Digital Nomad Money-Saving Tip: Don't Go by Plane, Go by CRUISE SHIP
I wrote before about Michael's and my finances as digital nomads (and how surprisingly cheap it is to travel the world like this!).
Here's a non-intuitive travel tip for other digital nomads and other long-term travelers: rather than taking a plane to cross long distances, consider taking a cruise ship. For Michael and me, it even saves us money.
It actually makes sense when you think about it. We’re not paying a rent or mortgage back home, so we can apply that money directly to the cruise. After all, we have to sleep somewhere. And we can work anywhere, including on a cruise ship.
Michael and I shop discount sites for cruises, looking specifically for “repositioning” cruises which is when ships travel long distances, like across oceans, for different seasons. Typically, ships go from northern areas, where they spend the northern summer, to southern areas, where they spend the southern summer — going from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, for example.
Repositioning cruises tend to be cheaper than typical cruises because there are more days at sea.
Because our schedule is so flexible — we sometimes even plan our travel around the cruise itinerary — we always get good deals.
Our 2018 14-day trans-Atlantic cruise cost us $1200 (for two people). This was an inside cabin (tight quarters, but okay since we have the whole ship to wander around in). We didn’t get the pricey drink packages ($400-$800 per person), but we don't mind going without alcohol for a couple of weeks. We also didn’t pay for the WiFi package ($400), and instead use WiFi in the various ports of call. That's fine for us, and it's even nice to get a break from the internet (and the stream of shocking, dreadful news out of Trump’s America).
That said, we did have to pay port taxes ($400) and staffing fees/tips ($490). All told, we spent about $2090 on the cruise. (The cruise lines must hate us for how cheap we are. On the other hand, these are otherwise empty berths.)
Remember, cruises are all-inclusive: lodging, entertainment, food — oh, yeah, especially the food. Boy, did we eat. Plus, we got to see places (like the Azores) that we probably wouldn't have seen otherwise.
I explained in that other post that our costs as digital nomads (lodging, food, insurance, etc.) are now about $114 a day for the both of us. For fourteen days (or the two-week cruise), that comes to $1596. Some of those costs are fixed, of course, so let’s say food, lodging, and entertainment would have been about $1400.
But we wanted to get to Europe , so if we hadn't taken the cruise, we would have needed to buy an airline ticket. Very cheap airfare from America to Europe is $600 a person or $1200 total.
If we hadn't taken the cruise, our total costs for this fourteen day period of time (including transportation) would have been $2600. Instead, we spent $2090.
So in a way, we saved money. And, honestly, we got to have a pretty great quality of life, with sit-down dinners every night, endless entertainment, and access to a pretty awesome gym. (Back in Seattle, before we became digital nomads, fourteen days of food and lodging, plus plane fare to Europe, would have cost us a whopping $3756).
And did I mention we were on a cruise ship?
Caveat: This is an especially good option for digital nomad couples. The numbers make less sense for singles, and it might also get lonely.
BEST PLACES TO SEARCH FOR CHEAP CRUISES
Cruise Away (Australia)
MSC (No-Frills, Discount Italian Cruise Line)
FORTY-FIVE DAYS ON A CRUISE SHIP?
In late 2018, Michael and I went home for the holidays on two back-to-back cruises, from Barcelona to Florida, then from Florida through the Panama Canal, to the west coast of America (where we used to live).
This cruise didn’t save us money: it cost us around $7200 (compared to around $5500 would have spent for lodging and airfare home). But we decided to splurge on the luxury.
But we were still worried about spending a month and half on a cruise ship. How would that turn out?
We needn’t have worried. It was AWESOME.
The downsides? That’s a long time to spend in small-ish interior cabin (which we got for financial reasons; we’re not really on vacation, after all). And most of the other passengers were old and conservative (with some delightful exceptions, including another gay couple).
But the pluses were plenty. We saw a variety of amazing places including Kotor, Montenegro, the Greek islands of Santorini, Mykonos, and Delos, and we even discovered the Leaning Tower of Pisa wasn’t the kitschy tourist trap we expected.
We also read a ton of books while sitting in deckchairs staring at the blue waters of the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific oceans, caught up on a lot of movies we’d missed (boo, Ant-Man and Wasp, bravo, Mama Mia II, sorta), and swam on beautiful beaches in the Bahamas and Mexico.
We also both got a ton of writing done — in part because we didn’t buy the pricey internet package. In the end, that turned out to be something of a revelation for both of us: we both realized how much we procrastinate by surfing when we have internet connections.
Being on a ship that long, it helped that we’d already spent the past year living as digital nomads, much of the time in co-living. That means we’re used to living in small quarters, sharing public spaces, meeting lots of different people, and keeping personal possessions to the minimum.
Cruise ships as transportation aren’t for everyone. They’re not even for all digital nomads!
But it’s at least an option for all long-term travelers to consider.