The collapse of some cruise companies promising retirement at sea has made many feel the dream is unattainable.

But there is a way to live the high life at sea without the risk of losing your money. And it‘s relatively easy and safe.

Many devout cruisers were sold the dream of Life at Sea Cruises’ three-year voyage only to see their dreams go up in smoke as the cruise failed to ever depart.

Victoria Cruises Line also promised a similar dream that is yet to eventuate. The cruise line still maintains it will sail in a few months time, but with no ship and occupancy at 53 per cent of its own required 80 per cent business threshold, that is looking increasingly unlikely. 

Other companies such as The World have also offered residence at sea. They have been successful – but only with a price tag out of range of what the general public can afford.

However, the failure of retirement companies promising retirement at sea on a budget doesn’t mean those with this dream need to see it squashed.

There are many success stories of cruisers who, rather than placing their faith in new companies, book a series of back-to-back cruisers with reputable cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean or Princess.

This means booking a cruise on the same ship. You’ll spend your life at sea, without committing to a new or overly pricey company that offers residencies at sea. 

Victoria Cruises Line has delayed its supposed launch again
Victoria Cruises Line has delayed its supposed launch again.

The pros of back-to-back cruising 

  • The advantage of back-to-back cruising with a well-known line is the reliability that it ensures. Cancellations are extremely rare for top cruise lines and refunds and compensation are commonplace when they do occur.
  • There isn’t just the element of reliability in regular cruise sailing. It also offers confidence in the fact these cruise lines cater to millions of passengers each year. Different cruise lines cater to different tastes and preferences. So you can be assured the cruise line will have satisfactory service, entertainment, dining and facilities.  
  • Furthermore, this approach means you can test out the cruise line before committing significant amounts of money. Before throwing tens and thousands in deposits, you can take a shorter cruise with multiple lines as a test. Or maybe you’re already a seasoned cruiser who knows which cruise lines you like and can feel secure in the fact you’ll enjoy your experience with you chosen line.
  • Another significant advantage of back-to-back cruising is that most lines handsomely reward loyalty. The longer you sail with one cruise line, the cheaper and better the experience will become. For example, couple Gayle and Vic Doe have sailed more than 700 days back-to-back with Royal Caribbean. They are now at the loyalty status where they receive six free drinks per day, free internet, free laundry, a discount on cruise fares, and more. 
  • Flexibility is another big tick in the pro column. You will still likely have to book relatively far in advance to secure your cabin space. But booking back-to-back cruises allows you to have a more malleable schedule. If a personal emergency occurs or you lose interest in your life at sea, it’s much easier to get out of a few months of deposits, as opposed to a lock-in contract for years aboard a ship. Furthermore, depending on your cruise line and loyalty status, you may be able to cancel future sailings without a fee.
The ultimate world cruise on Royal Caribbean has become a TikTok sensation
The ultimate world cruise on Royal Caribbean has become a TikTok sensation.

The cons of back-to-back cruising

  • Living on back-to-back cruises will take more organisation and admin than paying a one-time fare for a residency at sea. You’ll need to book all your cruises, map out your route, and book any necessary flights, transport, and accommodation for days in between cruises. However, this could be greatly alleviated with the use of a travel agent who could assist you with this.
  • Many cruisers love the feeling of getting onto a ship and only ever having to unpack and pack once. This won’t exactly be the case if you’re cruising back-to-back. Especially if you’re cruising shorter itineraries, your life will involve a certain amount of tedious tasks like packing, changing cabins and waiting for boarding. A fix for this can be booking world cruises, meaning you’ll have your cabin for months and months before needing to worry about repacking or re-boarding. 
  • A strong attraction of cruise lines like Life at Sea or Victoria Cruises was the promise of community. You’d be staying with the same people for years, with onboard events to facilitate the forming of friendships. When cruising back-to-back there’ll be fresh batches of people on each cruise, rather than the same familiar faces. However, once again if you take world cruises you’ll be with the same group of people for longer. Furthermore, many cruisers who cruise back-to-back have reported developing close relationships with the crew, who stay on the same ship for extended periods.

How much does it cost?

The price of back-to-back cruising will vary significantly based on your cruise line, cabin category, destinations, and more. However, cruisers who have taken it on before can offer a guide of how much it might set you back.

Florida couple Angelyn and Richard Burk drew headlines for cruising the world remarkably cheaply. The Burks said they were cruising back-to-back with Carnival for just $120 a day, or $43,800 per year. It should be noted that these two were spending minimal amounts on extras such as shore excursions and specialty dining.

Meanwhile, Gayle and Vic Doe found their expenses coming out to about $150 per day cruising back-to-back with Royal Caribbean. However, their advantage comes with the loyalty program that allows them to save on drinks, laundry and WiFi, as well as access cut-price cruise fares. 

Another way to measure costs is by looking at the price of world cruises. If you were to sail the Royal Caribbean Ultimate World Cruise segment, the Ultimate Asia Pacific Cruise, prices for an interior will start from $305 per day. It’s a bit more expensive than the others but this will offer you a longer-term cabin and also includes drinks, WiFi, gratuities and laundry.