This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ryan Gutridge, an IT professional who spends more than 300 days a year on a cruise ship. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve been told I’m crazy for trying to live full-time on a cruise ship, but it’s not just for retired people.
I work in IT as a cloud-solution engineer for a cloud-solution provider and started working from home in 2012. But because of the pandemic, my team was able to work from home and access the data they needed from anywhere.
At that time, cruise lines hadn’t announced when or if they were coming back. I thought that if they returned, I’d want to try taking my job with me on a short cruise. I wanted to see how the WiFi would work and if I could access some elements of my job with heavy security.
That summer, in 2021, I booked two four-night cruises on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, and went on both in September. Everything worked great, and since then, I’ve been on a cruise pretty much every week, except for a few weeks due to the holidays.
I’ve been to CocoCay and Nassau in the Bahamas more than 70 times each over the last two years
The ship does the same route twice a week, and both stops are on the same cruise. I primarily cruise on the same ship, but I’ve done cruises on larger ships too.
I do meetings in the morning and afternoons, but I can also go to lunch and socialize or meet people at the gym. I’ve even met people that I stay in contact with and that have come back and cruised on this ship with me multiple times since.
Working from home was isolating. I don’t have kids or pets, so it’s easy to become somewhat introverted, but cruising has really helped and made me a lot more social.
If you want to cruise full-time, you have to get your financial house in order
Think about your strategy. It’s about coming up with a transition plan — it doesn’t happen overnight.
I wanted to really look at the cost of cruising full-time before I began. I have a spreadsheet that automatically records all my expenses, which helps. I also set a budget every year. This year, my base fare budget is about $30,000, and last year when I started really looking at the numbers and evaluating how much base fare I paid to be on a ship for 300 nights, I found it was almost neck-and-neck with what I paid for rent and trash service for an apartment in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Now, because I cruise so often with Royal Caribbean, I’ve moved up in its loyalty program
My drinks and internet are free. If people are going to do something like what I do, I recommend trying different brands because they all offer something different. But once you commit to one, you should stick to it so you reach those loyalty levels.
I found that Royal Caribbean has, by far, the most valuable benefits to me — discounts, free internet, and free drinks. The highest loyalty level for Royal Caribbean is the “Pinnacle” level, which I will reach after exactly two years of cruising on this ship.
Because of the loyalty program, I’ll actually spend less money cruising this year than I did last year, even though I cruised more.
If you have a phone that’s two or three years old, you’re going to struggle on a ship
I read Reddit boards and Facebook groups, and the biggest complaint I see from people is that their phones or device don’t work as well as they expect. The two biggest reasons are that people don’t update their operating software before getting on a ship or they don’t have WiFi calling set up on their device, which is a must.
I understand people don’t want to spend the money, but if you have newer equipment, it tends to work a lot better.
To get good WiFi, you also have to explore the ship and find where the WiFi works the best. I often work from the top deck of a lounge that’s not open during the day, so it essentially becomes my office space, which is great because it’s very quiet.
Keeping up a healthy and productive lifestyle on a ship requires personal discipline
Mondays through Fridays, on the ship, I do the exact same routine I’d do on land. I work, eat healthy, and go to the gym.
On the weekends, anything goes, but during the week, I stay diligent about finding healthy food options that are available on the ship. I stay away from desserts, and I absolutely don’t drink sugary drinks. If I drink alcohol at all, I save it for the weekend because come Monday morning, it’s back to work and back to being responsible.
When I first went on cruises, I was also testing if I could have a nice work-life balance
I spend about 20% of my time on land to go to the dentist and the doctor and to visit with some friends — but most of the time, I’m cruising. When I’m cruising, I spend about 90% of my time on board and about 10% in port because, during the week, I’m working.
Unless it’s a port I haven’t been to before, or it’s one I really enjoy, I remain on the ship — even on the weekend sailings. When we are at a location I enjoy, I use a day of my PTO from my job and enjoy the day away from work.
I have a strong relationship with the crew on this ship. It’s become a big family, and I don’t want to rebuild those relationships on another ship — I joke that I have 1,300 roommates.
Eventually, I’d like to get rid of my apartment
I’ve scaled back my cruising budget for next year because of inflation, but by 2025 I’d like to get rid of my apartment, sell my car, and purchase a scooter that I’ll store at a friend’s garage. When I’m home, I’ll have groceries delivered, and if I need to go somewhere farther away, I’ll be happy to just take an Uber or Lyft.
Sometimes I get tired of going to the same port, but it’s been an interesting experience, and I’m still loving it. Most of the time, I’m so busy that I don’t even notice we’re at the same place — I just know I’m not in an apartment staring at the wall. I’m stress-free.