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You can live on a cruise ship for $120 a day for two – here’s how

Angelyn Burk first stepped onto a cruise ship in 1992 with Royal Caribbean  – and like so many in the cruise community, she never looked back.

Fast-forward to present day and Ms Burk has retired from her job as an accountant, with plans to live out the majority of the rest of her days on cruise ships with her husband Richard.

Currently, Ms Burk is in the process of crunching the numbers on what she can afford. 

“Currently, this year, we have secured 86 cruise days with an average all-in cost of $89/day ($120 aud) for both of us. Which includes room, food, entertainment, transportation, gratuity, port fees and taxes.

“This is well within our retirement budget.”

The couple’s 86 cruising days are spread across Holland America and Carnival, with stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Alaska, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. 

Ms Burk says she spends a lot of time on being cost-effective, but as far as her philosophy goes, she’s simply where she wants to be.

“When planning out cruises, I try to stay on the same ship as long as possible, as long as it is cost-effective.

“Where else can you have your resort take you to different countries while relaxing by the pool or sleeping in a comfortable bed?”

While it’s not the most conventional way to plot out the rest of your days, this adventurous couple wouldn’t be the first. 

For example, Mario Salcedo has become a known-name in cruising circles, spending the last 23 years working and living on cruise ships. Mr Salcedo has gone over two decades barely spending more than a couple of consecutive days on dry land, even having the short film ‘Meet the Happiest Guy in the World’ made about his lifestyle.

Mark Tamis, senior vice president of hotel operations at Royal Caribbean International says it’s not uncommon for a sense of home to be found on cruise ships.

“There’s a sense of home for all of our guests, especially those that spend a majority of the year sailing on our ships.

For example, one of my favorite guests, Super Mario [Mr Salcedo] has an ‘office’ on the top deck of every ship he sails on and VOOM streaming internet service so that he can work from anywhere in the world.”

Mr Salcedo shared in an old interview with Alanna Zingano that he gave himself a budget of $97,000 per year, which included accomodation, food, basic drinks, entertainment and use of facilities.

However, Mr Salcedo is still running a business from his laptop and doesn’t have children or anyone else he’s financially responsible for.

Though Mr Salcedo couldn’t consider himself happier, with nearly 8000 days spent aboard Royal Caribbean ships.

Another well-known cruiser is Lee Wachtstetter, who found a home on Crystal Serenity and wrote the memoir “I May be Homeless but You Should See my Yacht.”

Money wasn’t as much of an issue for Ms Wachstetter, who was able to budget about $600 per day on the luxurious Crystal Serenity. 

Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, told CNN that the idea of retiring at sea is gathering steam in the cruise community.

“It’s something that’s certainly aspirational.

“We hear from our cruisers all the time that retiring onboard is something they’d be interested in doing.”

Ms McDaniel says if it’s a lifestyle you’re considering, the best way to dip your toes in is to take a world cruise, saying, “”real link between people willing to spend 100-plus nights on a ship and people who might see retiring on one as a real convenience.”

A 2004 study calculated the cost of living on a Royal Caribbean ship at the time to be $44,663, versus an average of $38,525 in an assisted living facility, so the difference might not be as significant as you’d think.

The swing to longer cruises and world cruises has been noted by Dan Russell of Clean Cruising, who recalls booking one guest on 12 back-to-back Princess Cruises lasting 80 days.

“We’ve ended up booking a lot of guests on world cruises over the last 5-7 years, particularly on Princess Cruises.  Generally a lot of semi and fully retired guests booking for 100, 106 days.

“We have a few customers who are very comfortable booking many back-to-back cruises. One example of that is a guest who booked on 12 back-to-back Princess cruises in a row, and we were able to secure the same cabin for 11 of those trips.

“Guests are keen to resume their holiday lifestyles, because they feel like they’ve missed out on those holiday experiences and cruises. They’re in catchup mode. They feel as though they deserve them after 2.5 years of being so patient.

“We’ve noticed that guests are also booking suites. Holiday budgets have increased, and they want those balconies.

“The Princess world cruise sets sail in May/June every year, and every year it’s selling out faster than the year before. Our team of 15 people sold 150 cabins for elite guests within 20 minutes of bookings opening.”