Jeff Farschman, 72, is a serial cruiser from Delaware who spends months at sea in retirement.
For nearly two decades, Jeff Farschman, 72, has spent his golden years like many other adventurous retirees – enjoying cruises to exotic ports.
But unlike many of his cruise companions, Farschman basically lives at sea. He spends months traveling the world’s oceans and waterways – half a year, if not more. Although he still keeps a physical home close to where he grew up in Delaware, Farschman is now part of a growing group of elderly people who are literally “retiring” on cruise ships.
“Apart from the pandemic, I cruised seven to eight months a year,” Farschman said. “I’m a world traveler and explorer, and the cruise literally allowed me to see the whole planet.”
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Life on a ship was not exactly what Farschman had in mind when he first started cruising. But former Vice President Lockheed Martin got stuck on a conventional Caribbean cruise when Hurricane John hit in 2004.
“I just extended and extended the time on the ship because the hurricane destroyed my original winter plans,” he explained. “I ended up completing six trips in a row.”
Nearly 20 years later, Farschman is now organizing his life around his time at sea – keeping his periods on land as short as possible. However, like any other cruiser, “retirees-at sea” returned to dry land during much of the coronavirus pandemic, when U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closed all cruises from U.S. ports.
For Farschman, this meant 19 months – including winter – without cruising, his longest period on the coast in nearly two decades. But after the main lines established clear Covid health protocols, serial cruisers were the first to return to the ship. Although Covid epidemics have been reported since then – including significant cases in San Francisco and Seattle – people like Farschman say they feel safe during the cruise.
Cruising’s clear call to retirees
Holland America Line offers “big” trips that take months. Here, the Westerdam liner sails in Alaska.
Holland America Line
Although there are no hard and fast figures, retirement on a cruise ship is becoming more and more popular – despite industry unrest caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Serial cruiser and author Lee Wachtstetter, for example, wrote highly read memoirs about life on cruise ships 12 years after her husband died. Farschman, meanwhile, is recording his maritime ventures on his blog – with the help of WiFi on board, which has “become much more reliable, though unfortunately not necessarily more affordable”, he said.
Upgraded connectivity has also allowed semi-retired cruisers to be sea-based while still operating. “WiFi on most vessels is now strong enough for Zooms,” said Tara Bruce, advisor and creative brand manager at Goodwin Investment Advisory Services, a financial advisory firm in Woodstock, Georgia that helps people retreat at sea.
In many ways, retirement on a cruise makes a lot of sense. Stereotypes aside, cruising has always attracted older travelers. In fact, according to The International Cruise Lines Association, one-third of the 28.5 million people who embarked on the 2018 cruise, was over 60 years old – and more than 50% were over 50 years old.
Moreover, cruise ships offer many essential elements that seniors need to advance: organized activities, a decent level of medical care, and, most importantly, a built-in community of like-minded travelers.
Retirement on a cruise ship may also prove economically justified.
Cheaper than life with help
With a cruise, you cover all your living expenses – food, accommodation, entertainment – in one place, Bruce said. Although luxury boat prices range up to $ 250 per day, “we’ve seen people reduce costs to $ 89 per day, which is far cheaper than assisted care or other types of elderly life.”
Recurring cruisers such as Farschman are also eligible for on-board loans for premium meals, drinks, spas and other activities that can easily reach “hundreds of dollars per trip,” Farschman said.
The rise of the “retirement at sea” movement has been aided by the recent shift towards longer, more complex “world cruises” or “big cruises” that can last 50 days or more at a time.
Holland America, for example, offers a 71-day Grand Africa Voyage travel plan with stops at 25 ports in 21 countries along with Grand World Voyage which visits 61 ports in 30 countries, for a total of 127 days at sea.
“They usually consist of several long-term segments in each port,” explained Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruisecritic.com. With careful planning – often reserved for shorter “connector” cruises – “large” itineraries can keep cruisers at sea almost indefinitely.
Holland America’s back-to-back so-called Collector Voyages not only help retirees avoid repeating calls to the port, but also include 10% and 15% discounts, according to Eric Elvejord, Holland America’s public relations director.
The World, described as “the largest private residential yacht on Earth”, comes to Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera.
World Agency Latvini rep
Although several cruise lines are specifically targeted at retirees – Oceania, for its part, had the Snowbird in Residence program, which has since been canceled – specialist agents are waking up with this lucrative demographics.
CruiseWeb, headquartered in Tysons, Virginia, has launched the Senior Living at Sea program, which builds retirement-specific itineraries and helps clients manage their lives back on shore. In addition to cabin reservations, CruiseWeb handles issues such as shore transfers, boat transfers, visas and insurance.
“We have clients who have been on board for more than a year,” said CruiseWeb Senior Marketing and Operations Coordinator Michael Jones. “They have usually reduced their permanent stay at home, and many even rent it out while on board,” to cover the cost of the cruise, he added.
Perhaps the most prominent component of the retreat movement at sea is the arrival of fully residential ships, such as the 20-year-old The World and MV Narrative who will soon debut, from Storylines. The first includes 165 individually owned boat residences, while the far larger MV Narrative – which is due out to sea in 2023 – offers 547 one- to four-bedroom apartments.
Owning at sea is not cheap: MV Narrative units cost between $ 1 million and $ 8 million, while a limited number of one-year to two-year leases start at $ 400,000.
“There are also monthly or annual expenses to cover things like fuel, port taxes, taxes and household maintenance,” McDaniel explained. “It’s like living in an apartment – which happens to be on the sea.”
– Written by David Kaufman. Kaufman is a freelance writer.