Retiring a Cruise Ship for Retirees

To Mariners and other readers, I have to start somewhere and I am sure someone will put me on the right track for what is not a new idea. I have a deep water sheltered anchorage in Fiji and a specific demographic in mind as a customer base. The intention is provide high quality accommodation for the under represented demographic of the over 50’s but with the additional benefit of high end medical care. Hotels and purpose built retirement homes offer many of the same benefits but are expensive to build, require a construction programme of some two years and are unreasonable expensive for the occupants due to obscene profit taking by the developers. There are some 30 Cruise Ships for sale and by locating the cruise ship in sheltered waters behind a pristine coral reef, retains all the elements which make cruising attractive without the disadvantages of sea sickness, ocean storms and high fuel costs. There are several precedents, including the Queen Mary and I could display spreadsheets, anchorage designs, access facilities etc but the questions are should I charter, joint venture, mortgage, or go for the standard Fijian solution and just build another Hotel?

Interesting question. I’m not sure the Queen Mary is a good example but investors tried to do this same exact thing with the RMS Queen Elizabeth (and failed).

How big is your bank account?

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Without fuel costs, harbour fees and build costs occupation rents should be lower than a Cruising ship. A similar hotel or retirement home build cost would run at over $140m for 700 bedrooms, more than twice the average 700 cabin 15 year old ship cost. Occupancy rates in retirement homes exceed 90%, occupation lease costs exceed $250,000 per room plus a day rate of some $250. So if my capex works out at $70m and my Opex at $40m my return in investment would be 30%, according to my spreadsheet.

So to answer your question, my bank account would need help, but, the ROI would be better than either of the 3 alternatives of cruising, hotel or retirement home construction.

Hospital ship? Not very luxurious, but might be what you need?

I have heard about seniors who are “perpetual cruisers” because living on a cruise ship is much cheaper than living in a nursing home, and cruise ships provide basic medical care.

That is exactly the idea but with a higher level of medical care than usually found on board.
Indeed the developer was talking about “to end of life care.” He is looking at an onshore Hospice care for those that choose it.

Not quite a hospital ship but when catering exclusively for the over 50’s medical needs are higher and when they need medical attention it needs be comprehensive.

You’re basically considering a floating senior living facility if I have it right? It gets messy and expensive once they start getting too infirm. In real life they end up getting tossed back and forth between the hospital and the nursing home because because neither wants them as a patient. Geriatric care is a complicated and expensive business, more so if you care about quality over profit. What are you just going to have them all sign DNR/DNIs then you won’t have to worry too much about medical care?

That is the idea, this is an extract from my proposal to the Developer. If occupancy runs at 90% it is more than affordable for the inner cabins and although the outer cabins will be at a premium we are still looking at under $200, rates much less than a retirement home, nursing home or hotel. But wait there is more as the adverts say, no sea sickness, no storms, no fuel bills (land based services connections) no harbour fees, lower wages, the minimum wage in Fiji is $2 ( I priced on $10) lower food costs (locally grown food) lower taxes, plenty of sun and entertainment

Medical facilities
The intention of this venture is provide high quality accommodation for an under represented demographic but with and additional benefit of medical care to the Retirement Flotel’s residents, ship’s crew, short term visitors and local villages. Given the demographic of a retirement home, impatient numbers will be higher than a younger population particularly if, as we hope, we extend care to end of life with the addition of a hospice facility either aboard or onshore.

It will be impossible to provide care to cover all medical conditions but by providing a consultation service and screening facilities medical conditions can be identified early and advice given for treatment options on board, if possible, or otherwise overseas without placing any additional burden on the National Health facilities available in Fiji.

Depending on the size of the chosen ship an equivalent population, could be around 1200 for whom we will provide as much care as is possible given the limitations. With an approximate consultation rate of 2% patient consultations will be around 20 per day and an admission rates of 2 or 3 per day for impatient care. The medical facilities aboard would normally be sufficient to treat emergency and limited impatient care but will need to be extended for this demographic with additional medical staff and extended medical facilities.

By including an MRI scanner, at approximately $2.5 m the health of each occupant can be monitored and requirements for offshore treatment predicted. This facility would become invaluable for the health professionals on board, all occupants and a resource to supplement Fijian health care if required.

