Saturday, October 22, 2011

George Mindling Column 01-14-2005 - Retirement Cruise Ships

Are Retirement Cruise Ships a Good Idea?

As a realist, the idealistic argument by Drs. Lee A. Lindquist and Robert M. Golub for permanent retirement cruising immediately draws my interest. Particularly since my wife and I love to cruise.

The Northwestern University doctors have proposed permanent retirement cruising as an alternative to assisted-living facilities on land. I have already written about several issues I see as problem areas in their plan, but have since re-evaluated parts of my position. Even realists can be flexible.

However, my new opinion is based on one, very basic change to their proposal. That change is the retirement cruise ship never leave port. Kind of like the battleships USS North Carolina in Wilmington or the USS Alabama permanently anchored in Mobile Bay. An almost floating, permanent structure that serves as a retirement home without actually running the engines. We now have a use for the S/S Norway, rotting away in Bremerhaven with a blown boiler.

No longer interfering with paying passengers who are actually enjoying cruising, the “semi-floating” retirement cruise ship could be operated for considerably less money than a real cruise ship and offer a whole new experience to it’s occupants.

One offside is now we would have to pay scale for the hired help instead of the $1.10 a day the average room steward makes at sea. Paying for trained personnel to take care of elderly residents would now be on par with land-based establishments, and would run the operating costs up drastically, but, hey, the inland establishments won’t have as much fresh air!

Also on the positive side, no one will get seasick! No more worries about “Cruiser’s Flu!” And you can always abandon ship without getting wet. Well, if you get off on the right side, anyway. No more life boat drills, or as I call them, the “Parade of New Shoes!” A Captain would no longer be needed! The formal dinner can now be replaced with a super-sized meal from McDonalds! In fact, you could save money by taking out the radar and ships computers. They won’t be needed.

The foreign port shopping centers such as St. Thomas will be only a distant memory. The ship can always show videos of old, prior trips! Most customers won’t care anyway, just put on QVC or the HSN. The home shopping networks are clobbering the traditional tax-free shopping centers as it is.

Now the issue of visitors is solved! Since Homeland Security won’t be concerned about leaving the country, visitors will be allowed on and off without being screened! And the kids can leave whenever they want. No more waiting to return to homeport to end a reunion gone wrong!

If the ship were docked in Mississippi or Louisiana, the old casino could be put to good use. That in itself would give some developers the taste for a case study. Plus, the prestige address of living on a cruise ship must be worth some marketing up-lift. The good doctors from Northwestern may be on to something after all!

George Mindling 

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