theater, a hydroponic garden and a wide range of wellness and fitness.

One- to four-bedroom residences on the ship currently cost between $500,000 and $8 million for 12- to 24-year rentals. And they’re expected to sell out before the end of 2022, according to Storylines co-founder Alister Punton.

Lankes bought his one-bedroom residence with a balcony on the ship in 2019 and plans to pay annual dues, which range from $65,000 to $200,000 depending on unit size and double occupancy, with money he earns renting out his home. California house.


Marty Finver, pictured in Bali in 2014, purchased a one-bedroom residence aboard the Storylines MV Narrative.
Credit: Marty Finver

Beyond round trip cruises

Marty Finver, from Lake Worth, Florida, is another serial cruiser who purchased a one-bedroom interior residence aboard the MV Narrative and wants to spend less time booking cruises and more time cruising and seeing new places.

“Round-trip cruising, while I’ve found it very enjoyable in the past, can be a headache at times,” says Finver, who has spent more than 3,750 days at sea since 2004. “As careful as you are, There will always be gaps between cruises and this means additional costs for hotels, flights and other inconveniences.”

The MV Narrative’s itinerary “follows the sun,” says Storylines co-founder Shannon Lee, so the ship is scheduled to circumnavigate the globe every three years with stops in each geographic region for about three months (and an average of two to three days in each port of call).

Residents can fly to catch up with the ship, spending as much time as they like on board, and can even have guests join them.

When it comes to the destinations her future floating home will go to, Lankes says she’s not picky.

“I love the fact that I can go anywhere and have a community on board,” he says. “I imagine that my residence will be something like my bedroom and the whole ship is my house.” Which makes the world her backyard.

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