Thinking of staying long-term on a cruise ship in 2022? Know how much it is to live on a cruise ship!

Despite all the cruises I have done, I only once came across someone living on a cruise ship. I tried to find out from the cruise industry how many people live or retire on cruise ships – but no-one knew. It seems very few do, despite how attractive the idea seems. It got me wondering: why do so few people do it? Is it the cost? The practicality? Or do the cruise lines make it hard to do? I have the answers.

Living or retiring on a cruise ship is a story that newspapers and the media love to cover. They’ve written frequently about Beatrice Muller, who lived for 14 years on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2, Lee Wachtstetter, known as “Mama Lee”, who lived on Crystal Serenity for over 12 years, Morton Jablin, who lived for 13 years on Regent Seven Seas and Mario Salcedo, known as “Super Mario”, who has been living on Royal Caribbean for over 20 years.

So, I started by exploring what it cost these well-known residents to live on their cruise ships of choice.

The person who does it cheapest is Mario Salcedo, “Super Mario”. He has revealed in various interviews, including Washington Post and with the vlogger Alanna Zingano, what it costs him, and the 5 steps required if you want to live cheaply on a cruise ship.

How to live cheaply on a cruise ship?

First, if you want to live as inexpensively as possible on a cruise ship, you need to decide which line you’re going to live on. He chose Royal Caribbean because it’s a mass line and offers lower fares than premium and luxury lines. Look at your chosen line’s loyalty program. He chose Royal Caribbean as their Crown & Anchor program offered a perk critical to him as a solo passenger: a lower surcharge of 150% versus 200%, and then other perks like drinks vouchers which saves him more money. 

Secondly, decide the cabin you can live in. Mario chose an inside cabin. Living in a small inside cabin is not appealing to me but may work for you. Remember that on many lines, you pay 100% surcharge to travel solo. 

Thirdly, decide if you are going to stick to one ship or use multiple ships within your chosen line.  The way to keep living costs down is to constantly jump ships within a line. Mario says, he keeps his costs down by chasing the itineraries on various Royal Caribbean ships with the lowest price at any time. 

Fourthly, and linked to this, is stick to the Caribbean for most of the year. Mario says 80% of all his cruises each year are in the Caribbean, as it is the cheapest place to cruise. Around 15% of his cruises are repositioning cruises, because again, these tend to be inexpensive cruises. For example, Transatlantic Crossings and East-West Coast Repositioning and so on. He hardly ever cruises in areas like Alaska and Europe because they are much more expensive. 

The fifth decision is how low can you keep your outgoings? There are no escaping taxes, port fees and gratuities. However, Mario hardly ever leaves the ship in ports and almost never pays for excursions. He doesn’t do specially dining, go to the casino, buy drinks packages, but he does have WIFI to keep connected and work.

How much will doing it this cheap way cost you? Mario targets an average base daily fare for his solo cabin of $150 a day before taxes. Once taxes and port fees are added (around $20 a day), gratuities (around $15 a day) and Wi-Fi are added that comes to around $200 a day.

So, it costs him around $72,000 a year before things like drinks, shopping, laundry, tours and so. If Mario followed the same approach in a balcony cabin, he calculates it would cost him least $100,000 dollars a year.

What does it cost the other travellers I mentioned earlier? “Mama Lee” (Lee Wachtstetter) who lived on Crystal admitted to the Washington Post that it cost her $175,000 a year. That’s about $480 a day. And, of course she had much more included in that than Mario. Beatrice Muller who lived on Cunard’s QE2 back in 2008 said she was paying around $60,000 a year, for her inside cabin on the QE2 even before gratuities and onboard spending. That is $76,000 in today’s money considering inflation.

To see how the costs of using Mario’s five-point system, that would keep us in the Caribbean 80% of the time today compares to living on a ship that, would see more of the world would be, I looked at extended cruises including World Cruises costs as a guide.

What are the options for long-term stay on a cruise?

