Is it cheaper to live on a cruise ship than to rent in Vancouver?

Feb 22 2023, 2:58 am

Consumer inflation has pushed up living costs tremendously over the past year, and housing rents in Vancouver have also escalated overwhelmingly from demand far outpacing supply.

So theoretically, just for comparison’s sake, would it be cheaper to travel around on a cruise ship for a month than to rent and live in Vancouver for a month? And with many employers allowing remote office work, is it feasible to work from a cruise ship?

Onboard a cruise ship, your housing/hotelling, housekeeping, and food are entirely taken care of — the only things that vary are the level of access to entertainment, internet, and other premium experiences.

First of all, some parameters need to be set to bring costs down.

All sailings would have to start and end from downtown Vancouver’s Canada Place cruise ship terminal (there is no flying involved given the significantly added airfare costs). And to fill a whole month without interruption — without having to seek on-land overnight accommodations — there would have to be multiple back-to-back bookings. The ship’s sailing ends by arriving in Vancouver on the morning, and you board the next sailing on the same day in the afternoon (or ideally, you stay on the same ship to continue on its next sailing the same day).

Cruise cabin fares are also generally lowest based on at least double occupancy, so ideally the two passengers would be singles from different households (a couple would not produce the same savings given the shared renting/living costs in Vancouver). Single-occupancy cabin fares are higher.

The type of cabins that are the cheapest are the interior cabins — suites within the ships that do not have any exterior windows. For those completely unfamiliar with cruising, an interior suite comes with a washroom with a toilet, shower, and sink, the bed options of either a single queen-size bed or two single beds, and a television with some basic news and entertainment channels. Such suites are generally only about 150 sq ft in size, but you would be spending most of your time outside the room anyway.

Overall, besides the type of the cabin, fares vary widely between cruise lines, the ship (mainly from age), the level of market demand, the sailing duration, the number of port visits/calls, the location of ports (different fees per port visit/call), and the time of the year (peak season or off season).

Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess cruise ship

Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess cruise ship. (Shutterstock)

We will use a month-long period between April 29 and May 31 exclusively onboard Princess Cruises Line as our best near-term example. Under this scenario, passengers can stay onboard the 2004-built, 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess on three back-to-back, roundtrip sailings between Vancouver and Alaska.

Based on the above-mentioned parameters, the first sailing from April 29 to May 10 — an 11-day Inside Passage itinerary — will cost $1,077.42 per passenger in a double-occupancy cabin, including $685.90 for the actual fare and $391.52 for taxes, port fees, and other fees.

The second sailing from May 10 to 17 is a seven-day itinerary from May 10 to May 17, with a cost of $1,109.42 per passenger in a double-occupancy cabin, including $778.65 for the actual fare and $330.77 for taxes, port fees, and other fees.

The third sailing is the longest. While the first two sailings span and make stops along the Alaskan panhandle, including Glacier Bay National Park, the third sailing’s 14-day itinerary — between May 17 and 31 — reaches Anchorage before making its southbound journey back to Vancouver. Its cost comes to $1,298.43 per passenger in a double-occupancy cabin, including $697.65 for the actual fare and $600.78 for taxes, port fees, and other fees.

The combined total cost per passenger, based on a double-occupancy cabin, of the three sailings is $3,485.27. For a single-occupancy cabin, the fares would come to $1,216.32, $1,262.07, and $1,438.08, respectively, for a total of $3,916.47 — about $430 more than sharing a cabin with one more person. All figures provided are in Canadian dollars.

This does not include general gratuity (not including gratuity for any optional special services), which is about $20 per night or $620 for all 31 days on Princess Cruises.

Access to WiFi also comes at a premium. WiFi will cost $20 per day for a single-device plan, and up to $54 per day on a four-device plan. We will assume that each passenger doing an extended cruise stay would want to stay connected with at least one device (their laptop), especially if they are to use cruising as a remote work option, so that brings the total cost (with gratuity and WiFi included) to $4,725.27 for single-occupancy or $5,156.47.

