Canadian couple lives on cruise ships — with no plans to return to land

Canadian couple lives on cruise ships — with no plans to return to land


Tori Carter and Kirk Rickman are seen here at Alaska. The retired Canadian couple is making the most of life as they cruise full-time, from coast to coast. (Submitted)

When Tori Carter suffered a back injury six years ago, she and her husband, Kirk Rickman, decided that life was too short to be sitting around and waiting for dreams to be fulfilled.

In those moments of pain, along with having to navigate the loss of a friend who suddenly passed after suffering a stroke, the retired Canadian couple knew that they wanted to bank on everything life had to offer with no regrets.

And to them, there was no better way to do that than by living on cruise ships. So, at the end of 2022, they sold their home in Brighton, Ont., did some research, got travel visas and started their journey.

They’re part of a growing trend of people opting to retire at sea.

“We see it as a less expensive way to travel the world,” Carter told in a phone interview. “We want to do it now, while we still have our health.”

To date, 54-year-old Carter, a retired high school teacher, and 50-year-old Rickman, a retired manufacturing plant supervisor, have visited 75 countries and territories. By April 30, 2024, they expect that number to climb to 88.


To indulge in what different cruises have to offer, the couple said they like to “cruise hop.”

“A cruise ship has so much to offer. It’s a destination in itself,” Carter said.

This year alone, the two have visited the U.S., the Panama Canal, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Antarctica, Costa Rica and several other destinations.

Some of Carter’s favourite memories include seeing Rickman float in Israel’s Dead Sea and Santa Claus delivering presents to cruise guests on a tender boat, which is a boat used to service or support other ships or boats.

Tori Carter and Kirk Rickman are seen here in Rome, Italy. The retired Canadian couple chose to sell their home in Brighton, Ont., and cruise full-time, from coast to coast. (Submitted)

The couple said they book five to six months ahead of time. Next year, Carter and Rickman will touch Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and more.

“We’re seeing the world and everywhere is exciting,” Rickman said.


For 75-year-old John and 63-year-old Melody Hennesse, retiring at sea came rather naturally.

The American couple were sailors most of their lives and would spend three to four months on the waters of the Bahamas every summer. After selling their Florida home and business in March 2021 to travel in their motorhome, the couple sailed through the Baja California peninsula, Canada and Alaska. Then they sold their motorhome and took up cruises.

Once they found out about Storylines, a residential cruise ship line, the couple put a two-year lease on a residence aboard the MV Narrative, which is a cruise ship set to sail in late 2026.

“It’s so special to live out this dream every day,” the couple wrote in an email to “As owners of a residence on Storyline’s MV Narrative ship, we will be spending three to five days in each port and be able to really explore the destinations to their fullest (much better than the six to eight hours).”


Online estimates peg the cost of cruising full-time for a year anywhere from roughly $40,000 to upwards of $150,000.

Carter and Rickman said the costs can vary from ship to ship and depend on an individual’s needs. They try to find the best deals and opt for travelling on older vessels, but Carter said the costs can add up and potentially be a lot more than owning a house.

“You have the trip base cost, but you have to include port fees, taxes, travel insurance, transportation to get from one cruise port to the other, Wi-Fi, daily gratuities, excursions, drinks, flights,” she lists.

Some others costs to account for, Carter notes, include paying for one’s cellphone plan, an eSIM plan, haircuts, manicures, regular day-to-day stuff.

To ensure coverage, they return to Canada every so often to maintain access to the country’s public health-care system. Under the Ontario Health Insurance Coverage policy, residents can be outside of the country for seven months in a 12-month period to be covered, Carter said.

The retired duo, who used to be realtors in the Greater Toronto Area, said they worked very hard to afford their lifestyle.Tori Carter and Kirk Rickman are seen here in Japan. The retired Canadian couple chose to sell their home in Brighton, Ont., and cruise full-time, from coast to coast. (Submitted)

“The majority of all of this is from a house sale,” Carter and Rickman said, adding investments and pension funds also contribute to their full-time cruising. “We’re not big spenders either and we do watch our budget.”

For the Hennessees, cruising full-time is less costly than when they lived on land. They reckon they are potentially spending half of what they used to pay.

“Living aboard is a much less expensive lifestyle than when we lived ashore and had mortgages, insurance, property taxes, dining and drinking tabs, vehicle expenses, utility bills,” they said.


Opting to cruise full-time comes with some sacrifices, Carter and Rickman say. They’ve given up driving, cooking, biking and a bigger space. Carter cited the constant time zone changes as another challenge.

To parallel their lifestyle habits as if they were home, the couple said they are intentional with their diet, exercise daily and participate in educational activities such as trivia.

The Hennessees also minimize their eating and drinking ashore. The American couple said they avoid flying where possible. “We prefer doing back-to-back sailings to minimize packing and unpacking,” they wrote.

Communication with family is another adjustment that one needs to make if they choose to cruise full-time. “I call my mom every single day,” Carter said, referencing WhatsApp as the best line of communication and the expense Wi-Fi brings travelling around the world. Bigger adjustments include missing out on family milestones and holidays, like when Carter said she couldn’t fly back to London, Ont., to celebrate her mom’s 80th birthday last month.

With cruise culture, Carter said friendships are like a revolving door. “It’s more like you’re meeting acquaintances all over the world and kind of making loose friendships and some of them actually keep in touch with you,” she added.

Last month, Carter said they made connections with two other couples on board a cruise. “When you get to meet new people, you get this fire that’s lit underneath you and inspired by people’s stories. It’s amazing,” Carter said.

With trips planned throughout 2024, Carter and Rickman are making a lifelong impression to be remembered by, and simultaneously riding the world’s coastlines, one port at a time. The Hennessees, and many other retirees, are in the same boat.

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