One of the longest but best value world cruises is Royal Caribbean’s 9-month, 274-day, 60-country World Cruise between December 2023 and September 2024 on Serenade of the Seas.  If I pro-rata up these fares from 9 to 12 months, an inside cabin would cost per person based on double occupancy $87,000 and a balcony cabin $112,000. The positive is this cost includes gratuities, taxes, drinks package, Wi-Fi, laundry and even some excursions. So, many of the big add-on costs that Mario did not include are included.

The big catch is these are the costs per person for double occupancy. So even with Mario’s 50% surcharge for an inside cabin, it would cost $131,000 a year to explore the world, over double his $72,000 if you decide to live in ships 80% of the time in the Caribbean. This shows Mario’s point to control costs living on a ship, you need to stick to the Caribbean rather than explore the world.

So, one compromise would be cutting back on seeing the world, which would remove one of the big attractions of living or retiring on a ship for me anyway!

Key Hurdles Why Few People Live Or Retire On Ships

Knowing the scale of cost is one thing, but what do the cruise lines think and are there other hurdles stopping more people like us doing this. I found both offer some fundamental challenges!

I mentioned earlier, I was on a cruise where I came across someone living on the ship. One evening I had dinner with one of the officers, and he told me that they were trying to tactfully encourage that person to leave and stop living on the ship.

As the guest aged, they were starting to expect, demand and require more help and care and were placing demands on the crew beyond their roles. The officer said to me bluntly that cruise ships are designed and run for short-term vacation travel and are not set up for people to live on permanently. Certainly not people who are elderly and retired. 

They’re not designed to be residential or retirement homes, and they don’t have the medical, care facilities and support to cater for residents. Not only are we not really welcome to live on a ship, the more I explored I found several key hurdles that I am sure are the reason few people live or retire on ships. 

Seven key hurdles why few people live or retire on ships.

First, you need to be in good health and stay that way. The medical care on a ship is not designed to deal with ongoing health issues. It’s designed for minor illnesses and injuries. They cannot provide on-going prescriptions to cover what you need for the year.

Second, you will have no dental care whatsoever on the ship.

Third, getting insurance will be difficult and costly. It’s hard enough to get insurance, even for a 3 or so month-long world cruise. We did a leg of world cruise and struggled to find insurance and it was expensive.

Fourth, we would still need a home country permanent address, to do banking, qualify and receive any pensions or benefits paid, to be registered with a doctor, where mail can be sent to and so on.

Fifth, when I listen to interviews with people like Super Mario and Mama Lee, I feel friendships and loneliness are an issue. We would meet lots of people; however, they’re churning every single week. We’d struggle to build friendships and may end up feeling, despite all these people around us, relatively lonely, because we won’t have on-going friends, relationships and of course, won’t be seeing family.

Sixth, repetitiveness will be an issue. All those who live on ships, don’t go off in the ports anymore, because they’ve been to them many times and seen what they want to see. It becomes very repetitive. Entertainment on board will also be very repetitive, because the same shows are on board for years. The same guest entertainers come on.

Next, there will be interruptions. The pandemic, for example, meant people living on cruise ships for years had to leave. Ships go into dry docks; ships may be chartered, and you will not be able to stay on the ship. I guess, if you’re someone like Super Mario, you’ll just jump to other ships around those. And of course, logistically it is complex. You’d have to book every single cruise across the year individually, meaning you could be booking up to 52 cruises and ensuring you can stay in the same cabin.

Permanent Resident Cruise Ships Available

There are a few permanent resident ships. The World Residences at Sea is the longest established, permanently privately-owned residential ship. It has 165 units from studios to three bedrooms, but they cost millions to buy, and then the annual fees range from $113,000 a year if you own a studio up to over $1 million if you own a three-bedroom suite. 

Storylines is a new residential line. Their first trip is MS Narrative. Their studios start at from $350,000 with a $55,000 a year maintenance fee, and they offer penthouse costing many million dollars.

I can see that living on a cruise ship is possible, but the costs are big. There are a lot of barriers and it’s not especially welcomed by the cruise lines. It’s a great fantasy. It’s a great idea, and now you know what it costs.  

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    about us

    CruisesforSingles.net is dedicated to providing quality information on the subject of Cruises for Singles and in particular various other cruise ideas for customers and merchants online.

    Cruises for Singles

    Thinking of staying long-term on a cruise ship in 2022? Know how much it is to live on a cruise ship!

