How Much It Costs to Live on a Cruise Ship For a Year

Who hasn’t gone on a cruise and thought, “I could do this forever”?

Cost to live on a cruise for a year feature image
For most, a cruise is a short vacation. But others dream of living aboard a ship. So how much would it cost you? We ran the numbers to give you an idea.

The idea of retiring from the rat race and living out your days on a cruise has great appeal for some people.

There’s no cleaning, no cooking, and no lawn to mow. You don’t have to worry about doing the dishes or paying an electric bill. There’s always something going on, new people to meet, and every day you wake up to some of the most beautiful views in the world.

Add to that the fact that internet access allows many to work remotely from anywhere, and wi-fi is widely available on any major cruise ship. That means even if you don’t want to completely retire, but instead work from the cruise ship, it’s technically possible.

Of course, not everyone can run off and live on a cruise ship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream.

And the first question that comes to mind when you think about escaping is how much it would cost to live aboard a cruise ship?

Is the total cost even realistic? That’s why we priced out the cost of living on a cruise ship for an entire year.

The result? Just know that you’ll definitely need to open your wallet to live full-time in paradise. But it might be less money than you think.

Where You’ll Spend Money on Your Cruise

Cruise ship docked at Port Canaveral

Head to any cruise website and you’ll see plenty of cheap headline prices. Cruises starting at a few hundred dollars for a week are common. At first glance, it seems like living on a cruise ship would be amazingly affordable.

After all, a cruise for $500 a week would cost only $26,000 to sail for a year. For many people, that would be cheaper than living on land! 

But anyone who has been on a cruise knows those headline prices are just the start of what you pay. In fact, in our opinion it’s a bit disingenuous of the cruise lines to advertise those prices. After all, what you’ll actually pay is much, much more.

Here’s an idea of where you’ll spend money beyond the headline fare:

Double Occupancy Cruise Fare: Apart from a few sailings that offer solo cabins, any headline price you find is actually only half of what you will pay for cruise fare. That’s because cabins are typically sold based on double occupancy, but prices are shown per person.

So for a fare that’s $599, it will actually cost $1,198 based on double occupancy. Even if you are sailing solo (unless in a solo cabin), you will still have to pay this “double” charge.

In other words, whenever you see a cruise price, double it right away for what you’ll really pay in fare.

Port Fees & Taxes: We all expect to pay taxes on things that we buy. It’s no different for a cruise. However, the taxes aren’t included in the headline cruise fare. As well, cruise fares will also have port fees tacked on. These are per-passenger fees paid to ports of call for the privilege of docking.

These fees vary, but in general, expect about $100-$200 per person for a seven-day cruise.

Gratuities: Sure, at the end of the day gratuities aren’t a required cost (you can adjust them as necessary), but in practice they are usually considered a charge that you’ll have to pay. They also add up quickly.

At around $18 per person, per day, a couple traveling on a week cruise will pay about $250 in gratuities. Over the course of a year on a cruise ship, that amount comes out to more than $13,000!

Onboard Spending: Anyone who has taken a cruise knows that what you pay in cruise fare is the start of what you’ll spend during your time on the ship.

From drinks to wi-fi to specialty restaurants, there are plenty of extras to spend on the ship. And even if you are a frugal sailor, you won’t go any lengthy time without having a few drinks or signing up for the internet package to check in back on shore.

We Priced a Year’s Worth of Cruises to Get a True Cost

With all of these expenses in mind, we dove into what it would cost to live on a cruise ship for an entire year.

chart of cruise prices over the course of a year
We priced out the cost of cruising for an entire year to give you an estimate.

Of course, when it comes to cruising for twelve months, you have an amazing number of options. From different cruise lines to routes, departure ports, ships, and even cabin types, there are a number of things that will have a big impact on what you spend.

That’s why we aimed to keep everything simple. To price what it costs to live aboard the ship, we took a look at sailings aboard a single ship from Carnival, which is known for being affordable. In this case, we priced a year’s worth of sailing for Carnival Celebration in 2025.

Carnival Celebration is a newer ship from the cruise line that sails six, seven, and eight-day itineraries year-round from Miami in 2025. That means you could sail the entire year without having to change ships and always come back to a homeport in the United States.

The routes that the ship sails would take you all across the Caribbean, from Cozumel to Aruba, from Curacao to St. Thomas. Because it is a bigger and (relatively) newer ship in the Carnival fleet, you’d also have tons of amenities and activities on board, as well as a many restaurant options — including Guy’s Burger Joint.

