Come Sail Away
When we talk elder planning, one of the hot topics is the cripplingly high cost of long-term care. Depending on which site you use, the national average for long-term care is just under $10,000/month. In Philadelphia, the number is creeping closer to $11,500/month. And what do you get for your $11k? A quiet room on a hallway of quiet rooms on the outskirts of a bucolic suburb. Your views include grass. And trees. And more grass!
An article on the BBC’s website last week (read here) proposes a different solution – one that’s getting more popular. Getting on a cruise ship and then not getting off. How you go about this depends on a couple of things, most notably your health. Interested? Read on..
The first, most direct method involves making an arrangement with the cruise line. A travel agent in California retold the story of helping an octogenarian make the necessary arrangements, and noted that the cruise lines weren’t too keen on the idea but eventually agreed. They viewed the long-term passenger as someone who wouldn’t be drinking too much, or gambling too much, or generally contributing to their bottom line too much outside of what she was paying for the room. Still, the 80-year-old booked a private room, long-term, for $300 a day. Across an average month, that’s only $9,000 – or about $2,000 less than a month in a nursing home. And that’s with ocean views, a variety of ports and all the shrimp cocktails you can eat!
The second method mentioned was keeping it entirely within the cruiseliner’s schedule. Cruise lines like Holland America offer multi-month tours which can provide a shorter-term escape in the vein of having a second, warm-weather home – with the bonus of the cruise lines planning (and therefore, approving) the longer voyage. For an idea of this, Holland America’s 113-day Grand World Voyage takes off January 4th of 2018 and returns on April 28th. That’s four months, and the total cost is around $28,500 – or just over $7,000/month. Long enough to get your feel for the experience but without a long-term agreement, in case you never quite get your sea legs.
While the lack of “splurge” revenue is a contributing reason, the article reiterates that the cruiselines’ primary objection to long-term, older guests stems from an older population’s more frequent need for heightened, specialized medical care that exceeds the capabilities of the ship.
Which brings the author to a third option – a permanent residence on a ship specially built for long-term guests. But this is costly. Studio spaces on these ships start just north of $1.5 million, but with the spaces comes a vote in the ship’s destination (around-the-world circuits typically take three years, and include 100+ port stops annually) and amenities including more robust medical facilities, on-ship grocery store, theaters and tennis courts.
Aside from the health care issue, there are a few caveats when selecting a boat as your long-term care alternative. First and foremost, your long term care insurance isn’t going to send a check to Carnival Cruise Lines, no matter how hard you plead. Second is the difficulty of seeing family. While family never seems to visit enough, whether you’re at home or in a home, putting yourself on a boat in the middle of the Pacific all but eliminates visits. A final concern is your own tolerance. The average cabin size on a cruise ship is approximately 170 sq.ft. – or right at the size of an average home’s master bedroom. How long could you spend in your bedroom before going stir crazy? They don’t call it cabin fever for nothing…
Still, if you’re reasonably healthy, don’t mind cramped conditions and aren’t particularly prone to sea sickness, the deck of a cruise ship offers infinitely better views than a window pointed at some trees in Dresher…