How to Retire on a Cruise Ship

Retiring on a Cruise Ship Could Save You Money

When it comes to choosing a cruise for the post-retirement set, not all destinations are created equal. Here's a handful of the best.

Everyone's vision for retirement looks different, and yours might involve visiting exotic ports of call aboard a cruise ship. Planning to retire on a cruise ship can help you fulfill your dreams of traveling while potentially allowing you to stretch your savings further.

It does, however, require a slightly different approach compared to traditional retirement planning. The first step is determining whether a cruise ship retirement is affordable for your budget.

The Cost of Living on a Cruise Ship

The average cost of retirement, based on the typical time spent in retirement and average household spending for retirees, is $828,000. That works out to around $46,000 per year, assuming that your retirement lasts 18 years.

Pinning down the exact cost of a cruise ship retirement can be difficult. The average cruise ship passenger spends around $213 per day, which would add up to $77,745 for someone living aboard the ship full-time. But that's the average spend; it doesn't take into account cheaper fares, which could drive the per-day cost of cruising down significantly or luxury fares which could push the final cost higher.

When it comes to finding a deal on a cruise, you may be able to negotiate a discount by booking an extended trip that lasts several months, versus one that's just a few days.

There are some cruise lines that allow passengers to book a cabin permanently and enjoy a discount when paying annually or biannually.

If you're able to find cruise line bargains, it could be less expensive to retire on a cruise ship compared to an assisted living facility. An individual stay at an assisted living facility costs $48,000 on average. And if living on a cruise ship helps you stay healthy, you could avoid the costs of long-term care, which could easily surpass $100,000 per year if you don't have long-term care insurance.

Does a Cruise Ship Fit Your Lifestyle?

Cruise ship living isn't for everyone and it helps to know what to expect. There are some cruises, for example, that attempt to duplicate a traditional landside retirement experience aboard the ship.

Senior Living at Sea is one full-time travel program designed for retirees. Some of the benefits of cruising through the program include:

  • Onboard spa services
  • Regular social events for passengers
  • Shopping
  • Fitness centers
  • Onboard medical facilities
  • Licensed medical professionals onsite
  • Wheelchair accessibility

It's completely maintenance-free living since housekeeping, laundry and meals are handled by cruise ship staff. And the entertainment program is designed to give seniors regular opportunities to mingle and interact.

Those things might all be important to you, or you might value some of them more than others. Something else to think about: most cruise lines don't allow you to bring pets onboard.

Also, think about the places you'd like to visit. Senior Living at Sea, for instance, offers itineraries that take passengers through Asia and along the Pacific Coasts of North and South America, Europe, and the Caribbean. If you're going to retire on a cruise ship, you want to make sure that you're able to see all the sights on your travel bucket list.


Consider forming a contingency plan in case of a crisis event, such as a widespread outbreak of a virus or illness on-board. Your plan should cover things like what to do if you become ill or how to find lodging if you have to disembark unexpectedly in a destination that wasn't on the original cruise itinerary.


Check each cruise line's refund or reimbursement policy in the event that your cruise has to be cut short for any reason.

How to Prepare for a Cruise Ship Retirement

If you're sold on the idea of spending your retirement sailing the seas, there are several things to do to get ready. This checklist can help you stay on course with your cruise ship retirement plans.

  1. Calculate your retirement budget using the estimated costs of retiring on a cruise ship. Research the costs of booking cruises aboard different ships or cruise lines, versus living aboard one ship permanently.
  2. Determine what you'll do with your home and personal possessions. Will you sell your house, for instance, or rent it out? And if you're doing either, how much will it cost to store your possessions while you're away?
  3. Plan for pet care if you have pets. That may mean leaving pets with a family member or long-term boarding at a kennel.
  4. Check your health insurance coverage. Medicare generally won't cover you for health care expenses when you're outside the U.S. You may need to get a private health insurance plan or a travel insurance plan to cover medical expenses while you're cruising.
  5. Make a plan for staying in touch with friends and family while you're away. Check the ship's internet and WiFi connectivity to make sure you'll be able to use your mobile device to stay in contact.
  6. Compare different cruise itineraries to find one that fits your desired travel route. Check out the ship's amenities as well to make sure it's got all the perks you're looking for.
  7. One last step to take before you retire on a cruise ship is scheduling a chat with your financial planner or financial advisor. Living aboard a cruise ship doesn't exclude you from paying income taxes, so you'll want to discuss how your tax filing will be handled each year.


In addition to itineraries and routes, check the safety ratings and reputation of any cruise ship line you're considering traveling with.

It's also important to talk with your planner or advisor about your plans for taking Social Security benefits and drawing down assets from your 401(k), IRA, taxable investment accounts, and liquid savings accounts. They can help you come up with a strategy for coordinating withdrawals from your various accounts to make sure that your cruise ship retirement is smooth sailing.

Article Sources

  1. Motley Fool. "Retirement Will Cost the Average American $828,000 – and Most Workers Risk Falling Short." Accessed March 21, 2020.

  2. Cruise Market Watch. "2018 Average Cruise Revenue and Expense per Passenger." Accessed March 21, 2020.

  3. Genworth Financial. "Cost of Care Survey 2019." Accessed March 21, 2020.