As for the cabin, in our search we opted for a balcony cabin. Yes, you would be able to sail for cheaper in an oceanview or interior cabin, however, we assume that if you are aboard the ship for an extended period of time, having your own balcony is a must.

As well, we assume a couple is sailing with two people to the room. 

Summing up, here’s what we searched for our prices used in this estimate:

  • Cruise Line: Carnival
  • Ship: Carnival Celebration
  • Time Period: January-December 2025
  • Homeport: Miami
  • Room Type: Balcony
  • Number of People: 2

Here’s How Much It Costs to Live on a Cruise Ship

So how much does it cost to sail on the Carnival Horizon for a year? We estimate it to cost around $194,000 for two people, although that number can vary from person to person, depending on their spending habits.

Here’s an overview of where you’ll spend, and we breakdown each expense below:

Cruise Fare:
The largest expense by far is cruise fare. Pricing a balcony room for each of the dozens of cruises the ship sails in 2025, it totaled $106,176. Factored out, that's about $2,040 a week or $8,850 per month. Keep in mind this is for two passengers on the ship and includes the bulk of what you'll spend on a cruise, including your cabin, entertainment, and food.

Port Fees & Taxes: There's no escaping taxes, even on a cruise out at sea. Pricing out our cruises, the taxes and port fees for two people totaled up to $19,279 for the year. That comes out to a little more than $1,600 a month.

Gratuities: One of the perks of being on a cruise is that you are waited on hand and foot. But it doesn't come free. Carnival charges $16.00 per person, per day for automatic gratuities. Over the course of a year, that adds up to $11,648 in tips paid to staff.

Onboard Spending: How can you know what you'll spend on the ship over the course of a year? It's impossible to know for sure, and different people will spend different amounts. For example, do you need to have a drink package every day of the year? Or are you fine drinking water or juice? Are you a gambler? How often do you want to eat at specialty restaurants?

While you can't pinpoint exactly what you'll spend, you can get a good estimate. As a public company, Carnival Corporation (the parent of Carnival Cruise Line) publishes detailed numbers about their business. For instance, in 2023 the company took in $14.1 billion in ticket revenue and $7.5 billion in onboard spending.

So onboard spending across all of its lines was 53% of ticket revenue. For every $1,000 in cruise fare, the average person would spend about $530 on the ship. 

Using this metric, with a total cruise fare of $106,176, the average couple would spend $56,804 onboard during the course of the year. However, it's likely that the figure would be drastically lower as average spending on the ship will likely be less if staying full-time versus splurging for a short vacation.

Total Cost: Adding up tickets, port fees, taxes, gratuities, and onboard spending, the total estimated cost of living on a cruise ship for a year is $193,907 for a couple -- or about $97,000 per person. Without onboard spending, it comes out to $137,103 or $68,552 per person.

Too Expensive? Here's How to Lower the Cost

There's no doubt that it's expensive to live on a cruise ship, but there are ways that you can trim that amount. If you're interested in cutting down the price, here are a few ideas.

Limit Onboard Spending: In our estimate, we used the average spending Carnival Corporation sees across all its cruise lines, which is 53% of the cruise fare.

You don't have to spend near that much. After all, when people cruise they are on vacation and likely willing to spend more freely than they would normally. By limiting the amount spent on board, you can cut thousands off this estimated total.

It's doubtful you can get by without spending at least some money, but our estimate comes out to about $550 per person, per week. Being able to spend less than that should be relatively easy.

Older Ships: Our estimate is aboard the Carnival Celebration. We chose this ship because it is relatively new (meaning you'll have the most amenities for a long-term stay), but it also runs a regular schedule from Miami.

That said, in general newer ships like Celebration are more expensive to sail aboard. If you look for older ships, you should be able to cut the price down.

Be Flexible for Cheaper Trips: For this estimate, we priced out a year's worth of cruises on a single ship. This makes it easy if you're sailing long-term; you simply stay on the ship and don't have to worry about changing ships, or ports.

If you want cheaper options, however, you might find them by being more flexible with changing ships and/or cruise lines when you find a deal. That's where sailing from a port like Miami -- which offers a lot of options -- can be beneficial to your pocketbook.

Avoid Expensive Times of Year: In our search, the sailing aboard the ship varied dramatically due to the time of year. For example, the most expensive cruise aboard Celebration during the year was during the peak summer season and ran $1,599 per person. The least expensive cruise ran $829 per person -- or about 50% as much.

If you have the ability to take a few weeks off here and there during the expensive times of year, it can lead to big savings.

