Imagine a life where staff cater to your every whim as you travel the world and get treated like a VIP every day. You could order what you like to eat without having to shop, cook or clean up. And Broadway-style entertainment is always at your finger tips-- and you don't even need to buy a high-priced ticket.
Think you need to be a billionaire to make this dream come true? Think again. Such a lifestyle can be downright affordable if you live most of the year on a cruise ship.
Mario Salcedo, a single, 67-year-old businessman, spends 350 days a year aboard Royal Caribbean ships, even operating a company as he travels. “My best friends are all frequent cruisers on Royal Caribbean,” he tells Fox News.
Salcedo says that after 20 years in the corporate world, he decided he wanted a new lifestyle that would take him around the globe.
“The best way to accomplish that vision was to live on a cruise ship,” he said. He does, however, maintain a condo in Miami where he spends a little time between cruises.
Cruise experts say while costs vary widely, it’s reasonable to figure on average $100 a day to cruise including lodging, transportation from port to port, food and entertainment. Think $3,000 a month total, which isn't too bad considering a lot of people pay larger mortgages or rent.
A genuine bargain would be between $50-75 a day, says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of CruiseCritic.com. That’s equal or less than what senior independent living would cost, suggests Financial Planner Richard Kahler, president of the Kahler Financial Group.
“If the lifestyle suits you, it's easy to increase your cruising to as much or little that suits you," Kahler tells Fox News.
"Cruising is very flexible as most cruises are one week to 21 days, so you can mold your schedule around holidays and visits with family and friends,” the financial adviser added, noting that you get the best rates when booking as far in advance as possible.
The more someone cruises on the same line, the more loyalty programs will reward him or her with upgrades or free perks, like a meal in a specialty restaurant, free laundry or transfers. But for those who cruise often – or those taking longer journeys like a round-the-world cruise – the rewards could be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars saved on things like free cruise days, Spencer Brown says.
Frequent cruiser Malcolm Seldado said he typically turns down upgrades because he prefers to keep the same stateroom throughout his consecutive cruises, spending 80 per cent of his time in the Caribbean (Cozumel is his favorite port) and the rest of the year in Europe where he enjoys Barcelona.
According to a recent Cruise Critic poll, the majority of survey respondents said they would like to retire at sea — 27 percent completely and 32 percent said it would be ideal for a couple of years. Another 27 percent said they might “if the price was right.”
“What easily grabs your imagination when you think about people who opt to live aboard cruise ships instead of in retirement communities is how much fun it must be to be out in the world, meeting new people and seeing new places in a lovely atmosphere with good food and attentive service,” suggests Spencer Brown, all the more attractive because it can cost less than living ashore.
So why aren't more people living out their golden years sailing abroad? What keeps this from being a huge trend for retirees, she said, is that it’s best for those who are in peak health because cruise ships have limited medical facilities.
Salcedo, for one, reports he is in “excellent health.” On his turnaround days in Miami, he always makes sure to schedule check-ups with his doctors.
However, Spencer Brown said interest in longer world cruises continues to increase among cruisers and that more cruise lines now are offering them with intriguing itineraries. “The convenience of visiting both popular and more off-the-beaten-path ports of call all at once -- only unpacking once – is something that only cruising can really deliver,” she said.
Harrison Liu, a spokesman for Regent Seven Seas noted that interest in their 130-plus night world cruises is growing. “It isn’t only older guests,” he said. “There is a real segment of interest for those who have the means to get away like this.”
Malcolm Myers reports he sails on Regent Seven Seas roughly half the year and still maintains a condo in Florida. The best part?
“The people you meet and the friendships.”
The downside? “Not as much time with the grand children or for fishing, which I love to do.” But Facebook and the internet help him keep in touch.
“The real key to a better life at sea,” he said, “is you get to know the people you interact with from the company and if you behave and are not a grouch and help them, they will help you and look out for you.”
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.