Australia’s retirement villages and homes are in crisis, with costs rising and staffing levels plummeting. But a new fleet of residential vessels now being built offer a new, cost effective  – and much more attractive – solution.  

Can cruising the world actually be cheaper than residential retirement living?

Florida couple Angelyn and Richard Burk, who have set themselves up for retiring on a cruise ship, believe it is cheaper than other forms of retirement.  And based on Cruise Passenger’s calculations, the figures could be closer than you expect. 

The Burks has been living on cruise ships for about $120 per day, which comes out to $43,800 per year. 

This is remarkably close to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia’s (ASFA) prescribed standard for a ‘modest’ retirement for a couple, which is $43,250. It is also well below ASFA’s figure for a ‘comfortable’ retirement for a couple which comes out at $66,725. 

However, it’s worth recognising that living for $120 on a cruise ship would involve immense planning of itineraries, as well as being extremely economical with beverages, activities, shore excursions and so on. 

Another way to calculate the cost of living on a cruise ship could be to look at the prices of world cruises. A 274-night world cruise with Royal Caribbean, costs $53,999 for asn interior cabin paid up front, and included business class air fares, shore excursions, travel to three continents, laundry and WiFi. This comes out to $197.07 a day per person.

According to Southern Cross Care, if you wanted to stay in a standard suite at South Coogee, without putting in an initial deposit, you’d have the daily basic fee of $56.87, a daily accommodation payment of $145.07 and daily service charges between $10 and $100. This would leave you paying between $211.94 and $301.94 per day – very comparable to the Royal Caribbean rate of $197.07.

Except South Coogee could hardly compare to travelling the world.

That $66,725 figure gives you $182.80 to play with.  A round trip with Princess from Los Angeles for 11 days comes in at $326 a night. So you might have to raid the savings for a little added value.

But remember – you are getting food, wine, excursions to world cities.

However, if hopping between the value ships might not be how you envision your future, for some other inspiration, here are some stories of others who are retired or planning to retire on cruise ships.

If you’re thinking about it, read our 10 things to consider about retiring at sea.

From crossroads to ocean breezes

Angela Nuran and Paul Consentino are spouses and cruise fanatics and they found themselves at a crossroads. As they saw retirement nearing, they wanted a comfortable and sustainable living situation, but they also didn’t feel done adventuring.

By setting up their lives to live on a cruise ship, they found a way to do both.

The couple sold their Florida home, and instead invested in a cabin on the Storylines MV Narrative, set to start sailing in 2025. 

Storylines are a new way to cruise, creating luxury residential communities at sea. Storylines MV Narrative is set to circumnavigate the earth every three years, continuously stopping at ports around the globe.

Mr Consentino told Business Insider that as soon as he found out his pets would be allowed onboard, it was a no-brainer.

We always thought it would be nice to live at sea, but we’ve had pets. We still have pets. So we stayed here in Florida. 

“We always knew we would like to travel by ship. I saw on the news one day that this new ship would come out and my first question to them was, ‘Do you allow pets?’ And they said they did.”

Mr Consentino says that despite the 66 square metre stateroom being much smaller than their Florida home, he’s not worried about the change. 

“We’re downsizing but when we’re in our stateroom, we’re either asleep, watching TV, or sitting on the balcony. How much room do we really need? We got the whole ship, and we’re going to be going ashore as much as we like.”

The couple has leased the stateroom for 24 years, setting them back about $3.5 million. Then there are yearly living charges of around $190,000, which includes food. 

The couple is looking forward to their new life at sea, with Ms Nuran set to teach dance onboard. 

“There are those of us that have things that we can do to enhance the life experiences of the other people on board. We are all very eager to contribute what we can. I have already been approached by some of the other future residents about teaching on board, and I will gladly do that. 

“It wouldn’t be a paid position. You just do it for the pure fun and enjoyment of it and to interact with our new neighbours, our new friends.”

Another big selling point for Ms Nuran is longer stays in ports than on traditional cruise ships.

“On a regular ship, a shore excursion is only going to last the few hours that you’re in port. Well, the Narrative is not going to spend just one day at port, they’re going to spend three days, four days, five days depending on where you’re going.

“We’re really looking forward to having the convenience and the safety of being able to get off the ship and participate in some of these travel experiences under the umbrella of the Narrative.”

Ok, so how do you calculate the cost?  Well, $190,000 equates to $520.50 a day.  And it’s double that magic “comfortable retirement” figure of $66,725 from ASFA.

But Storylines isn’t the only option.

Whether you’re reading this and feeling like the Storylines life wouldn’t be for you or already picking out your cabin, the idea of living on a cruise ship is a perpetually intriguing one. Ms Nuran and Mr Cosentino are far from the only ones making the move, here are the stories of a few others. 

The MV Narrative.

Retiring on a cruise ship in practice

Richard and Angelyn Burk estimated that they could live on a cruise ship for about $100 per day. After a few months into the journey, the couple succeeded in averaging about $120 per day, including accommodation, food, entertainment, transportation, gratuity and taxes. 

Within the first three months of their at-sea retirement, the couple had already visited Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Alaska, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. 
Virginia couple takes to the seas

Carnival living

Robert and Nancy Houchens from Virginia last year made headlines as they brought up 1000 days of sailing together.

Ms Houchens said: “Our goal was to sell everything we owned and pretty much live on cruise ships.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of it since we’ve retired.”

The more the couple sail with Carnival, the more discounts they are receiving as they are welcomed back again and again. Wherever possible, the couple also carefully plan to try to avoid airfares and long stays between cruises. 

Meta employee goes big 

Another person snapping up a Storylines cabin is 28 year-old Austin Wells, who bought a 12-year lease on MV Narrative. This cost the tech worker an estimated $425,000. 

Mr Wells told CNBC news: “I don’t have to upend my daily routine, in order to go see the world.

“I’m most excited about going places where uniquely only ships can go.”