What do you think about the cost of living full-time on a cruise ship for a year? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. What about the VCL Victoria Cruises Majestic ship? Set to sail this fall, it’s a true long term residential ship that will circumnavigate the globe in 27 months from Fort Lauderdale. There is still space available! Price points and discounts vary based on how long you lease your cabin -ranging from 6 month’s minimum up to 37 months and beyond. About 500 cabins have been sold so far- adults only. And it’s all inclusive of internet, most drinks, laundry service, housekeeping of course, room service, etc.. All the standard things you’d find on a cruise ship. See this article that was posted today by one of the future residents!

  2. I would love to see the cruise lines cater to single seniors, they would be surprised how many would travel all the time….I personally would like to do three months, but the cost is just too high! Maybe there is a singles travel cruise group that I can join. Any suggestions out there?

  3. Someone young wrote this article. Carnival is not the line most people would choose to cruise for a long period of time. On the Oceania Marina we met a couple cruising for several months and a charming older man who was cruising for 180 days. The couple had sold their house & were having a new house built, so homeless for a period of time. The older man was single &, I think, rather lonely so the ship life provided him nice social opportunities to talk to people.
    Here’s more info;
    “After record demand for its 2023 world cruise, Oceania Cruises has unveiled the itinerary for its epic global voyage for 2024. The cruise line’s 180-day journey around the world will set sail on January 14, 2024, and visit more than 96 destinations in 34 different countries.

    “Incredibly, last year our 2023 world cruise sold out in just one day, so for 2024 we are providing guests more extended voyage options to deeply and meaningfully rediscover the world,” Howard Sherman, President and CEO of Oceania Cruises, said in a statement shared with Travel + Leisure.

    Oceania’s “Around the World in 180 Days” cruise will depart from Los Angeles and cross more than three oceans and 15 seas as it makes its way around the globe to New York. The journey, on the Oceania Insignia, stops at more than 100 UNESCO World Heritage sites with 24 overnight stays.

    Passengers will journey across the Pacific, through French Polynesia and Australia before continuing onto destinations like Japan and Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. The voyage continues along the shores of India and the Arabian Peninsula before sailing across Europe and completing its route across the Atlantic in New York.

    The 2024 “Around the World” journey starts at $48,499 per person and includes roundtrip first-class airfare and amenities like prepaid gratuities, laundry, and luggage delivery. During your days at sea, you can keep yourself busy with spa appointments, art workshops, the casino, cabaret, and four open-seating restaurants — not to mention the daily afternoon tea service accompanied by a four-string quartet. There is also a fitness center and sports deck, and of course, a saltwater pool with two hot tubs.

  4. As usual, catering mostly to people who have the means to do this without
    It is time for older single seniors on a fixed income to be able to be able
    to cruise on a non party boat.
    A tranquil, voyage, letting go and actually hearing the sounds of Mother Nature,
    not a floating amusement park.
    That would be amazing.

  5. It would only be me living on the ship, cant i spilt that cost that I would have if i had a spouse? so would that be about 60k ?

  6. I think this is not taking into consideration the rewards systems that most cruise operators have which would reduce the fare, even in a balcony cabin. I could never do it since the state of cruiseline wifi is still pathetic!

  7. Another way to do it vs estimated$175k year is to buy in to a condo cabin on the new state of the art Narrative from Sails around world in 3 1/2 years starting at $5000 a month 2 people all inclusive , starting 2024!

  8. What about when someone needs care/hospitalisation etc….. Surely you would need a private medical insurance policy, which would get progressively more expensive as you aged?

  9. Good information but why does long term stay/full time cost is so high. you would think there be discount especially for seniors. Also price for solo why double? I think it sounds like fun how about travel for 3 months first to try out. Sea sick is that a common element to consider for most? People with restricted diet such as vegetarians do they get the meals prepared? Are some classes offered for free? classes such as dancing or crafts part of the activities? Thanks

    • the price for double occupancy is basic international hotel rates. The cruise ship is basically a floating/mobile resort hotel. All cruise lines came onboard with the double occupancy in 2010. before it was fare and half to cruise solo. If you get a good cruise line that you like, most have a loyalty program that after so many cruise points you will be charged fare and a half for solo travel. 3 months would be a good trial to see if you like it, sea sickness is not really a problem as these ship travel well. you can put in for restricted diet before going on a cruise so should not be a problem long term – might be you have to request every week. Main Dinning has a veggie meal every night and the buffet style cafe onboard allows you to select what you want. You can even get Kosher meals. most Classes are free as well as activities. buy the drink package that is suitable to your habits. your excursions will cost you but after a few weeks you may be done with excursions and it is all about enjoying the ship.


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