retire on a cruise ship

How To Retire On A Cruise Ship: A Dreamy Retirement Situation


Are you dreaming of sailing in warm Caribbean waters? Retirement is a long-awaited phase in life, a time to unwind and savor the rewards of your hard work. While some picture a serene life in a small cottage, others dream of something more unconventional. One captivating alternative is the idea of retirement on a cruise line. In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of retiring on a cruise ship, the benefits it offers, and how you can make it a reality.

Can you live on a cruise ship when you retire?

If you have dreamed of living on a cruise ship when you retire, then you will be happy to know that this is possible. Several cruise lines allow people to purchase an apartment or condo onboard. This may also include utilities and food. Cruise ship living can be expensive so it’s important to start budgeting for your retirement dream early. 

How much does it cost to retire on a cruise ship?

The cost of retiring on a cruise ship can vary widely depending on several factors, including the cruise line, the specific cruise program, the duration of your stay, the type of cabin or suite you choose, and your spending habits.

According to Cruise Market Watch, the projected per-passenger cruise expense is even more at around $259 per day. This is around $94,000 per year.  This is based on the cruise ship cost and other spending on-board including food, entertainment, and other purchases.

Other cruise ships offer seniors and other passengers the option to purchase onboard apartments for around $352,000 for 172 square feet. There are also higher-end accommodations starting at around $3.2 million for up to 1,690 square feet.

As a general guideline, retirees can anticipate monthly expenses ranging from $6,000 to $7,500, covering accommodation, meals, entertainment, and onboard activities. Taking a nomadic retirement approach, the yearly cost of living aboard a cruise ship would total around $72,000 – $90,000. Over a 20-year retirement period, this lifestyle would translate to an expenditure of approximately $1.54 million.

Before deciding to live on a cruise ship during retirement, it’s essential to start planning early and research the specific cruise lines, itineraries, and costs involved. It’s also advisable to consult with a financial advisor to assess the long-term financial feasibility of such a lifestyle and to ensure you have a suitable retirement plan in place. 

Steps to take if you want to retire on a cruise line:

1. Research retirement cruise lines:
Start by researching retirement cruise lines that offer long-term stay options. Some popular ones include The World, Viking Ocean Cruises, and Crystal Cruises. Look into their itineraries, pricing, and onboard amenities.

2. Assess your finances:
Determine if retiring on a cruise ship is financially feasible for you. Consider factors such as the cost of the cruise, additional expenses, and the potential sale of your current home to fund your cruise ship retirement. The earlier you start planning, the more likely it will be that you can financially make this dream a reality.

3. Start downsizing:
Prepare for a downsized lifestyle by decluttering and selling or donating unnecessary possessions. You’ll need to fit your life into a cruise ship cabin, so pack wisely.

4. Plan your itinerary:
This is the exciting part. Start thinking about the destinations you’d like to visit during your retirement cruise. Many retirement cruise lines offer a variety of routes, so you can choose the ones that appeal to you the most.

5. Health considerations:
Ensure that you are in good health and that your medical insurance covers you while on the ship. Retirement cruise lines often require a medical evaluation before you embark on your journey. Access to healthcare can be limited on a cruise ship, and you may need to factor in the cost of health insurance that covers you while at sea. If you have specific medical needs, consider how they can be addressed while onboard.

6. Legal and financial matters:
Consult with an attorney and financial advisor to handle legal and financial aspects, including estate planning, wills, and managing your assets while you’re away. It’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared just in case anything does go wrong while you are at sea.

7. Taxes while living abroad:
As a US citizen, you still need to pay taxes on your income even if you are at sea the majority of the time. It’s important to keep on top of your taxes so you don’t incur any tax penalties in the future.

8. Get ready to embrace the lifestyle:
Retiring on a cruise ship may not be for everyone, but for those who seek adventure, social interaction, and a carefree lifestyle, it can be a dream come true. Embrace the cruise ship lifestyle with an open mind. Participate in onboard activities, make new friends, and savor the incredible experience of retiring on the open seas.

What are some advantages of retirement on a cruise line?

Retiring on a cruise ship might not be the first idea that comes to mind when you think about your golden years, but it offers a unique set of advantages that make it an appealing option for some retirees.

  • All-inclusive lifestyle: Retirement cruise lines provide an all-inclusive lifestyle, including meals, entertainment, housekeeping, and medical facilities. This means you can leave behind the hassles of daily chores and enjoy a carefree life.
  • Constant travel: Imagine waking up in a new destination every few days, exploring exotic ports of call, and experiencing different cultures without the stress of packing and unpacking.
  • Social interaction: Cruise ships are like floating communities, making it easy to meet and connect with fellow retirees. You’ll have opportunities for socializing, making new friends, and enjoying shared activities.
  • Amenities galore: Cruise ships are equipped with a wide range of amenities, from fitness centers and spas to libraries and theaters. Retirees can enjoy a diverse set of activities and entertainment options without leaving the ship.

What are some disadvantages of retiring on a cruise ship?

