Is retiring on a cruise ship an option?

2017-06-15 10:49

Living a life of luxury on the sea may be cheaper than paying for a flat or townhouse in a retirement village, writes Angelique Ruzicka.

When it comes to deciding where to live out your golden years, there are several options available to pensioners in South Africa. There are retirement villages, old age homes (private and government) and sweeping estates. You can buy a home, purchase life rights to a house in a retirement complex or rent.

Some places have frail-care facilities, meals, cleaners and gardeners – but you pay extra for access to these.

On the other hand, some retirees in the US and Europe are swapping these conventional retirement options for something different – cruising around the world. While this may sound expensive for some, this option may actually make financial sense.

For example, British newspaper The Telegraph reported that analyst LaingBuisson found that fees for nursing care in the UK had broken the £1 000 (R16 600) per week barrier and had reached £1 200 in some places. A six-month trip around the world from Miami and back on Oceania Cruises costs £30 000.

If the British are paying on average £4 000 for care a month, forking out a bit extra may start to sound more appealing, considering that a cruise is far more exciting than living out your days in a retirement home.

While swapping retirement homes for cruise ships is becoming a trend overseas, this hasn’t quite picked up in South Africa yet.

Ross Volk, the managing director of MSC Cruises, says: “We get a large number of senior citizens travelling with us, but analytics show an average of a seven-night cruise.”

With some luxury retirement homes still charging much less than it costs for an Oceania trip, it’s understandable that the trend hasn’t quite caught on here yet.

However, when you look at the all-inclusive benefits that some cruises offer, the rate can become quite attractive, says George Argyropoulos, the CEO of Cruises International.

“The price of the cruise includes all meals, entertainment, activities and transportation provided by the ship. One meets new people every couple of weeks and visits beautiful destinations. There are basic healthcare services on board at an additional cost, which can be covered by a medical aid. Also, the atmosphere on a cruise
ship is much more joyous than in a retirement village,” he says.

According to Cruises International, staff clean the rooms twice a day – while you could clean and tidy your home yourself, having to do so when you are a pensioner can prove difficult, especially if you are not in optimum health. This is also what’s so attractive among overseas pensioners – the fact that they don’t have to pick up after themselves or pay someone to do it for them.


The cost of accommodation is just one part of what retirees have to worry about – there are medical expenses, groceries, levies, rates and utility bills, which all add up. However, the benefit of going on a cruise is that you won’t have to budget for these things. You also won’t need a car or have to pay to maintain a garden or pool.

Going out for a meal, drinks or even to the movies has also become an expensive affair in South Africa. However, entertainment is often included in the price of a cruise.

“There are movie theatres, live shows, discos, casinos, solo shows at various bars, cabaret shows and magicians, to name a few activities,” says Argyropoulos.

If all this is a bit too much for you, there are other forms of entertainment. “During the day, there are interesting lectures on the various destinations that will be visited and on many other subjects such as politics, science, art and exploration,” says Argyropoulos.

“There is spa and a hair salon, a fully equipped gym with private trainers, running tracks, various on-deck sports, presentations, food and wine tastings and demonstrations, shops, arts and crafts, and much more.”

Of course, there are some things that are not included as part of the package. Depending on the cruise liner, you may still need to pay for beverages, port taxes and shore excursions.

Argyropoulos says: “In some cases [Crystal Cruises and Seabourn], all of the above are included, except for the port taxes. But, again, these are negotiable for extended stays. Personal expenses such as laundry are excluded, but some ships offer self-service laundry facilities.”


The cost of a cruise is by no means fixed, and savvy retirees could be able to strike a deal. According to MSC Cruises, people older than 60 get 10% discounts on local cruises. If you choose a balcony or suite, you could benefit from a 15% discount.

“This can be combined with other promotional offers, but there could be some terms and conditions or exclusions,” says MSC Cruises’

To cut costs even further, you can choose to cruise when it’s not a popular time – peak season in South Africa is in December and January.

“For those retirees who do not want to retire on a ship, but would still like a cruise, I suggest off-season sailings, which are usually offered between October and December and again from February to April,” says Argyropoulos.

“These are great periods to be at various destinations around the world because they are not crowded with tourists and there are lower fares.”

While cruising for six months or permanently is still a pipe dream for most pensioners in South Africa, the reality is that the cost of retirement is getting more expensive. For an affordable retirement, it’s essential to weigh up the total costs of accommodation and other expenses.

For example, if renting is the only option for you in retirement, bear in mind that there are other costs such as levies, food and medical expenses to consider.

While consulting the physician isn’t free on a cruise, there are a lot of things that are included in the price that wouldn’t be part of the package at most retirement homes. Consider the options and, if cruising works out cheaper, there are few better ways to enjoy your golden years.

Luxury villages

Retirement village rental prices per month: 

  • Midstream Estate (Pretoria) is R24 000 for 
    three bedrooms 
  • Brettenwood Estate (Ballito) is R20 000 for three bedrooms 
  • Palm Grove (Cape Town) is R26 000 for three bedrooms 
  • Evergreen Lifestyle (Cape Town) is R38 000 
    for three bedrooms 

Sources: Oasis Luxury Retirement Resorts; Trovit; Gumtree. Prices sourced on June 6 2017 

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March 18 2018