Is Permanently Living on a Cruise Ship Cheaper Than Your Mortgage?

Have you ever thought about living on a cruise ship? One retired couple is leading this money-saving trend, but is it actually cheaper than paying off a mortgage?

By now, everyone has seen #VanLife posts about how much money you can save living out of a van, but some people are taking the nomadic lifestyle to the next level.

Imagine living on board a ship full-time, allowing you to travel without a mortgage weighing you down. Well, one retired couple is doing just that. In an interview with CNN, former Seattle residents Angelyn and Richard Burk revealed they’ve been residing on cruise ships since leaving behind their home base in May 2021. The retired couple left behind their jobs and home to live out their retirement on cruise ships, and Angelyn Burk, a former accountant, said it’s cheaper than their home mortgage.

Can you live on a cruise ship?

According to Angelyn Burk, you can—and her cruise advice includes some notable tips. Angelyn and Richard Burk are in their 50s and retired. While it may be easier for them to leave behind a permanent home, if #VanLife has proven anything, it’s that anyone can live a nomadic lifestyle as long as they can work remotely, have access to Wi-Fi and adjust to on-the-go existence without straying from their budget.

Speaking with Australian-based 7News, Angelyn detailed her and her husband’s method of meticulous cruise planning. Although they typically schedule cruises back-to-back, the Burks spend short spurts on land visiting with family and friends when a cruise departure date doesn’t align with the previous cruise’s end date. But most of the time, the pair consistently stays aboard a cruise ship and plans ship-to-ship trips. The Burks also take advantage of cruise loyalty programs, which offer significant discounts for frequent travelers, making it all the more affordable.

While loyalty programs help make cruise ship living possible, Angelyn Burk also gave some other cruise tips that help her and her husband keep costs down. These include staying in the same geographical area for as long as possible to save on transportation costs and avoiding extraneous purchases and gambling in cruise ship casinos.

How much does it cost to live on a cruise ship?

Mature couple on lounge chair on cruise shipDavid Sacks/Getty Images

For the Burks, the daily cost fits well within their retirement budget. “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,” she told CNN. “When planning out cruises, I try to stay on the same ship as long as possible, as long as it is cost-effective,” Angelyn added. The couple has a spending buffer of up to $135 per day if needed, but most days cost much less.

In total, it costs the Burks $32,485 a year for their transportation costs, lodging and food, according to the figures they provided CNN in April 2022. Depending on where you live and how much your mortgage is, this figure could be significantly cheaper than what you’re paying for a brick-and-mortar living space.

For the Burks, who previously lived in Seattle, it worked out well. Per the real estate website Zillow, the average cost of a home in Seattle in 2023 is $831,102, and competitor real estate website also lists the median home price at a similar value of around $794,000. Considering these figures, a 30-year fixed mortgage with a 20% down payment in Seattle at the average rate of 6.86% comes to about $4,000 per month (or about $129 per day). And that price is only the mortgage cost. Angelyn and Richard have food included in their $89 daily average.

Examining the average mortgage cost in the United States, where you live, determines whether living on a cruise ship is cheaper. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the median cost homeowners pay for their mortgage in the United States is about $1,672 per month, including HOA fees, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Meanwhile, the average U.S. mortgage payment is $3,048 on a 30-year fixed mortgage, but the financial gurus at Business Insider note this is skewed by data from the highest and lowest mortgages in the United States, which makes the average a somewhat unreliable figure for the typical cost of the population.

The easiest way to determine if living on a cruise ship is a financially feasible option is to crunch numbers to compare the daily cost of your mortgage, food and transportation to the cost of living on cruise ships. For the Burks, it’s clear—the couple is actually saving money.

Are you thinking about living this out-of-the-box nomadic lifestyle? Familiarize yourself with some hidden cruise features, like luxe suites and secret pools. Even if you don’t want to drop everything to live on cruise ships, you may want to spend your next vacation on one. If so, here are the best cruise lines to keep on your radar.


Cianna Garrison
Cianna Garrison is a California-based freelance writer who covers everything from food news to tech to lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Elite Daily, How-To Geek, Review Geek, Truity and other publications. She received her Bachelor's degree from Arizona State University in 2018. In her free time, she likes to read, write fiction and poetry, and perform in live theater.