Continuing the health care theme nutritious food and access to regular exercise is essential. Menus prepared by nutritional experts will be cooked by a head chef experienced in plant based diets using the abundant locally grown fruit and vegetables. Traditional and alternative health care options are also proposed and facilities or advice will be available for the following:-

Fiji is far too remote for the American market. Too far away to be marketable to the American mindset. Too far from family and friends in terms of both travel time and airfare.

This floating retirement home/nursing home/hospice care concept might work in the Bahamas, Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Bay Islands of Honduras, or the DR. Those places are more familiar to Americans. Short direct flights at reasonable cost for family and friends. Close enough access to Medicare funded hospital treatment in the US or Puerto Rico.

Another thing that might work would be a dental care, cosmetic surgery, recovery resort type of concept. That would work best as a theme cruise to/from the US, e.g., Fort Lauderdale to Bahamas. It would probably have to be in partnership with a good US based medical group to make it marketable.


If your ROI is 30%, how come nobody else has done it yet ?

You can build and sell a land resort in stages. You’ll have to fill all the ship quickly.

An anchored ship is massively more expensive and difficult to maintain and run than a land building.

It will be massively expensive to import the stuff you need into Fiji.

Cruise ships dont pay tax. A permanently anchored ship will.

A cruise ship cabin is one thing for 1-2 weeks. Quite different for the rest of your life.

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This is a terrible idea


I’m sure what he has in mind was the ship becoming part of the land (possibly fill in around it) with no maintenance.

I prefer my plan to install a small old US flag ferry in Thailand to offer USCG approved STCW courses for American mariners. I figure: build it and they will come.

Just curious… what do you plan to do with the several thousand gallons of black water and toxic medical waste produced daily from a stationary “hospice” ship in near shore pristine Fijian waters.

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OP: “I have a deep water sheltered anchorage in Fiji”

The UNITED STATES is available. . . .


Since foreign built ships can be registered under US flag, as long as they are not used in US domestic trade, there is one ready and waiting for you in Thailand right now:
But you’ll have to hurry, she is due to be sent to the scrappers soon.

Here is a video taken on board in 2015:

Sorry, text in Norwegian.

PS> Yes she need some tender loving care to be usable, but cheap labour in Asia will fix that.

It would need to be a small barge like vessel in good condition in order for the maintenance, haul outs, and inspections to be practical. A 50 meter flat deck barge with no machinery would be good. That could be hauled out on the beach with air bags.

Just mount a lifeboat and davit from a scrap ship. Same with a rescue boat. Two or three containers and an old fire truck on one end for firefighting. The GDMSS station, radars, ECDIS, and so on could be containerized and just driven aboard on trailers for those classes. No need to need to buy anything new. Stuff off scrap ships in Asia would be newer than anything on the typical 50 year old US ship. Just rig an awning on deck with a few picnic tables to hold classes. A lot of USCG approved schools in the US have a lot less equipment than that.

A small tug would also be need to tow and push the barge during TOAR classes.

They have something like that (partially) over in Singapore at Loyang. It looks like at anchor a short distance off shore. Not sure there are classrooms on that or a facility close ashore but it looks well fitted out for the “water sports” aspects. Does not appear to address your idea of one-stop shop for re-validation / refresher training. Certainly not USCG approved. Apparently makes money for someone though.

If the school paid all expenses would USCG send inspectors to do a site evaluation (and annual or biannual audits) of a foreign located school or is there something else in the statutes that forbids it. Assume the company is US owned and HQ based in US and is a good corporate citizen / pays taxes etc. Would they approve it then?

The barge in Thailand would have to be owned by a school with US headquarters. There are people in the US running approved schools on their front porch and in a makeshift classroom in the hay loft. No equipment beyond a few books, a couple old computers, and some filing cabinets. I assume the audits would be done at this sort of US headquarters.

I don’t think the USCG inspects those rented rooms in Las Vegas that some schools use. Why would they need to audit a US barge in Thailand? At least so long as it has a current COI and ABS. Of course the tug would have to be inspected by an irresponsible third party for Subchapter M compliance.