I admit I’ve recently gotten hooked on watching all of the different “tiny house” living shows on TV. If you’re not familiar with the tiny house movement, it’s about downsizing into houses that are under 500 square feet in total size. I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t live in a tiny house with my husband. Someone wouldn’t survive. Just the two of us, and two cats, would need a minimum of 1,000 square feet, if not more.
Then I got to thinking: we do just fine in a 185 square foot cruise ship stateroom. What’s the difference? We’ve all probably seen the articles that periodically pop up about how living on a cruise ship is cheaper than a retirement home. Now AOL has a recent article about how cruising year-round might be cheaper than the cost of living in some major cities. If this is true, how can I sell full-time living to my clients, especially any clients into this whole tiny house cult?
It’s not the size, it’s the space that matters
I figured out one of the benefits of cruise ship living is the lack of cooking facilities in your stateroom. These tiny houses I’m seeing on the shows are giving up a quarter of the space to a kitchen and dining area. On a cruise ship, you can eat in your room, but you never have to do any of the cooking. For those people out there that actually like cooking, this might be a drawback.
Also, the cruise ship designers have become very adept over the years at being creative. My recent voyages on Solstice class ships with Celebrity, as well as on Quantum of the Seas and the Oasis class ships with Royal Caribbean, has given me a chance to see a lot of the new design enhancements. The cruise lines have ingeniously figured out how to create all kinds of storage space without increasing the actual size of the staterooms. It is much easier these days to take 2-4 weeks worth of clothes on a cruise, and actually have adequate space to unpack and store everything. Books no longer have to take up any space at all with the invention of the e-reader. Not to mention many cruise ships have small libraries onboard as well.
Finally, you might have a 185 square foot stateroom, but your “living space” is actually much larger than that when you factor in the main dining room, buffet, entertainment venues, Internet Cafe, ship’s library, etc. So admittedly it’s not true tiny house living, but close enough for me.
Is it really cost effective?
This might be where it gets a little trickier. When doing to the comparison to retirement home living, I think we can make a solid case for living onboard a cruise ship. Most retirements homes start from $200 per day per person average, and go up from there. You can definitely find competitive cruise ship pricing that comes in less than $200 per day per person. Some cruise lines even offer discounted fares for back-to-back sailings, so when you’re looking at back-to-back-to-back ad nauseum, the savings could be very real.
However, I wonder about AOL’s stance that cruising full time may be cheaper than the cost of living in some major cities. I don’t doubt their math on the cost of living in some of the cities they cite (Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, etc.). But I do question their math on the cruise pricing. Quoting CruiseWatch.com, they say “Currently, the best available prices for the cheapest cruises in our database average around $313.25 per week, which represents a significant savings…” I presume that’s per person, but still $313 per week per person average for cruising? I’m going to have to assume that’s the cheapest interior stateroom on the ship, and we’re probably not even talking most of the mass market cruise lines.
Yes, if you can cruise for $313 per person per week, it’s going to beat the cost of living on land. Realistically, it’ll cost more. If you’re living on a cruise ship, do you really want an interior stateroom all 52 weeks? My guess is that most people will want an ocean view, if not a balcony, at the bare minimum. Can you live with the same itinerary repeated every week, or every other week (like alternating between Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries), or will you want to spice it up by hopping ships and changing itineraries occasionally? If so there’s going to be added costs, unless the ships go out of the same port, which likely means they’ll be running similar itineraries (so why bother?).
In the long run, this might not be a great marketing strategy to try and talk clients into moving onto a cruise ship full time, unless they are retirees considering a retirement home. Your younger clients that have to work for a living (to pay to live onboard a ship) will need to work. And unless they work on the ship, which I don’t necessarily advocate for everyone, they’ll need a land-based job.
What do you think? Should we try to convert the “tiny living” folks to full time cruising? Or just stick to letting them cruise on vacation for one or two weeks a year instead?
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.