Just remember that these prices cover all of your daily meals (unlimited food, drink, coffee, and dessert options). Access to a large fitness gym, exercise classes, and swimming pools are also included in the price.

princess cruises sapphire princess cruise ship

Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess cruise ship. (Shutterstock)

In contrast, according to the latest rental housing report by, the average rent in Vancouver for a one-bedroom unit is now $2,730, and a two-bedroom unit is $3,624.

And when essential living costs are included, it increases to $3,725 per month for a one-bedroom unit and $4,619 per month for a two-bedroom unit for a household with a single individual.

Let’s assume the individual does not own a car and normally has a one-zone public transit month pass ($103), and other monthly costs for groceries ($500, accounting for the recent steep inflation), basic utilities ($129), home internet ($85), mobile ($120), and a gym membership ($58), which comes to a total of $995. This does not include dining out, coffee from a cafe, entertainment, and other extras, which can vary widely, depending on the person, amounting to several hundred dollars.

The cost difference for month-long trip staying in a single-occupancy cabin on the Sapphire Princess is about $900 more than and an average one-bedroom Vancouver rental unit, although as mentioned before, it should be strongly emphasized that this does not include dining out, coffee, entertainment, and other extras that are covered on a cruise ship.

With all that said, if you’re away for just a month, you’re unlikely able and/or willing to make a temporary cut to some of your monthly costs, such as utilities, as well as home internet, mobile, and a gym membership, especially if the rates were previously negotiated at a discount. But all or at least some of these costs could be offset by sub-leasing your rental home for the month or even putting it on Airbnb (assuming your landlord permits it, and this is all done legally).

What if we expanded the perimeters a bit more? Instead of a month-long stay, it becomes an extended, back-to-back stay on the Sapphire Princess for its entire 2023 cruising season between Vancouver and Alaska — between late April and late September. This includes the 11-day sailing starting on April 29, the seven-day sailing starting on May 10, nine 14-day sailings between May 17 and September 20, and a seven-day sailing starting on September 20.

Including taxes and various fees, the total cost per 14-day sailing reaches a peak season high in July of $2,148 per person for a single-occupancy cabin and $1,709 per person for a double-occupancy cabin.

The combined cost of the actual cruise fare, taxes, and various fees of staying on the Sapphire Princess from April 29 to September 27 (151 days; five months) is $20,390 for a single-occupancy cabin and $18,515 for a double-occupancy cabin.

When daily gratuity and internet fees are included, these combined total costs grow to $25,420 per passenger in a single-occupancy cabin and $23,545 per passenger in a double-occupancy cabin. After 50 days or five cruises, whichever comes first, the passenger automatically gains a “Platinum”standing under Princess Cruises’ free Princess Captain’s Circle loyalty program, which provides a 50% daily rate for internet.

Alaska cruise BC

Canada Place cruise ship terminal in downtown Vancouver. (Shutterstock)

In contrast, the combined rental and essential living costs in Vancouver over a similar five-month period are $18,625 per month for a one-bedroom rental unit and $23,095 per month for a two-bedroom rental unit. Once again, it is important to emphasize this does not include dining out, coffee from a cafe, entertainment, and other extras. And the income opportunities from sub-leasing to offset the cruising costs are likely greater over a longer, continuous duration, especially for legal Airbnb during the peak season.

If the parameter limitation of starting and ending each cruise itinerary in Vancouver were eliminated, cruising costs are lower in many places elsewhere in the world where there are lower taxes, port fees, and other various fees, but such savings are knocked out by high airfare costs in the current global aviation market.

Comparisons for living on a cruise ship for an entire year on itineraries that begin and end in Vancouver are unavailable, as Vancouver’s cruise ship season runs only between early April and early November.

For an extreme comparison, in 2025, luxury cruise line Azamara will be offering a 155-day continuous “World Voyage” on their latest ship, the Azamara Onward. It is a smaller vessel with a capacity for 684 passengers, and over the course of just slightly more than five months it will visit 37 countries, including 15 overnight stops and 31 “late says” at ports. The starting rate is $54,000 for an interior cabin based on double occupancy, not including taxes and fees.

Life is all about tradeoffs — would you consider living on a cruise ship over an extended period?

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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