Seniors Should Consider Cruise Ships Rather than Nursing Homes

About 2 years ago my wife and I were on a cruise through the western Mediterranean aboard a Princess liner.  At dinner we noticed a senior lady sitting alone along the rail of the grand stairway in the main dining room. I also noticed that all the staff, ships officers, waiters, busboys, etc., all seemed very familiar with this lady. I asked our waiter who the lady was, expecting to be told that she owned the line, but he said he only knew that she had been on board for the last four cruises, back to back.

As we left the dining room one evening I caught her eye and stopped to say hello. We chatted and I said, “I understand you’ve been on this ship for the last four cruises.” She replied, “Yes, that’s true.” I stated, “I don’t understand” and she replied, without a pause, “It’s cheaper than a nursing home. So, there will be no nursing home in my future. When I get old and feeble, I am going to get on a Princess Cruise Ship. The average cost for a nursing home is $300 per day. I have checked on reservations at Princess and I can get a long term discount and senior discount price of $135 per day. That leaves $65 a day for:

  1. Gratuities, which will only be $10 per day.
  2. I will have as many as 10 meals a day if I can waddle to the restaurant, or I can have room service (which means I can have breakfast in bed every day of the week).
  3. Princess has as many as three swimming pools, a workout room, free washers and dryers, and shows every night
  4. They have free toothpaste and razors, and free soap and shampoo.
  5. They will even treat you like a customer, not a patient.
  6. An extra $5 worth of tips will have the entire staff scrambling to help you.
  7. I will get to meet new people every 7 or 14 days.
  8. T.V. broken? Light bulb need changing? Need to have the mattress replaced? No Problem! They will fix everything and apologize for your inconvenience.
  9. Clean sheets and towels every day, and you don’t even have to ask for them.

Now hold on for the best! Do you want to see South America, the Panama Canal, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, or name where you want to go? Princess will have a ship ready to go. So don’t look for me in a nursing home, just call shore to ship.

PS. And don’t forget, when you die, they just dump you over the side at no charge.”

The joke above is from , in honor of April Fools Day!  However, as in many jokes, there is some truth to it.

A Cruise Ship is Cheaper than a Nursing Home

For the past 11 years, Genworth has surveyed long term care costs across the country. In their most recent survey, the 2014 Cost of Care Survey, 14,800 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day health facilities and home care providers in 440 regions nationwide were surveyed, providing a comprehensive report. These are some of the findings for the Northern Virginia area and the Fredericksburg/Richmond area:

  • The median cost of a private nursing home room in the Northern Virginia area has increased 8% to $112,968 a year ($120,709 a year in a recent NY Life Study). In the Fredericksburg/Richmond area, the cost increased 3% to $91,250.
  • The median cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home in the Northern Virginia area has increased 7% to $107,128 a year.  In the Fredericksburg/Richmond area, the cost increased 3% to $79,388.
  • For assisted living facilities, the median rate increase was 5% to $48,930 a year in the Northern Virginia area. In the Fredericksburg/Richmond area, the cost increased 5% to $48,030.
  • The median salary for the services of a home health aide was $45,760 a year in the Northern Virginia area. In the Fredericksburg/Richmond area, the median salary increased 1% to $41,184.
  • The cost of adult day care, which provides support services in a protective setting during part of the day, increased 6% to $24,960 a year in Northern Virginia. In the Fredericksburg/Richmond area, the cost decreased 1% to $41,184.

As you can tell from the survey data, long term care can have a major financial impact. And with a cruise costing $70-$200 on average per night for seniors, depending on accommodations, cruises are, in fact, a lot cheaper than nursing homes in the Metro DC area.

So why not live on a cruise ship?

  • You can’t bring more much more than a suitcase worth of items on a cruise, so forget about packing your favorite possessions, such as your favorite recliner or a framed family portrait bigger than an 8 x 10, if they don’t fit in your suitcase.
  • Passengers must disembark when the cruise ends, and make arrangements while the ship is at port. Keeping these temporary arrangements month after month would be difficult for most people.
  • Seniors who move to assisted living facilities and nursing homes require help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, toileting, dressing, and grooming. You may be able to get breakfast in bed on a cruise ship, but the staff is most likely not prepared or able to help you dress or bathe.
  • Many seniors have a high-risk of falling because of mobility concerns. A cruise ship certainly wouldn’t be the best place to live for such a person, as even the largest ships can list violently in bad weather.
  • For those who might want to stay close to family and friends, a cruise ship would not be a good option, as most of your loved ones will not be able to visit on a regular basis.
  • On-board medical personnel likely won’t include geriatric specialists, and they probably won’t be trained to assist in major emergencies. If an emergency does arise that they’re not ready for and you can’t wait till the ship reaches the next port, your ambulance ride is almost certainly going to be an airlift, which can be catastrophically expensive and logistically problematic.
  • If a passenger or passengers have a contagious illness in a confined environment like a cruise ship – an emergency might be more of a likelihood than we care to consider.

 Planning for Long-Term Care

As you can see, cruise ships aren’t an ideal place for seniors to live, but may be nice for a vacation. Seventy percent of the population will need long-term care in the future. With an average cost of a nursing home in Metro DC is $12-$14,000 a month—an amount that can be devastating to most families—it is definitely prudent to plan ahead. The Living Trust PlusTM maintains much of the flexibility of a revocable living trust, but protects your assets from the expenses and difficulties of probate PLUS the expenses of long-term care while you’re alive, PLUS lawsuits and a multitude of other financial risks during your lifetime. Read more on our website.

Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Call one of our offices to make an appointment for a consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301- 519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.


  1. Stew Engel says


    Below is the URL to a story about a woman who has lived on a ship for 7 years. I was her tablemate on 4 cruises in 2013. They put the ship in dry dock for 2 weeks every 2 years for rehab & upgrades & I asked her what she did for those weeks. She replied that she went on a cruise.

    But your article is correct. A ship is not a good place for anybody who needs assistance for everyday living, & it’s not cheap either.

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