In Asia, families look after the elderly when they become older. It’s also standard practice for a husband’s parents to move in and live with their younger family — or sometimes the other way around. In the UK, however, not only is that simply not in our culture, but try suggesting to your other half that your parents move in with you. See if you can finish the sentence before being locked out in the cold.
That’s not to say we don’t love our families, but with busy lives and a higher regard for independence, inviting our parents to live with us isn’t something that happens very often. With the low birth rate and how spread out families now are, it’s become common for us to either not have younger relatives, or, if we do, they’re the other side of the country.
The dilemma then arises: what to do after you’ve retired? Do you fill your days with activities for the elderly, turn to your relatives, or go into a nursing home? Do you catch up with the Coronation Street specials and take up Emmerdale and EastEnders to fill the hours between?
Or do you cruise around the world, taking pictures that will be the envy of your whole family?
With constant inflation and higher prices for rent and food than ever, living on luxury cruise ships is like living in five-star hotels, but at a fraction of the price. When you’re looking at prices, be they last minute cruise deals or all-inclusive luxury cruises from the UK, remember that, a lot of the time, all-inclusive means all inclusive. No food bills; no booze bills; no little, everyday purchases that add up. From NCL Cruises to the ultimate luxury of Silversea, pick a ship you can afford for the month, or maybe haggle a deal to pay for the year.
If you’re finding it harder to get around your home and need two hours of live-in care a day, according to the Money Advice Service, this can add up to £12,500 a year. If you need live-in care, you can be spending up to £40,000 a year — and that’s if you’re in your own home. If you’re in a care home and need around-the-clock care, you’re looking at spending around £150,000 a year.
On a cruise, however, the staff are always on call; just a small part of the cruise experience. Of course, if you need nursing or medical care then cruising might not be the best option, but if you just want to have on-call cups of tea and a hand doing the little things? There’s not much doubt which is more appealing.
Several articles have surfaced in the past decade about people who live full-time on cruise ships. Most famously, Lee Wachtstatter and Beatrice Muller both lived on ships for around a decade. Both women were widowers and sold their houses and possessions to take to full-time cruising. With no house upkeep or care bills, despite the relatively high daily cost it’s still the better value option. NCL Cruises are just one of the cruise liners working to make it more affordable for solo cruises, so having your own suite is becoming cheaper than ever.
Lee spends her time dancing, playing bridge and doing needlepoint. The ship accommodates this well, as they provide dance partners for all the women on board who want to dance but don’t have a companion. About five times a year, the ship docks in Miami and she visits her family, so although she misses them, she hasn’t become totally isolated from their lives. Pick a cruise from the UK and you can catch up with friends and family regularly. Sometimes, they could even join you with a last-minute cruise deal on the ship you call home.
In our society, people are living longer than ever, which means that if you don’t keep busy after retirement, depression in the elderly can set in. Instead of progressively becoming more bored, isolated and shut-down, a cruise can be an excellent option to stay mentally stimulated by a non-stop stream of entertainment possibilities, with companions of a variety of ages and backgrounds to keep you company.
Whether you’ve just retired and are already getting bored at home, or whether you’ve always wanted to see the world, with cruises becoming more affordable and prices on shore becoming more inflated, it’s definitely worth considering a life at sea.
Paul Edge, director of Cruise Club UK, has spent over 25 years working to improve the travel industry. When not in the office, he’s in an exotic location user-testing one of his luxury cruises.