    Despite all the cruises I have done, I only once came across someone living on a cruise ship. I tried to find out from the cruise industry how many people live or retire on cruise ships – but no-one knew. It seems very few do, despite how attractive the idea seems. It got me wondering: why do so few people do it? Is it the cost? The practicality? Or do the cruise lines make it hard to do? I have the answers.

    Living or retiring on a cruise ship is a story that newspapers and the media love to cover. They’ve written frequently about Beatrice Muller, who lived for 14 years on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2, Lee Wachtstetter, known as “Mama Lee”, who lived on Crystal Serenity for over 12 years, Morton Jablin, who lived for 13 years on Regent Seven Seas and Mario Salcedo, known as “Super Mario”, who has been living on Royal Caribbean for over 20 years.

    So, I started by exploring what it cost these well-known residents to live on their cruise ships of choice.

    The person who does it cheapest is Mario Salcedo, “Super Mario”. He has revealed in various interviews, including Washington Post and with the vlogger Alanna Zingano, what it costs him, and the 5 steps required if you want to live cheaply on a cruise ship.

    How to live cheaply on a cruise ship?

    First, if you want to live as inexpensively as possible on a cruise ship, you need to decide which line you’re going to live on. He chose Royal Caribbean because it’s a mass line and offers lower fares than premium and luxury lines. Look at your chosen line’s loyalty program. He chose Royal Caribbean as their Crown & Anchor program offered a perk critical to him as a solo passenger: a lower surcharge of 150% versus 200%, and then other perks like drinks vouchers which saves him more money. 

    Secondly, decide the cabin you can live in. Mario chose an inside cabin. Living in a small inside cabin is not appealing to me but may work for you. Remember that on many lines, you pay 100% surcharge to travel solo. 

    Thirdly, decide if you are going to stick to one ship or use multiple ships within your chosen line.  The way to keep living costs down is to constantly jump ships within a line. Mario says, he keeps his costs down by chasing the itineraries on various Royal Caribbean ships with the lowest price at any time. 

    Fourthly, and linked to this, is stick to the Caribbean for most of the year. Mario says 80% of all his cruises each year are in the Caribbean, as it is the cheapest place to cruise. Around 15% of his cruises are repositioning cruises, because again, these tend to be inexpensive cruises. For example, Transatlantic Crossings and East-West Coast Repositioning and so on. He hardly ever cruises in areas like Alaska and Europe because they are much more expensive. 

    The fifth decision is how low can you keep your outgoings? There are no escaping taxes, port fees and gratuities. However, Mario hardly ever leaves the ship in ports and almost never pays for excursions. He doesn’t do specially dining, go to the casino, buy drinks packages, but he does have WIFI to keep connected and work.

    How much will doing it this cheap way cost you? Mario targets an average base daily fare for his solo cabin of $150 a day before taxes. Once taxes and port fees are added (around $20 a day), gratuities (around $15 a day) and Wi-Fi are added that comes to around $200 a day.

    So, it costs him around $72,000 a year before things like drinks, shopping, laundry, tours and so. If Mario followed the same approach in a balcony cabin, he calculates it would cost him least $100,000 dollars a year.

    What does it cost the other travellers I mentioned earlier? “Mama Lee” (Lee Wachtstetter) who lived on Crystal admitted to the Washington Post that it cost her $175,000 a year. That’s about $480 a day. And, of course she had much more included in that than Mario. Beatrice Muller who lived on Cunard’s QE2 back in 2008 said she was paying around $60,000 a year, for her inside cabin on the QE2 even before gratuities and onboard spending. That is $76,000 in today’s money considering inflation.

    To see how the costs of using Mario’s five-point system, that would keep us in the Caribbean 80% of the time today compares to living on a ship that, would see more of the world would be, I looked at extended cruises including World Cruises costs as a guide.

    What are the options for long-term stay on a cruise?

    One of the longest but best value world cruises is Royal Caribbean’s 9-month, 274-day, 60-country World Cruise between December 2023 and September 2024 on Serenade of the Seas.  If I pro-rata up these fares from 9 to 12 months, an inside cabin would cost per person based on double occupancy $87,000 and a balcony cabin $112,000. The positive is this cost includes gratuities, taxes, drinks package, Wi-Fi, laundry and even some excursions. So, many of the big add-on costs that Mario did not include are included.

