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Blue nomads ride the crest of a cruising wave

An Australian couple reckon life on a ship is cheaper than staying in a retirement village. Are they right?

  • Member Matters
  • Lifestyle
  • Read Time: 5 mins

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Many seniors are familiar with the term “grey nomad”. You may be living that lifestyle right now, travelling from place to place in a caravan or motorhome, making the most of your retirement by seeing Australia.

Those still in the workforce with jobs that can be done remotely may consider themselves “road warriors” or “digital nomads”. And rather than exploring their own country, they could be anywhere in the world where they can plug in their laptop and connect to the internet.

Aussie couple Marty and Jess Ansen are doing things a little differently – they recently told Channel Nine’s A Current Affair how they booked dozens of back-to-back cruises and have so far spent more than 450 days at sea.

They boarded the Coral Princess in June 2022, as soon as they could under pandemic rules, and have spent longer aboard the ship than most of the crew, including the captain and the hotel manager.

But it won’t be the end of their maritime adventures when they finally disembark next year. After a few months as landlubbers, they’ll set sail for another long voyage, this time on the Crown Princess.

It’s not a cheap exercise, but Marty and Jess reckon their costs are lower than some retirement homes – especially when you consider that their cruises are inclusive of meals, accommodation, entertainment, and housekeeping.

World Travellers

The Ansens are not alone in their passion for life on the ocean wave.  

A cruise ship called The World bills itself as “the planet’s largest private residential yacht”.

Launched in 2002, it sails continuously around the world, and has just 165 individually owned residences, ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes. The high-net-worth passengers get on and off as they please, or they remain onboard living in luxury as the ship visits a never-ending itinerary of exotic ports.

The Ansens also have a way to go to beat “Super” Mario Salcedo, a 70-something American financial consultant who operates his business from aboard various cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. 

Super Mario, as he’s known among the cruising community, sailed non-stop for two decades, except for 10 days a year spent at his apartment in Miami catching up on business that can’t be done at sea. 

When the pandemic struck, he spent the best part of a year on the Caribbean island of Aruba, so he could stay close to the ocean. He returned to his sailing schedule as soon as he could. 

Another famous long-time cruiser was Leona Wachtstetter, known onboard as “Mama Lee”, who sailed continuously for more than a decade, first aboard the MS Prinsendam and then the Crystal Serenity

She jumped ship when the Holland America Line stopped employing dance partners for widowed and single passengers. 

Mama Lee continued sailing into her late 80s and wrote a book about her experienced titled I May Be Homeless, But You Should See My Yacht.

If you fancy full-time life at sea, you might need deep pockets. The MV Narrative, which will operate in a similar fashion to The World, is due to set sail for the first time in 2024. A 24-year lease will set you back between $A935,000 and $16 million, depending on the size and position of your stateroom.

This opportunity is, according to the brochure, available to “1,000 like-minded travellers, dedicated to exploring the planet is a sustainable and philanthropic way”.

By way of comparison, the United States-based Cruise Line Industry Association puts the average cost per person per week of a regular cruise at $A2,700. Industry newsletter estimates a starting point for Caribbean cruises of $A1,300 per person per week – or about $135,000 for a couple per year.

Based on discount fares, a couple might be able to sail in Australian and nearby waters from $85,000 a year – however, other costs, including insurance, land tours, and discretionary purchases would soon push that up into six figures.


Brett Debritz

Brett Debritz

Communications Specialist, National Seniors Australia


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