While assisted living is an expensive proposition that often runs over $4,000 per month, a few innovative seniors have ditched the retirement home to see the world through cruising full-time.  These seniors get the advantages of full maid service, amazing meals, exercise programs, social events and excursions that make the fanciest assisted living facility look simple in comparison.  They decide to go cruising full-time which if properly planned, can come in at under $100 a day. 

The typical assisted living facility provides a room, a meal plan, a few activities, and some assistance with cleaning and laundry. Cruise ships provide all of these same personal services and a whole lot more to a much higher standard.   

Instead of the occasional social activity and the odd excursion to a park or the mall in an assisted living facility, cruising seniors enjoy nightly live entertainment, bingo, card tournaments, exercise programs, and the chance to hop off the boat in every port to explore with an ever changing cast of new found friends.   

Food in even the nicest retirement home is institutional, but cruise ships offer fabulous food choices with informal and formal dining choices and amazingly attentive service.  There are no world class chiefs, midnight buffets, pizza bistros or ice cream parlors at the retirement home.

Assisted living centers generally do not offer medical care. In contrast, the large cruise ships all have infirmaries and on board doctors to deal with any unexpected medical issues. For more serious issues the cruising senior can transfer to a local hospital in the next port, or in a true emergency it is possible to airlift off the ship for urgent medical care. 

To cruise full time, savvy retirees work with a good travel agent and plan carefully. Properly planned perpetual cruising can actually be cheaper than living in assisted living. The trick is to look for cruises that offer a low cost per day and avoid unnecessary extra costs. Reduce the cost per day with these strategies: 

  • Book far in advance or last minute to get the best prices.  Booking when most people book gives you the highest price tickets for cruising.  Book when the ships are trying to fill the first berths or the last ones to get the best deal.
  • Target repositioning cruises that start in one place and end in another.  These itineraries are seen by the typical vacationers as inconvenient because they require more expensive one way flights, and are discounted by the cruise line to match, but to the perpetual cruiser they offer great value because the perpetual cruiser just carries on in the new region.  A repositioning cruise is more interesting anyway, and may call at unusual ports off the beaten path.
  • Choose cruises with extended ocean transits and unusual length itineraries. Again these itineraries are seen as inferior by the typical vacationers, with discounts to match.  Same concept as repositioning cruises.
  • Book a series of short 2 or 3 day cruises out and back from one port.  These “introduction to cruising” deals are offered at a super low-cost to hook newcomers to cruising but they are great value for the perpetual cruising senior who does not mind making a out and back trip a few times in a row.
  • Take full advantage of frequent cruiser loyalty programs and returning passenger discounts.  These bonuses, when used aggressively, can help reduce the cost of cruising.  Some bonus can also be used to have a family member come along at a discount.
  • Cruise off-peak season, moving to another area to avoid peak season pricing
  • Spend Christmas and Spring Break with family on shore to avoid crammed ships and high prices.  Avoiding the peak demand avoids the peak prices.
  • Avoid the alcohol and premium restaurants on board.  If you must drink, BYOB instead from duty free shops along the route.  Or live longer and scrap the booze on the cruise.
  • Pay with a credit card that earns airline miles than use the airline miles to take one way repositioning flights between ports when desired or to get access to good cruiseship travel deals.
  • Get a travel buddy because cruising is designed for two.  Sharing a berth with a friend is the number one way to reduce the single's premium. 

Another benefit is that cruising only charges for the days traveled, not for days spent visiting family on land.  Assisted living centers charge every day of the year because even when you are away traveling you are tying up one of the rooms at the assisted living center.  

Visiting family on land is always an option to get off the water for a while.  Many modern seniors have family spread all over the country, so having the flexibility to go to different areas is good. Where practical, have one of your cruise endings coincide with where your family lives, or just fly to see them.

Getting the family to allow you to come visit may be a challenge.  Instead, some perpetual cruising seniors find that their family and friends often enjoy spending their vacation week on board the perpetual cruiser’s floating home. Hosting the family is simple - no home to clean up or dishes to wash. Everyone is taken care of on the ship and there are activities for all ages.  Children are free to roam the ship safely and adults can hit the shows while teens may prefer the dance clubs. The food is all included and amazing. There is sure to be a pool (or three) and exercise opportunities abound.

If you decide to follow the Love Boat lifestyle you will likely never regret it, but if you want to make a change and call land home again, there are no long-term commitments or contracts tying you into an assisted living facility.

Before choosing assisted living, consider the benefits of becoming a full-time cruiser for the adventure and the potential cost savings.  You too could love the Love Boat lifestyle and see the world instead of being holed up in an assisted living facility for old folks.  

Bon Voyage!