How Expensive Is It To Live On A Cruise Ship Year-Round?

As remote work has become a reality for more and more people, a new trend has taken the travel industry by storm: alternative living. With the newfound flexibility offered by working remotely, many people are curating a full-time travel lifestyle, hopping from timezone to timezone while working their full-time jobs online. And the cruise industry is no exception.

As more and more people are able to work remotely, the desire to live on a cruise has become increasingly popular. And with this desire comes the inevitable question of affordability. Just how expensive is it to live on a cruise ship full-time, year-round? In this blog, we’re going to break down an approximate budget for this enviable new lifestyle.

Cruise Accommodations

Photo by Adam Gonzales

By far the most expensive aspect of living on a cruise ship year-round is the accommodations. However, the good news is that aspiring full-time cruisers have a variety of options to choose from, all suitable for different types of travelers with diverse budgets.

Some travelers opt to lease apartments on residential cruises such as Residence At Sea’s The World and Villa Vie Residences. This is by far the most expensive option, as many of these residential cruise apartments have six-figure price tags. However, for those willing and able to rent long-term accommodations, this option comes with a host of luxurious benefits, all the while taking you to hundreds of ports around the globe.

A more affordable option is what’s referred to as a World Cruise. Much like the residential cruise lines mentioned above, these cruises sail all around the world, with voyages such as the World Cruise from Life At Sea guaranteeing a visit to all seven continents. These itineraries typically span three to six months, and many full-time travelers choose to book these longer voyages back to back. 

Life At Sea’s world cruise, however, was specifically designed with full-time cruisers in mind, offering a three-year cruising option. Benefits of this three-year itinerary include all-inclusive dining, laundry service, and diverse entertainment options. The price? For their November 2024 itinerary, prices start at around $80,000 per year, per person, though in previous years prices have been several thousand dollars cheaper. 

For those with a tighter budget hoping to live on a cruise ship, there are still plenty of great alternatives. Some travelers prefer to book traditional, short-term cruises back-to-back, giving them greater control of the itinerary. Prices for these vary from itinerary to itinerary, but an average cabin price of $100/night for an entire year comes out to over $36,000. Talk about a discount. The catch here is that you will be in a near-constant state of booking short cruises, injecting a level of uncertainty into your living situation.

One last thing to note is that many of these long-term cruise options charge passenger fees on top of accommodation fees. If you choose to lease an apartment on a residential cruise, for example, in addition to the price of rent, you will also be expected to pay an annual cruise fare. The prices for these fares vary significantly from cruise line to cruise line, so be sure to do thorough research before deciding which option is the most economical for you.

Food on a Cruise

Photo by Jannik 

Another financial factor to consider when deciding to live on a cruise year-round is food. While many cruise lines offer all-inclusive options to their guests, this isn’t always the case. Furthermore, living full-time on a cruise gives you the opportunity to try local foods from around the world. So ask yourself: how much money are you willing (or able) to spend on food while traveling the world?

This is not the easiest question to answer, particularly as every person has different priorities, preferences, and restrictions when it comes to food. If you follow a strict diet at home, it will likely be harder and more expensive to stick to it abroad. Furthermore, while prices in the restaurants, buffets, and grocery stores on your ship will remain stable throughout your journey, food prices in ports can vary tremendously from country to country, from continent to continent.

Another factor to consider is tipping. Tipping culture varies from region to region, so if you plan on visiting restaurants or bars in port, be sure to research how much money (if any) you’ll have to spend on gratuities.

Creating a food budget while living on a cruise full-time can be a challenge. But rest assured that this is one of the aspects of year-round cruise living over which you have a lot of control. By sticking to all-inclusive dining options aboard your ship, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The Unexpected Expenses (Taxes, Insurance, Healthcare)

Photo by Nico Smit 

While living on a cruise guarantees an exciting and adventurous lifestyle, it also comes with certain logistical complications that you may not have considered. For example, in addition to the accommodation fees and cruise fares, you should also expect to pay a considerable amount of taxes while living aboard, with one notable example being the port fee. All passengers must pay this tax when they choose to disembark at any given port, and while living on a cruise full-time, these fees can quickly add up.

Secondly, you will likely have to purchase new insurance policies that cover your medical expenses abroad. Relying on your typical travel insurance plans will not be suitable as these policies are meant for shorter-term trips. Thus, it’s worth contacting your current insurance provider and discussing your options for year-round coverage.

In a similar vein, it’s important to think ahead about health care. While there is a doctor on board open to passengers, their time and resources are limited. If you have any preexisting conditions that require frequent visits to a health care provider, living on a cruise full-time can prove to be a challenge. Thus, it’s best to have a few plans in place as to how you would handle any medical emergencies abroad.

Lastly, you will likely have to purchase a new phone plan to ensure that you don’t lose access to your data while traveling the world. For more information on using your phone and other devices on a cruise ship, be sure to read this article in which we break down everything you need to know. When in doubt, however, contact your at-home provider and research whether they have any international phone plans that will meet your needs.

Living on a Cruise Full-Time Is Possible

Photo by Rod Long

As you can see, there are a nearly endless number of factors that contribute to the affordability of full-time cruise ship living. Doing your research and making the most informed decisions for yourself will ensure that this lifestyle is financially feasible for you. In the end, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 to live on a cruise ship full-time, though added amenities can quickly drive this price up.

It’s important to note that this number is approximate, and the actual cost of living on a cruise ship full-time will vary from person to person. But at the end of the day, this alternative lifestyle of travel can be feasible for people with diverse budgets. Armed with the right tools and information, you can curate the year-round cruise experience that is perfect for you and your needs. That feeling of flexibility is just a taste of the freedom you can expect from cruise living.