Could you live on a cruise ship?

In recent weeks, a seven-day cruise of the Caribbean, leaving from Miami (and returning to Miami), has been selling for about $600 per person. That's for an inside cabin on a big ship, including all meals and snacks, soft drinks, and considerable entertainment facilities (like a gym, swimming pool, evening shows, daytime lectures, and the like).

The resulting cost comes to about $30,0000 a year. And theoretically, if you were to book all 52 weeks a year on that ship, staying on board when the vessel returned to Miami, and embarking on the very next and all succeeding cruises, you could reduce your total living expenses for that year to about $30,000.

Several years ago, the travel industry was titillated with news of an elderly woman who allegedly did just that. She booked all 52 weeks aboard one such ship, and publicly announced that she was having a fine time. She became well known to all the crew, who showered her with extra goodies, and her lifestyle was publicized by the president of the cruise line in question, who boasted about his low prices and what they meant for people willing to live almost permanently aboard one of his vessels.

Last month, the influential Travel Weekly magazine brought up, once more, the possibility of saving money by simply living aboard a cruise ship. It listed those cities in the United States whose cost of living was higher than the national average and theorized that there were a number of expensive municipalities where you could actually save money by giving up your normal residence and going to live on a cruise ship.

That estimate takes on added meaning when you consider the sky-high cost, for elderly Americans, of living in a senior residence or home for assisted living. Many of those facilities charge as much as $60,000 a year. And thus the question arises: Why don't more elderly people simply make the decision to live permanently on board today's mass-volume, inexpensive cruise ships?

Would the experience be a pleasant one? Seniors making that decision would enjoy as many as five excellent meals a day of a quality far exceeding what's served in homes for assisted living. They would also enjoy almost endless snacks and soft drinks, evening entertainment, daytime lectures, gyms and swimming pools, a library. They would meet a different group of people each week. Every such week, when the ship returned to Miami, they would simply stay in their cabin and await the next departure.

Now the people making that claim are obviously forgetting a few conditions. For one thing, the $600 per week price is obviously for each of two persons traveling together, and goes higher for single persons staying alone in a cabin. But an astute travel agent well connected to a particular cruise line may possibly be able to persuade the ship to waive the single supplement. And then, too, there is the need to add a tip to the basic cost of the trip.

But generally speaking, it can be argued that the experience of living continuously on a cruise ship is not only cheaper but compares quite well with the atmosphere in a home for assisted living,

Have you a relative or elderly friend who is considering life in a senior residence or home for assisted living? Should you perhaps alert them to a glamorous alternative?

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