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Janice Wells: Cruising through senior’s living options

The Seabourn Quest of Seabourn Quest Lines and Holland America’s Rotterdam (in background) in St. John’s harbor earlier this week.
The Seabourn Quest of Seabourn Quest Lines and Holland America’s Rotterdam (in background) in St. John’s harbor earlier this week.

Oh the lovely cruise ships coming and going in the harbour lately! I couldn’t help but wonder if any of them was home to the growing number of seniors who are living on cruise ships.

Of course I got to wondering about the costs, and then, my mind taking the usual quantum leap, I got to wondering about how the costs would compare to what the government pays for assisted living and to build and maintain senior’s homes and how there aren’t nearly enough of them and it’s only going to get worse.

I confess I do not have actual figures of what the various types of seniors living and housing options cost our government. I have heard some astounding figures and I do know that Janine’s mother was paying around $3,000 a month in an independent living home in St. John’s about five years ago.

In the same circumstances, were she unable to afford to pay herself, she would have been subsidized by a government program. I guess it’s too much to hope for a government subsidy to live in a cruise ship, but I’m sure our esteemed representatives could come up with a way to make it as cost effective as some of their other schemes and give serious consideration to using cruise ships to meet this ever increasing need.

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. Personally, I think that’s a little low, maybe old figures, but at even $5,000 a month is pretty good for what you get.

Let’s compare it with independent living in subsidized seniors’ cottages. The seniors could afford to pay more than they do now because they wouldn’t have to buy groceries, do laundry, maintain a car or take taxis. The balance of the government subsidy would cover the rest.

The health bit could get tricky, depending on your needs. The ships have medical facilities and extra insurance can be purchased, but obviously it’s not for everybody. Of course when the government sees the brilliance of this idea, MCP will be valid anywhere.

One couple I read about arranged for their accountant to intercept mail and bills to take care of while they were gone, disconnected their television cable and telephone services, and reduced their collision auto insurance to third party liability.

Another turns off the water at their home and puts the mail on hold at the post office.

My personal favourite is the 80 year old woman who left her cruise line after three years because they stopped the dance host program, and is now happily kicking up her heels on another line.

The cruise industry is becoming more aware of the retirement living market, targeting “the kind of person that wants to experience travel, excitement and fun as part of their retirement.”

How about “Imagine a life where staff caters 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.” 

And you’d never have to worry about driving home. (That last part is mine.)

I think “Where do I sign up?” Then I think about not seeing the children and grandchildren and I know permanent cruising retirement wouldn’t work for me.


With long-term rates and senior’s discounts some cruise lines are making a good case for luring snowbirds away from Florida. I think they should be focusing on governments instead.


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at

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