    The big catch is these are the costs per person for double occupancy. So even with Mario’s 50% surcharge for an inside cabin, it would cost $131,000 a year to explore the world, over double his $72,000 if you decide to live in ships 80% of the time in the Caribbean. This shows Mario’s point to control costs living on a ship, you need to stick to the Caribbean rather than explore the world.

    So, one compromise would be cutting back on seeing the world, which would remove one of the big attractions of living or retiring on a ship for me anyway!

    Key Hurdles Why Few People Live Or Retire On Ships

    Knowing the scale of cost is one thing, but what do the cruise lines think and are there other hurdles stopping more people like us doing this. I found both offer some fundamental challenges!

    I mentioned earlier, I was on a cruise where I came across someone living on the ship. One evening I had dinner with one of the officers, and he told me that they were trying to tactfully encourage that person to leave and stop living on the ship.

    As the guest aged, they were starting to expect, demand and require more help and care and were placing demands on the crew beyond their roles. The officer said to me bluntly that cruise ships are designed and run for short-term vacation travel and are not set up for people to live on permanently. Certainly not people who are elderly and retired. 

    They’re not designed to be residential or retirement homes, and they don’t have the medical, care facilities and support to cater for residents. Not only are we not really welcome to live on a ship, the more I explored I found several key hurdles that I am sure are the reason few people live or retire on ships. 

    Seven key hurdles why few people live or retire on ships.

    First, you need to be in good health and stay that way. The medical care on a ship is not designed to deal with ongoing health issues. It’s designed for minor illnesses and injuries. They cannot provide on-going prescriptions to cover what you need for the year.

    Second, you will have no dental care whatsoever on the ship.

    Third, getting insurance will be difficult and costly. It’s hard enough to get insurance, even for a 3 or so month-long world cruise. We did a leg of world cruise and struggled to find insurance and it was expensive.

    Fourth, we would still need a home country permanent address, to do banking, qualify and receive any pensions or benefits paid, to be registered with a doctor, where mail can be sent to and so on.

    Fifth, when I listen to interviews with people like Super Mario and Mama Lee, I feel friendships and loneliness are an issue. We would meet lots of people; however, they’re churning every single week. We’d struggle to build friendships and may end up feeling, despite all these people around us, relatively lonely, because we won’t have on-going friends, relationships and of course, won’t be seeing family.

    Sixth, repetitiveness will be an issue. All those who live on ships, don’t go off in the ports anymore, because they’ve been to them many times and seen what they want to see. It becomes very repetitive. Entertainment on board will also be very repetitive, because the same shows are on board for years. The same guest entertainers come on.

    Next, there will be interruptions. The pandemic, for example, meant people living on cruise ships for years had to leave. Ships go into dry docks; ships may be chartered, and you will not be able to stay on the ship. I guess, if you’re someone like Super Mario, you’ll just jump to other ships around those. And of course, logistically it is complex. You’d have to book every single cruise across the year individually, meaning you could be booking up to 52 cruises and ensuring you can stay in the same cabin.

    Permanent Resident Cruise Ships Available

    There are a few permanent resident ships. The World Residences at Sea is the longest established, permanently privately-owned residential ship. It has 165 units from studios to three bedrooms, but they cost millions to buy, and then the annual fees range from $113,000 a year if you own a studio up to over $1 million if you own a three-bedroom suite. 

    Storylines is a new residential line. Their first trip is MS Narrative. Their studios start at from $350,000 with a $55,000 a year maintenance fee, and they offer penthouse costing many million dollars.

    I can see that living on a cruise ship is possible, but the costs are big. There are a lot of barriers and it’s not especially welcomed by the cruise lines. It’s a great fantasy. It’s a great idea, and now you know what it costs.  

    Recent Comments

      about us

      CruisesforSingles.net is dedicated to providing quality information on the subject of Cruises for Singles and in particular various other cruise ideas for customers and merchants online.

      Cruises for Singles