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Living on a Cruise Ship: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 

By Margaret Manning September 10, 2019 Lifestyle

On the surface, living on a cruise ship sounds like heaven. Just imagine. It’s 7am and you are awoken by the sunrise and the sounds of sea birds. You stretch, throw on a robe and make your way to your balcony. Moments later, your husband returns with two cappuccinos and a carafe of fresh orange juice.

What’s on the agenda today? Exploring a new city? Playing a little blackjack? Hanging out on the sundeck with a good book? The choices are endless!

All this might sound like a complete fantasy, but, living on a cruise ship is actually becoming a viable option for adventurous (and well-off) older adults. Some of us are renting rooms and setting off around the world. Others are selling our family homes to purchase floating luxury private residences.

For a look at just how luxurious life at sea can be, check out these pictures from The World Residences at Sea:

The World Residences

The World Residences

Clearly, the costs involved with living at sea are substantial. But, the question remains: even if you could afford to live on a cruise ship, should you? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Let’s have a look at the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of living on a cruise ship.

The Good Side of Living on a Cruise Ship

There was a time when retirement was expected to be a time of quiet reflection and “aging gracefully.” For many baby boomers, this concept is laughable.

To the extent that we can afford it, we want to explore the world, while we still can. We want to make new friends, contribute to causes that we care about and learn new things. Cruise ships offer the opportunity to meet all three of these goals.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of living on a cruise ship is that it broadens your horizons – quite literally – in retirement. There is nothing quite like falling asleep in one country and waking up in another to keep your blood pumping and your brain buzzing.

Beyond the thrill of seeing new places, cruise ships also offer a multitude of educational and entertainment options. From lectures at sea to guided tours on land, cruise ships have the potential to keep your brain sharp for years to come.

The opportunities for mental stimulation on a cruise ship don’t stop with formal classes. Cruise ships also offer plenty of opportunities for making new friends. And, as we know, staying social is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy after 60.

The World Residences

The World Residences

The Bad Side of Life at Sea

One of the most obvious downsides to living at sea is that it is super expensive. I’m not just talking about the cost of the room. The medical care, tips, premium restaurants and excursions can also take a put a dent in your bank account.

Even if you have a considerable income and plenty of money in the bank, I highly encourage you to create a list of all of your expected expenses. Even better – go on a one-month test cruise and keep track of your expenses. When you get back, you will be able to better forecast how much living on a cruise ship will really cost.

Another downside to life at sea is that you will probably have to downsize considerably just to fit into your new home. Even if you spend hundreds of dollar a day to rent a room on a cruise ship, you will probably be stuck in a studio or 1-room cabin with limited space for superfluous possessions.

Finally, there is the chance that, after months at sea, the entertainment options that were so enticing in the first weeks of your voyage will become somewhat stale. After all, even the funniest jokes lose their edge the second or third time you hear them!

And, There’s Also the Truly Ugly…

Perhaps the biggest downside to living on a cruise ship as an older adult is the lack of specialized medical care. Cruise ships may be a lot of things, but, floating hospitals they are not!

If you are in relatively good health, the risks may be acceptable. That said, the idea that living on a cruise ship is an alternative to nursing care is unrealistic, at best, and dangerous, at worst.

Speaking of potential medical issues, cruise ships also have a reputation for spreading illnesses. Most of the time, Norovirus, the most common cause of illness on a cruise ship, is only a minor annoyance. That said, older adults tend to be more severely impacted by this illness, so, if your health is already weak, you may want to think twice about living on a cruise ship.

No matter what else you do, make sure that you speak to your doctor about whether life on a cruise ship is right for you. They are in the best position to help you make an informed decision.

At the end of the day, living on a cruise ship isn’t for everyone. That said, if you are in relatively good health, have significant financial resources and think of yourself as a bit of an adventurer, life on the open sea may be a perfect option. Bon Voyage!

What do you think of the idea of living on a cruise ship? Do you think that the excitement of life on the open sea is worth the expense, routine and health risks? Please join the conversation.

Photo credits: Featured image © Andrew Peacock/ Exterior image of M/V The World during Ross Sea Expedition. In-article images –

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Barry Scanlon

Are there any books or web sites available that detail availability and approximate costs

The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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