  • Family separation: Being at sea for extended periods can make it challenging to stay close to family, especially if you want to watch grandchildren grow. For many retirees, spending quality time with family, especially grandchildren, is a significant aspect of retirement. Although you can still visit family, it may require more effort and planning.
  • Transitory relationships: Passengers and crew members on cruise ships come and go, which can hinder the development of deep and lasting relationships. It can be challenging to build enduring connections when the people around you change frequently.
  • Smaller living space: Even on a large cruise ship, your living quarters are likely much smaller than what you’re accustomed to. These cabins may not be designed for senior living and can feel confining over time.
  • Limited medical facilities: While cruise ships do have medical staff, they may not be equipped to handle serious health issues. Managing prescription medications over extended periods and scheduling off-ship medical checkups can be cumbersome. In case of a medical emergency, you might need to be airlifted to the nearest hospital, which could be a considerable distance away. Medicare coverage is also limited outside the United States.
  • Lack of control: Living on a cruise ship entails adhering to strict rules and policies for safety and security, which can limit personal freedoms. You may have limited control over your daily schedule and activities. For instance, if you wish to stay in one place for an extended period, it may not be possible due to the cruise ship’s fixed itinerary.


Can I still access health care while living on a cruise ship?

Yes, cruise ships typically have onboard medical facilities staffed with medical professionals. These facilities can handle minor illnesses and injuries, but they may not be equipped for more serious medical conditions or extensive treatments. The quality and capabilities of shipboard medical facilities can vary between cruise lines.

>> If you’re thinking about hiring a financial planner to help you achieve your retirement goals, read our ‘10 Questions To Ask A Financial Advisor’ guide first.

What are some other financial tips for retirement on a cruise line?

Currency exchange costs: If you plan to visit multiple countries, be mindful of currency exchange rates when managing your finances while traveling.

Credit card foreign transaction fees: Most credit cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. You may want to look for a credit card that has none.

Emergency fund: Maintain an emergency fund and ensure that you have a financial safety net in case of unexpected expenses or disruptions to your cruise ship living arrangement.

Retirement income: Arrange for direct deposit of your retirement income into a bank account that you can access while at sea. Ensure that you have a reliable method for receiving your income.

Manage your investment portfolio from abroad: Review and adjust your investment portfolio to align with your retirement goals and risk tolerance. Consider working with a financial advisor to manage your investments while living on a cruise ship.

Purchase travel insurance: Invest in comprehensive travel insurance that covers potential trip cancellations, interruptions, medical emergencies, and other unforeseen events. Review the policy terms and coverage limits.

Keep on top of your finances: Periodically review your financial situation and adjust your budget and investment strategy as needed to ensure long-term financial security.

(Don’t forget to download the ‘What Issues Should I Consider When Establishing And Maintaining My Emergency Fund?’  guide if you haven’t already).

Is retiring on a cruise ship still the dream lifestyle you envision?

If it is, it’s time to start crafting a plan to turn that dream into reality. With proper planning, financial stability, and a sense of adventure, you can retire on a cruise ship and sail into the sunset, enjoying the journey of a lifetime as you explore the world while embracing the retirement cruise line experience.

If you are interested in a comprehensive plan, including recommendations on how to make your cruise ship dream a reality, schedule a free consultation with one of our financial planners today.

Common questions people have about retiring on a cruise ship

Medicare coverage on a cruise ship can be complex and depends on various factors such as the cruise ship's location, the duration of the cruise, and the type of medical services required. Generally, Medicare (A & B) does not cover medical services received while aboard a cruise ship if it is more than six hours away from a U.S. port or outside of U.S. territorial waters. However, if the ship is in a U.S. port or within U.S. territorial waters, Medicare may cover medically necessary services, but with limitations.

Certain Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) might include coverage for foreign travel, in addition to other benefits not offered by Original Medicare. We advise talking to your Medicare plan provider to ascertain if you would be covered while cruising in international or foreign territorial waters and to understand the associated costs.

It's important for individuals planning a cruise to review their Medicare coverage carefully and consider purchasing additional travel health insurance to ensure coverage for medical emergencies while at sea. Additionally, some cruise lines offer onboard medical services that passengers can use for a fee, so it's advisable to inquire about these services before embarking on a cruise.

Bringing pets on a cruise ship when retiring can be challenging, and it largely depends on the cruise line's policies and the specific cruise itinerary. The best way to find out the cruise line's pet policy would be to contact them directly.

Yes, there are cruise lines that specialize in offering retirement and extended stay options for individuals looking to retire on a cruise ship or enjoy a long-term cruise lifestyle.  Several cruise lines cater to retirees, including Cruise RetirementThe World, Viking Cruises, and Crystal Cruises.

While there are generally no specific age restrictions for retiring on a cruise ship, it’s important to think about your overall health, mobility, and ability to meet other practical requirements that a cruise line may require.

Some cruise ships offer senior discounts and extended stay discounts. Additionally, consider working with a travel agent who specializes in cruises. They will have insights into available promotions and may be able to help you find the best deals.

Yes, you can generally continue to receive your Social Security benefits while living on a cruise ship during retirement. The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays benefits to eligible individuals regardless of their place of residence, as long as they meet the SSA's eligibility requirements. Make sure that you set up a direct deposit to your bank account for a smooth financial transition.

If your cruise itinerary includes international destinations, be aware that some countries may have specific regulations regarding the receipt of foreign income. It's advisable to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to understand any potential tax implications or reporting requirements related to your Social Security benefits while abroad.

Best Financial Planner Washington DC

Alvin Carlos, CFP®, CFA is an investment advisor and fee-only financial planner, in Washington, D.C that works with clients across the country. He has a Master’s degree in International Relations from SAIS-Johns Hopkins. Alvin is a partner of District Capital, a financial planning firm designed to help professionals in their 30s and 40s achieve their financial goals through smart investing, reducing taxes, retirement planning, and maximizing their money. Schedule a free discovery call to learn how we can help elevate your finances.


District Capital is an independent, fee-only financial planning firm. We help professionals and entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s elevate their finances and maximize their money. We are based in Washington, D.C and we work with people virtually nationwide.

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