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Couple spends retirement on cruise ships because it's cheaper than a mortgage: 'Life is too short'

'It's like you're at home. We have a magnificent living room, an absolutely gorgeous dining room and a hot tub that never needs maintenance.'

Couple spends retirement on cruise ships because it's cheaper than a mortgage: 'Life is too short'
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/jgroup

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 23, 2022. It has since been updated.

A Seattle couple is living out the retirement of their dreams, exploring the world by sea, hopping from one cruise ship to the next. Angelyn Burk and her husband, Richard, decided to live the golden years of their lives aboard cruise ships after realizing it would be cheaper than continuing to live on land. It all began in 2021 when Burk—a retired accountant—made the stunning discovery while crunching some numbers one evening. "This is how I want to retire. Life is too short," she thought at that moment, the 53-year-old told The Washington Post.


Burk, who has been in love with the open sea since she first embarked on a cruise in 1992, turned to her husband and said: "We can do this. Let's make cruise ships our home." To her delight, Richard was immediately on board with the idea. "We really enjoy cruising and being able to visit different parts of the world without hopping on an airplane," Burk told 7Life. After some extensive research online, the couple determined that, on average, they could string together voyages on various cruise ships for considerably less money than their collective cost of living on land.


"We calculated that we can probably live reasonably well with about $100 a day together, with what we've saved up," said 51-year-old Richard, who retired as a computer programmer in April 2022. "It became a no-brainer," said Burk. Speaking to CNN, she revealed: "Currently, this year, we have secured 86 cruise days with an average all-in cost of $89/day for both of us. Which includes room, food, entertainment, transportation, gratuity, port fees and taxes. This is well within our retirement budget." Burk explained that this is in part made possible by the deep discounts they get on future sailings through loyalty programs.


The Burks shared that they've grown frustrated by the mounting costs of living on land, which—between the mortgage, internet, electricity, property taxes, insurance and other costs associated with owning their Seattle home—was coming up to more than $3,500 per month. Other expenses of everyday life, including food, transportation and entertainment, came on top of that. On a cruise ship, however, "there is no extra. The price is the price," Burk said. Therefore, spending their retirement at sea would be "so much cheaper."


"By living on a cruise ship, you gain your room, you gain board, you've got entertainment that's built-in and you're going to different locations," Richard echoed. "It's hard to beat that." Plus, there's another obvious advantage to moving aboard a floating home for their retirement, Burk said. "Where else can you have your resort take you to different countries while relaxing by the pool or sleeping in a comfortable bed?" she asked. The couple tested the waters of their retirement plan over the past year, starting with a nine-day Carnival cruise from Miami to the Bahamas in November, followed by a seven-day Carnival cruise from Long Beach, California, to the Mexican Riviera in March, and a 21-day Holland America cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal, ending in Vancouver in mid-May.

With their next cruise set for July, the Burks are staying with family in Seattle, awaiting the birth of their fourth grandchild and their son's graduation from the University of Washington in June. For the next stretch of their cruise retirement, they plan to embark on back-to-back cruises for about nine months, with some brief land breaks in between. When on land, the Burks will be nomads of sorts, visiting family and friends and staying in Airbnb and hotels, which they will mostly pay for with credit card points. The couple said they aren't fazed by some potential drawbacks of living on a ship, such as seasickness—which they are immune to—or the prospect of living in a tiny cabin. On their last few cruises, they each only brought one backpack. 


"For us, it's more freeing if we just have a backpack, so we don't have to lug around much," said Burk. "I'm not going to say that this is an easy way of life," she added, explaining that finding good deals and scheduling cruises can sometimes feel like a full-time job. "We're constantly going online and looking at the different cruise lines to see what cruises they have available and what is the least expensive way to travel someplace," said Richard. He added that they usually prefer to book Holland America cruises because of the music and entertainment offerings. "We don't really care where we're traveling."


"It's like you're at home," Burk said. "We have a magnificent living room, an absolutely gorgeous dining room and a hot tub that never needs maintenance." She also pointed out that living on the water means you don't hear "ambulances, sirens, screaming and yelling. It's just a calmer existence." As long as it remains financially feasible, the Burks intend to continue cruising—potentially forever. "That would be our dream," Richard said.

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