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Couple retires to live on cruise ships because it's 'cheaper than a nursing home'

It's actually a lot cheaper than assisted living.

cruise ship retirement, living on cruise ship, cruise costs

A couple is spending their retirement stress-free on cruise ships.

The cost of living in the United States has gone up so much in recent years that living on a cruise ship has become a reasonable idea for some retirees. When Nancy and Robert Houchens of Charlottesville, Virginia, retired, they decided to sell almost everything they had and live out their golden years hopping from cruise ship to cruise ship.

"We had a 3,000-square-foot home full of furniture...and everything we own now would fit in the back of a pickup truck," Robert told USA Today.

“We sold all of our estates except for a little condominium we have in Florida, so when we get too old to cruise, we have somewhere to live,” Nancy added. “And we did keep two vehicles, and what we kept is in half of (Robert's mother's storage unit), which is, I don't know, 10x10 or something. We just walked away from everything.”


Life on a cruise ship is stress-free for the couple because their needs are taken care of on the ship. "It's been great. I don't cook. I don't clean," Nancy told the Miami Herald.

The couple has found that living on a cruise ship isn’t as expensive as some may assume. Even though inflation has driven up the cost of travel in the U.S., it hasn’t significantly impacted the cruise industry.

“It's much cheaper than a nursing home or assisted living. It was just a good fit for us. It's a good fit for a lot of people,” Robert told the Miami Herald.

The couple plans their trips differently than someone who is going on vacation. “We look for the best deal, not the destination,” Nancy told Cruise Passenger.

The couple initially planned to spend $4,000 a month living on the ships. “Our original budget was $4,000 a month. This included gratuities. Of course, things are more expensive now, so that budget has had to increase a little. Depending on where we go, we may or may not need the internet,” she told Cruise Passenger.

“Our phone plan covers most everywhere for 25 cents a minute to call with free internet and texting,” Nancy continued. “We have an annual travel insurance plan, and one of our credit cards also has travel insurance.”

For the Houchens, living on board a cruise ship is definitely cheaper than assisted living. According to the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average monthly cost per person to live in assisted living in Virginia is $5,250 a month, which would cost Houchens over $10,000 a month as a couple.

Further, the roughly $4,000 the couple spends a month includes food, and they don’t have to bother paying for a car. They also try to book their cruises consecutively so they don’t waste money paying for expensive hotels when transferring between cruise lines.

Last July, the Houchens celebrated their 1,000th day sailing with Carnival Cruise Line since the 1980s, and they look forward to countless more days at sea with each other and the new friends they’ve made on their never-ending cruise.

“We cruise Carnival because of the people,” Richard told Travel Pulse. “It isn’t the destinations for us anymore, it’s the journey—and the biggest part of the journey is the people.”


This article originally appeared on 7.19.23

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