Things I Learned While Writing How to Retire on a Carnival Cruise Ship

Mark and the Carnival Panorama

So I had a lot of fun last week musing what it would take to retire on a Carnival cruise ship! There were lots of calculations and even more assumptions, but it was neat to see what it would take to live on a ship.

In writing the post, there were several interesting things I learned:

  • The average per day cruise expense per passenger is estimated to be $214.25 between ticket price and onboard spending. That amounts to $78,201/person for a year or $156,402 for double occupancy. (Source: Cruise Market Watch)
  • Getting old is crazy expensive. While the 2019 US-average cost for a Nursing Home rang in at $245/day, it costs nearly $1,000/day in Alaska! (Source: Paying for Senior Care)
  • Medicare does not pay for coverage outside of the US: “In most situations, Medicare won’t pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S. The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.” (Source:
  • I’m not the only one who wonders how much it would cost to retire on a cruise ship! “The Balance” used the average passenger per day cruise expense number to determine their annual cost estimate. They also have a handy “How to Prepare for a Cruise Ship Retirement” checklist and a big callout for contingency planning – you know, when no cruise ships are running due to a global pandemic; what are you going to do then? (Source: Indigo Global)
  • Investopedia had an article about retiring on a cruise ship entitled, “Retire on a Cruise Ship With Less Than $1 Million.” While the post shares you can book last minute deals for under $100/day, that’s not realistic long-term. They use $141/day as their number and their calculations assume $1,475/month in Social Security payments. Based on this, they estimate you’d need $678,000 to live on a cruise ship for 20 years (or $1,356,000 for two people). When you remove the social security assumption, their number is still about $450,000 than what I estimate taking into account medical/insurance and living expenses. (Source: The Entrepreneur Fund)
  • Perhaps the scariest thing I learned: The Median Retirement Account Savings of Families By Age is only $21,000 in the 56-61 range and “nearly half of all working-age families have zero retirement account savings…” (Source: Economic Policy Institute via Investopedia)

And one final thing that I already knew, but it’s worth repeating:

  • It pays to own cruise stock. Just 100 shares of Carnival stock grants you a $50 credit on a cruise 6 days or less, $100 on a cruise 7-13 days, and $250 on a cruise 14 days or longer. Considering $CCL closed at $21.71 today, an investment of $2,171 would grant you this benefit.
  • I’ve used the benefit on all of my cruises and have received thousands in onboard credit. Had I purchased my shares at today’s price point, I would have paid myself back for the investment! (Source: Carnival Shareholder Benefit)


If you’re thinking about retiring on a cruise ship, you’re clearly not alone. And depending on who you talk to, your numbers will vary greatly. Additionally, your cruising lifestyle will have a significant impact on the amount needed to live on a ship.

My best advice: Consult with your financial planner on what you’re hoping to accomplish. That, and put some more money in your 401k!!

2 thoughts on “Things I Learned While Writing How to Retire on a Carnival Cruise Ship”

  1. I saw your advice on buying cruise line stocks on another forum and followed it here. I looked at the cruise line stock prices today Sept 6, 2022 and Carnival was at $9.37, Royal Caribbean was @ $41. Carnival was @ $27 last January. RCL was $133 in Jan of 2020 before covid hit. I don’t think they will go anywhere but up as cruise lines rebound from covid.

    RCL and Celebrity are are go to cruise lines but we’ve sailed on Princess as well. Based on this info, I called my stock broker and converted some of my other stocks into 100 shares of both RCL and Carnival stock

    Seems like a good time to buy cruise line stock, it’s bound to go back up as the cruise lines rebound from the covid thing.

    1. Hey Gary, thanks for your post. It definitely is hard to argue with the value you get from purchasing 100 shares of cruise line stock right now – especially if you’re a regular cruiser. At $9.37/share for $CCL, that’s $937. If you sail enough, you’ll earn back what you’ve put into the stock with onboard credits alone. And while there’s no prediction what the stock market will do, these prices are approaching pandemic lows. Considering Carnival has been able renegotiate debt due dates, has a ton of cash and ship reserves, and bookings are trending in a really positive direction, I continue to be long on Carnival while still claiming my $100/cruise. Since cruising has resumed, I’ve received $1,300 in OBC just for being a shareholder!

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