Visitors to last week’s cruise show might only have been looking at cruises lasting for a couple of weeks. But how about living on board a cruise ship?
It seems that more and more people are considering it and, as energy costs creep up and spaces in retirement homes get more scarce, we may see even more permanent cruisers.
The most famous one we came across was Mario Salcedo, who has lived on Royal Caribbean’s ‘Voyager of the Seas’ for the past twenty years. In that time, he has spent 6,000 nights with Royal Caribbean and booked himself on around 850 individual cruises.
He’s also spent an average of $60-70,000 per year. No wonder the crew have nicknamed him Super Mario.
Mr Salcedo continues to work at his investment management business throughout the year, taking advantage of the ship’s excellent wifi and other office resources. Other cruise lines are now waking up to these ‘back-to-backs, as continuous cruisers are known. And they could be onto something big.
The USA’s ‘snowbirds’ are a well known phenomena; retirees who flock south in the winter to avoid the cold weather and who then roost in places like Florida. As these snowbirds number in their millions, cruise lines are now steaming into this market.
And no wonder. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that when considered over a 20-year span, “cruises were comparably priced to assisted living centers and offered a better quality of life”.
Doing the math (as the Americans would say) shows that it costs approximately $135 per day on a long voyage (typically 180 days) including long-term and senior discounts, but excluding medical care or excursions. This compares – very favorably – with the $229 they’d expect to pay daily for a private room in a nursing home, or $3,293 per month for a one-bedroom in an assisted living facility.
And it would be difficult to put a price on the other benefits that long term cruising offers including a constant social life and an unlimited number of dance partners.
So cruise companies are taking this market very seriously. Some allow long-term guests to bring their own furniture or decorate their cabin at their own expense, whilst last year, . Opening next year, these will comprise 48 suites in three new ships with each floating apartment ranging from 600 to 4,000 square feet.
Given that the average British home has shrunk to just over 1,000 square feet, these would seem like palaces to the average Brit. Especially as there would be no space on board for all the children who can’t afford to move out of the family home.