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Throughout the pandemic, cruising has proven a questionable prospect for plenty of people, but not for Robert and Nancy Houchens. Hailing from Virginia, this retired couple now spends most of their time sailing on cruise ships,
And they're not alone. Amid record inflation levels, there have been multiple reports of folks who are opting to essentially live on board cruise ships after realizing that the cost of living on land surpassed that of staying permanently on vacation at sea. And, while airfare, hotel rates and gas prices have continued to soar, cruising costs in 2022 have remarkably remained rather stable.
The Houchens, who are currently sailing back-to-back European itineraries aboard the Carnival Pride in Europe, have just reached a personal milestone-1,000 days spent at sea aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship. As they were sailing recently through the spectacular Norwegian Fjords, Robert asked the ship's staff to help mark the occasion by setting up a surprise celebration for Nancy and, of course, crew members happily obliged.
The Houchens have been cruising together for more than two decades, since they still had kids at home. Robert told Carnival, "At first, we cruised because it was a great value." These two hope that these first 1,000 days are just the beginning of their extended time at sea, as they hope to keep cruising as much as possible throughout their retirement years.
When asked why they choose to cruise, Nancy said, "For us, cruising is a way of life. Our goal was to sell everything we owned and pretty much live on cruise ships. And we've done a pretty good job of it since we've retired."
Carnival Cruise Line asked the pair to elaborate on what they love about life on the high seas in a recent Q&A:
You've made many memories aboard many ships, what stands out?
Nancy: Carnival Pride has a lot of memories for us. It's a very special ship. We were so lucky because we were invited when Pride came back into service from Baltimore last September. We were asked to take part in the opening ceremony with Carnival's President Christine Duffy and it was absolutely wonderful-very emotional.
What is your favorite place on board a Carnival ship?
Robert: Serenity deck.
Nancy: Yes, we love the Serenity deck. We used to do the nightclub, partying and staying up all night, but now we like to relax. Also, the beds. You can't sleep anywhere like you can at sea on the beds.
After spending 1,000 days at sea, you must have many friends across the Carnival fleet.
Nancy: Yes, we have family all over the fleet, meaning the team members on board. They have become family to us! Now we try to figure out what team members are on a particular ship, and that's how we pick which cruise we want to go on. After cruising for so long, we've got a lot of [extended] family and we love them.
Robert: People from all walks of life, all cultures, all age groups, everybody cruises Carnival. We cruise Carnival because of the people. It isn't the destinations for us anymore, it's the journey - and the biggest part of the journey is the people.
Would you spend another 1,000 days at sea?
Nancy: If we live long enough, we will!
Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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