IS RE­TIR­ING ON A CRUISE SHIP AN OP­TION?

Liv­ing a life of lux­ury on the sea may be cheaper than pay­ing for a flat or town­house in a re­tire­ment vil­lage, writes

CityPress - - Business - An­gelique Ruz­icka

When it comes to de­cid­ing where to live out your golden years, there are sev­eral op­tions avail­able to pen­sion­ers in South Africa. There are re­tire­ment vil­lages, old age homes (pri­vate and gov­ern­ment) and sweep­ing es­tates. You can buy a home, pur­chase life rights to a house in a re­tire­ment com­plex or rent.

Some places have frail-care fa­cil­i­ties, meals, clean­ers and gar­den­ers – but you pay ex­tra for ac­cess to these.

On the other hand, some re­tirees in the US and Europe are swap­ping these con­ven­tional re­tire­ment op­tions for some­thing dif­fer­ent – cruis­ing around the world. While this may sound ex­pen­sive for some, this op­tion may ac­tu­ally make fi­nan­cial sense.

For ex­am­ple, British news­pa­per The Tele­graph re­ported that an­a­lyst Laing-Buis­son found that fees for nurs­ing care in the UK had bro­ken the £1 000 (R16 600) per week bar­rier and had reached £1 200 in some places. A six-month trip around the world from Mi­ami and back on Ocea­nia Cruises costs £30 000.

If the British are pay­ing on av­er­age £4 000 for care a month, fork­ing out a bit ex­tra may start to sound more ap­peal­ing, con­sid­er­ing that a cruise is far more ex­cit­ing than liv­ing out your days in a re­tire­ment home.

While swap­ping re­tire­ment homes for cruise ships is be­com­ing a trend overseas, this hasn’t quite picked up in South Africa yet.

Ross Volk, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of MSC Cruises, says: “We get a large num­ber of se­nior cit­i­zens trav­el­ling with us, but an­a­lyt­ics show an av­er­age of a seven-night cruise.”

With some lux­ury re­tire­ment homes still charg­ing much less than it costs for an Ocea­nia trip (see side­bar), it’s un­der­stand­able that the trend hasn’t quite caught on here yet.

How­ever, when you look at the all-in­clu­sive ben­e­fits that some cruises of­fer, the rate can be­come quite at­trac­tive, says Ge­orge Ar­gy­ropou­los, the CEO of Cruises In­ter­na­tional.

“The price of the cruise in­cludes all meals, en­ter­tain­ment, ac­tiv­i­ties and trans­porta­tion pro­vided by the ship. One meets new peo­ple ev­ery cou­ple of weeks and vis­its beau­ti­ful desti­na­tions. There are ba­sic health­care ser­vices on board at an ad­di­tional cost, which can be cov­ered by a med­i­cal aid. Also, the at­mos­phere on a cruise ship is much more joy­ous than in a re­tire­ment vil­lage,” he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Cruises In­ter­na­tional, staff clean the rooms twice a day – while you could clean and tidy your home your­self, hav­ing to do so when you are a pen­sioner can prove dif­fi­cult, espe­cially if you are not in op­ti­mum health. This is also what’s so at­trac­tive among overseas pen­sion­ers – the fact that they don’t have to pick up af­ter them­selves or pay some­one to do it for them.

END­LESS EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

The cost of ac­com­mo­da­tion is just one part of what re­tirees have to worry about – there are med­i­cal ex­penses, gro­ceries, levies, rates and util­ity bills, which all add up. How­ever, the ben­e­fit of go­ing on a cruise is that you won’t have to bud­get for these things. You also won’t need a car or have to pay to main­tain a gar­den or pool.

Go­ing out for a meal, drinks or even to the movies has also be­come an ex­pen­sive af­fair in South Africa. How­ever, en­ter­tain­ment is of­ten in­cluded in the price of a cruise.

“There are movie theatres, live shows, dis­cos, casi­nos, solo shows at var­i­ous bars, cabaret shows and ma­gi­cians, to name a few ac­tiv­i­ties,” says Ar­gy­ropou­los.

If all this is a bit too much for you, there are other forms of en­ter­tain­ment. “Dur­ing the day, there are in­ter­est­ing lec­tures on the var­i­ous desti­na­tions that will be vis­ited and on many other sub­jects such as pol­i­tics, science, art and ex­plo­ration,” says Ar­gy­ropou­los.

“There is spa and a hair sa­lon, a fully equipped gym with pri­vate train­ers, run­ning tracks, var­i­ous on-deck sports, pre­sen­ta­tions, food and wine tast­ings and demon­stra­tions, shops, arts and crafts, and much more.”

Of course, there are some things that are not in­cluded as part of the pack­age. Depend­ing on the cruise liner, you may still need to pay for bev­er­ages, port taxes and shore ex­cur­sions.

Ar­gy­ropou­los says: “In some cases [Crys­tal Cruises and Se­abourn], all of the above are in­cluded, ex­cept for the port taxes. But, again, these are ne­go­tiable for ex­tended stays. Per­sonal ex­penses such as laun­dry are ex­cluded, but some ships of­fer self-ser­vice laun­dry fa­cil­i­ties.”

ROOM FOR NE­GO­TI­A­TION

The cost of a cruise is by no means fixed, and savvy re­tirees could be able to strike a deal. Ac­cord­ing to MSC Cruises, peo­ple older than 60 get 10% dis­counts on lo­cal cruises. If you choose a bal­cony or suite, you could ben­e­fit from a 15% dis­count.

“This can be com­bined with other pro­mo­tional of­fers, but there could be some terms and con­di­tions or ex­clu­sions,” says MSC Cruises’ Volk.

To cut costs even fur­ther, you can choose to cruise when it’s not a pop­u­lar time – peak sea­son in South Africa is in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary.

“For those re­tirees who do not want to re­tire on a ship, but would still like a cruise, I sug­gest off­sea­son sail­ings, which are usu­ally of­fered be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber and again from Fe­bru­ary to April,” says Ar­gy­ropou­los.

“These are great pe­ri­ods to be at var­i­ous desti­na­tions around the world be­cause they are not crowded with tourists and there are lower fares.”

While cruis­ing for six months or per­ma­nently is still a pipe dream for most pen­sion­ers in South Africa, the re­al­ity is that the cost of re­tire­ment is get­ting more ex­pen­sive. For an af­ford­able re­tire­ment, it’s es­sen­tial to weigh up the to­tal costs of ac­com­mo­da­tion and other ex­penses.

For ex­am­ple, if rent­ing is the only op­tion for you in re­tire­ment, bear in mind that there are other costs such as levies, food and med­i­cal ex­penses to con­sider.

While con­sult­ing the physi­cian isn’t free on a cruise, there are a lot of things that are in­cluded in the price that wouldn’t be part of the pack­age at most re­tire­ment homes. Con­sider the op­tions and, if cruis­ing works out cheaper, there are few bet­ter ways to en­joy your golden years.

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