Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

6/27/2017 | By Terri L. Jones

Home Sweet Cruise Ship

At the end of a cruise, if you’ve ever been tempted to squeeze yourself into the closet of your cabin so you didn’t have to get off the ship, we have some good news for you. You don’t have to become a stowaway to live this vacation-like existence fulltime. In fact, more and more seniors are doing it every day.

Take 67-year-old Mario Salcedo, for example. The New York Times reported earlier this year that Salcedo has been living onboard cruise ships for two decades. With about 950 cruises under his belt, he currently spends approximately 350 days a year on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. Running his financial consulting business from the ship, Salcedo works for several hours each morning, and then he’s off to swim, dance, see some shows, and maybe even scuba dive.

While cruise ships are known for their Henry VIII-style feasts, Salcedo told last year that he doesn’t overindulge like the typical cruiser. He keeps a handle on his weight by sticking to lean proteins and veggies, and the occasional steak with the captain. The cruising lifestyle, and its complete lack of stress, must agree with him, as he hasn’t been sick a single day during the entire 20 years he’s been living onboard!

89-year-old Lee Wachtstetter traded her house, car and many of her belongings for cruise ship living about nine years, reported CBS News last year. One of the main things that attracted her to this lifestyle is how easy it is. Wachtstetter doesn’t have to bother with shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry—in other words, anything she doesn’t want to do.

In fact, when other passengers leave the ship for excursions in port, Wachtstetter often stays behind to take full advantage of the service. “I’ve got the whole ship to myself with all the help,” she explains.

According to an article about Wachtstetter in The Washington Post, another reason she loves cruising—and why she chose the Crystal Serenity in particular—is the “dance hosts.” If you’re not familiar with this term, dance hosts are predominantly gentlemen of a certain age, who are on the ship for the express purpose of dancing (and socializing) with the single female passengers. Every day at 5:15 p.m. on the dot, you’ll find Wachtstetter cutting a rug with one of these dance hosts or sometimes even the cruise director.

While this life sounds pretty idyllic, there’s got to be a downside, right? One of the less-than-ideal parts is, of course, not being able to see your loved ones on land very often. Fulltime cruisers will sometimes plan to meet up with their children, old friends, neighbors, etc. when the ship docks. Some will even invite folks to join them onboard for a couple of weeks, which turns out to be a whole lot easier—and more fun—than having extended houseguests.

When you live that far from land, you must also be in good health. While there’s medical staff onboard, typically they can only take care of minor, nonemergency situations. If you have a more serious illness, getting to a hospital may require disembarking at a port or evacuation by helicopter, which of course, is very costly and can put you at greater risk.

And then there’s the price. Salcedo estimates he spends $70,000 per year and Wachtstetter says her annual costs are about $164,000, which includes lodging, food, gratuities and entertainment. Also you need to be aware of hidden fees, including alcohol, Wi-Fi, single occupancy surcharges and cell phone roaming charges.

Share if you think cruise ship living is for you.

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over 10 years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones