Can you really retire on a cruise ship?

It's true, but would you really want to?

This is something that has been floating around on the Internet along with all the other crazy-ass chain mail email letters that your grandma forwards to you. I was reminded of it last night when I was watching a "King of the Hill" re-run, of all things. When Megalo-Mart buys out the organic food co-op, the co-op's butcher takes early retirement and reportedly buys a condo on a cruise ship.

But can you really retire to live on a cruise ship? It seems so plausible, and yet so unlikely. I am put in mind of another Fox show, a Simpsons episode from last season when Bart, seeing how much fun his family is having on their cruise ship vacation, engineers the vacation to last forever. It sounds fantastic on the face of it: imagine endless shrimp buffets! Exotic ports of call your whole entire life! So much better than being stuck in a boring old folk's home (excuse me, RETIREMENT COMMUNITY).
But as Bart discovered, retiring on a cruise ship may be a case of "be careful what you wish for."

First, the economic reality: it's plausible. According to this Snopes article, becoming a permanent cruise ship resident is "a feasible and cost-effective alternative to assisted-living facilities." A geriatrician at Northwestern University crunched the numbers and determined that, over the course of an average 20-year retirement, you would only pay an extra $2,000 for the cruise ship versus a retirement home.
But as Snopes points out, it may not be for everyone. Because your fellow passengers only stay 5 or 10 days, you never get the chance to form any long-term friendships. Your land-locked friends, family, and grandchildren will only get to see you for brief interludes when your ship's port schedule lines up with their location. 
Not to mention, you will probably be in a tiny, interior berth without a view. Bea Muller, an 86 year-old woman who retired to live aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, lives in "a 10x10 cabin that barely fits a bed, radio, and television, with a bathroom smaller than the average closet found in a typical home."
But for some, this may be a small price to pay for the dream of living on board a cruise ship. Honestly though, the concept says more about the criminally high cost of retirement communities than anything else. It's expensive to get old! Kids, be sure to fully fund your 401k plans!

Image courtesy Flickr/kansasphoto


frontporchswing's picture


I just want a place of my own where I can rock on a porch swing and relax every day. I'd be willing to still work at some capacity.


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