The cost of living in Australia has skyrocketed. And Cruise Passenger has crunched the numbers. We’ve found it’s cheaper to live on a cruise ship than on dry land.

The monthly costs of rent, food, and entertainment in Sydney are nearly double how much it will cost you to live at sea.

For a benchmark, Finder lists the monthly cost of living in Australia as $1805 per person, without rent. Meanwhile, the median rent for a two-bedroom place near the Sydney CBD (Darlinghurst/Surry Hills) adds another $650 per week. 

Added together, this comes out at $6210 per month. And this works out to be around $74,500 a year for a couple, living in Sydney.

Meanwhile, we found one option that puts the monthly cost of cruising per couple at just $3589. That’s about $2600 more affordable than living in Sydney.

There has been an increase in companies promoting two- to three-year-long cruises. And Life at Sea Cruises is about to start its maiden voyage later this year.

Some dedicated full-time cruisers meticulously map out their years, with a series of back-to-back cruises that become cheaper if they sail with one line. For these savvy travellers, ti means earning significant loyalty perks along the way. 

Alternatively, cruise lines offering long-term residencies at sea continue to keep popping up. Victoria Cruises and Life At Sea are just two that promise luxurious and convenient, yet community-oriented years spent at sea. 

The strain of living

Interestingly, a survey from Carnival Cruise Line shows that 63 per cent of Australians want to put their money towards travel, rather than general leisure such as eating out or going to the movies. Furthermore, 84 per cent of Aussies say they need a holiday and 61 per cent are more likely to book something all-inclusive or something that minimises planning. 

The research also shows Aussies are feeling the day-to-day strain. We spend 780 hours across the year on household tasks and chores like cooking and cleaning. 

If Australians are buckling under the strain of the cost of living and tedious daily chores, while still wanting to prioritise travel experiences, is the idea of living on a cruise ship starting to sound less ridiculous?

Victoria Cruises Line 

Victoria Cruises Line is offering a two-year cruise at sea. An inside cabin for the voyage starts at US$2400 ($3670) per person. This comes out to $7340 for a couple per month, $1120 more than living in Sydney. 

Wrapped into this fare is all of your food, drinks, television, WiFi, gym membership, pool access, self-service laundry, and onboard medical care. 

The cruise will be visiting destinations like Italy, Greece, Norway, Antarctica, the North Pole, the Galapagos, South America, Australia and more. 

If you need to take some time off your cruise, you can take a break and pay just 30 per cent of the average annual rent in the meantime. 

It’s worth noting, too, that if you wouldn’t want to stay in an inside cabin, you’ll be paying at least US$6000 ($9175) per month per person for an oceanview room. However, you will also of course be travelling the world. 

These cruises also spend longer in each port than a traditional cruise, staying from one to seven days at each destination, offering more chances for exploration. 

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Cruise line Life at Sea will take you around the world.

Life at Sea Cruises 

New cruise line Life at Sea Cruises is planning a massive three-year cruise aboard MV Lara. The voyage was originally scheduled for a smaller ship, but the move to Lara has also resulted in a price rise.

However, for the time period, fares still offer exceptional value. For the full three years in an inside cabin, it will now cost $64,613 per person. Which comes out at $21,537 per person per year, or $43,075 for a couple. 

This means the monthly cost per couple is just $3589, exceptionally cheaper than the $6210 figure for living in Sydney. 

Included in the cruise fare are medical consultations, dining, alcohol with dinner, internet, gym membership, laundry, housekeeping, entertainment, soft drinks, coffee and more. 

The concept of a multi-year world cruise is still quite new and customer satisfaction remains to be seen. But in theory, you could ditch the city life for Life at Sea and save while you do it. 

Remote working on a cruise ship

Ryan Gutridge spends about 300 days a year working remotely aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Gutridge was interviewed by Insider about his onboard lifestyle.

Gutridge says: ”I’ve been told I’m crazy for trying to live full-time on a cruise ship, but it’s not just for retired people.

”I work in IT as a cloud-solution engineer for a cloud-solution provider and started working from home in 2012. But because of the pandemic, my team was able to work from home and access the data they needed from anywhere.”

Guttridge tried out a few Royal Caribbean cruises while working, and after it was all smooth sailing, started a new lifestyle. He primarily stays on the same ship with the same route.

”The ship does the same route twice a week, and both stops are on the same cruise. I primarily cruise on the same ship, but I’ve done cruises on larger ships too.

”I do meetings in the morning and afternoons, but I can also go to lunch and socialise or meet people at the gym. I’ve even met people that I stay in contact with and that have come back and cruised on this ship with me multiple times since.”

In terms of the financials, Guttridge budgets meticulously.

”I wanted to really look at the cost of cruising full-time before I began. I’ve have a spreadsheet that automatically records all my expenses, which helps. I also set a budget every year,” he says.

”This year, my base fare budget is about US$30,000 ($46910), and last year when I started really looking at the numbers and evaluating how much base fare I paid to be on a ship for 300 nights, I found it was almost neck-and-neck with what I paid for rent and trash service for an apartment in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”

The ships WiFi facilities work best with newly-updated phones and laptops, according to Guttridge.

Back-to-back sailing with Royal Caribbean 

Earlier this year, Cruise Passenger spoke to Gayle and Vic Doe from Yamba. This couple came out of lockdown and decided to seize the moment, transitioning to near full-time cruising. 

After a few hundred days of sailing back-to-back with Royal Caribbean, Gayle Doe said the couple was spending about $300 per day between the two of them. This is inclusive of cruise fares, onboard spending and shore excursions. 

However, it’s worth noting this figure is greatly helped by the couple being part of Royal Caribbean’s pinnacle club. While it takes 700 nights’ sailing with Royal Caribbean to achieve, they are rewarded with benefits such as discounted cruises, complimentary drinks packages and WiFi. 

The $300 per day figure comes out to $109,500 per year or $9125 per month. This is a few thousand above the $6210 cost of living in Sydney. Notably, you will of course be living amongst the facilities and entertainment of a Royal Caribbean ship. 

Furthermore, booking back-to-back cruises rather than a residency offers more flexibility with taking a break or swapping to a different cruise ship. Although, you will be sacrificing a degree of convenience and be taking on the planning burden yourself. 

Alternatively, a 274-night world cruise with Royal Caribbean comes in at $53,999 for an interior cabin. This includes business class airfares, cruising across three continents, laundry and WiFi for $197 a day per person. 

At $11,984 per month for a couple, this is more expensive than back-to-back cruises but offers more inclusions for those without loyalty perks and less hassle in planning. 

would you live on a cruise ship
Would you live on a Royal Caribbean ship?

Back-to-back budget sailing

Floridians Angelyn and Richard Burk made worldwide headlines when they revealed they’d been globetrotting on cruises for $125 per day. The couple said they have budgeted for about $190 a day, but generally find themselves spending much less. 

The couple generally keeps to Carnival brands, opting between Holland America and Carnival Cruises. Angelyn Burk says they generally try to keep on one ship for as long as possible to be cost-effective. 

The cruise fares include room, food, entertainment, transportation and other additions. This comes to $135 per day each for the cruise fare, leaving them about $50 each on a daily spend. This is spread across shore excursions, alcohol, specialty dining and either incidental expenses. 

The $125 per day figure comes out to just $3802 per month. Significantly cheaper than the $6210 it costs per month to live in Sydney. 

It should be noted that Angelyn calculated this figure over an 89-day period and the budget was exceptionally tight. Costs could also rise in between cruises where additional accommodation or transfers may be required. 

Carnival Cruise Life.
One US couple keeps to Carnival brands, opting between Holland America and Carnival Cruises.