House of Travel (Orewa and Whangaparaoa) cruise marketing manager Annie Mellor says the idea of retirement on a cruise ship has been slow to take off in NZ, but as an international trend and with the huge growth in the cruise industry, she expects to see a change for NZ retirees.
“Certainly our baby boomers are looking for alternatives to the traditional retirement village option,” Annie says. “There has been a trend over the past five years for retiree clients to do longer cruises.
They are spending their time catching up on their OE with a round the world cruise for three to four months, spending around $50,000 per person with Princess cruises, for example.
“Our senior clients have a thirst for adventure and educational insights with a growth seen in small ship cruising where unique destinations can be reached in comfort such as Antarctica, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. Voyage of Antiquity is catering for this older market with an academic twist, offering specialist speakers and professors on board to enhance their experience, mainly around Europe.
“Our clients will have friends and relatives house-sit and pet-mind in their absence so that cruising is an easy option and some will spend between one week and six months on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, escaping the NZ winter, and combining this with cruising. Others will spend time after a cruise to live locally for a month or so in places such as Tuscany or researching their heritage. Some retiree clients are simply spending their years ticking off their bucket list with cruises taking them to places such as the Arctic, South America, Alaska, Cuba and Vietnam.”
The US market leader in luxury live-aboard residences is The World cruise ship where clients buy an apartment for year-round cruising.
Built in 2002, The World continuously sails the world and has been purpose built with luxury residences including kitchenette apartments and a grocery store on board, along with the usual cruise ship facilities. It is the largest privately owned residential yacht in the world and is home to 142 families, from 19 different countries, of varied ages.
“As such, we don’t regard ourselves specifically as a retirement option, but the average age is 62 years, with many residents still active in their day-to-day businesses,” spokesperson Lara Ballard says.
The average length of time spent on board is three to six months of the year.
Annie says that if The World-style cruising did take off in NZ, it would mean that clients would still require a base of some sort, so that family connections could be maintained.
“An alternative to The World could be for retirees to choose one cruise line with a range of cruise options through the year as their preferred retirement mode, which is close to living on board year round.
“There is a huge selection of cruise ships and destinations to choose from worldwide to keep them busy for years, but they would still need a base in NZ as cruise itineraries can change and ships can be taken off routes for refurbishment.
“The most popular cruising choice for retirees is any cruise that departs from or arrives in Auckland. Some will take their extended family for significant family events such as 50th wedding anniversaries.”
Onboard life offers alternative
Living on a cruise ship provides a better quality of life and is cost-effective for elderly people who need help to live independently, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Lee Lindquist, instructor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, compared the amenities and costs in assisted living facilities with accommodation on cruise ships. Both offer single room apartments with a private bathroom, a shower with easy access, some help, cable television, security services, and entertainment. Cruise ships, however, have superior health facilities – one or more doctors, nurses available 24 hours a day, defibrillators, equipment for dealing with medical emergencies, and the ability to give intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Assisted living facilities in the US almost never have doctors on site and seldom have nurses available 24 hours, Dr Lindquist said. Cruise ships also have a higher ratio of employees to passengers than assisted living facilities.
The authors calculated that the long-term cost for a person to live on a cruise ship from the age of 80 until his or her death would be US$230,497 compared with US$228,075 for an assisted living facility.