Why I signed up to live on a cruise ship for three years

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(CNN) When Sharon Lane heard about a cruise line offering a three-year round-the-world trip, she immediately fantasized about life on board.

Life at Sea Cruises is selling seats aboard the MV Gemini, which will depart from Istanbul on November 1 for an epic global voyage that will visit most of the world’s major cruise destinations.

Lane, a 75-year-old retired high school teacher from California, is an avid traveler. At the time, she taught foreign languages ​​and loved taking her students on trips to Europe. In the 1990s, she decamped to Cape Town, South Africa for two years of adventures.

More recently, Lane has converted to cruising – not only because of the opportunities it gives her to see the world, but because the feeling of being adrift at sea is one of her favorite sensations.

“I actually prefer ocean days, when we’re sailing or crossing oceans, that excites me,” Lane told CNN Travel.

Although Lane has long dreamed of living full-time on a cruise ship, the high cost has always been a hindrance. But when Lane heard about a friend’s three-year trip on a Friday night Zoom call, she hung up and spent the rest of the evening researching and budgeting.

The cheapest rooms at the MV Gemini cost around $30,000 a year, including a discount for solo travelers. Lane calculated that this cost was manageable and decided to take the plunge.

“By midnight that night, I had done enough research to book a room,” she says.

Now Lane is busy preparing for the landing of the MV Gemini in November. She sells most of her belongings, gives up her rental lease and prepares for a long stay at sea.

“The logistics are crazy,” Lane says. “It’s a leap of faith, but I know there will be a place here when I return. Or maybe I’ll end up living in another country. I don’t know, the sky’s the limit.”

Preparing for a new life

Sharon Lane will spend three years aboard the MV Gemini cruise ship, pictured here.

Lane opted for one of the cheapest staterooms on board — what Life at Sea Cruises calls a “Virtual Inside” room. The 130-square-foot cabin has no windows, but guests have been promised a screen that will show live footage from outside the ship.

“It literally shows what you would see outside your window if you had one,” Lane explains. “And that’s enough for me, it really is.”

Lane insists the prospect of living three years in a room with no natural light isn’t daunting. She plans to treat the cabin like a bedroom – she’ll sleep there, but she won’t spend much time there otherwise. During the day, she’ll be relaxing elsewhere on the ship, strolling around soaking up the ocean views, or she’ll be busy enjoying exciting excursions.

As she plans to sell “95% of her possessions” before setting sail, Lane says she will bring some family photos to make the cabin her own. She has a favorite photo of her now grown grandsons when they were kids and she took them on a whale watching trip.

“I laminated it and I’ll take some magnets and stick it on my door for two reasons,” Lane says. “One, I can see their faces every time I walk in, which is always fun, and the other reason is that it’s really easy to tell which door is yours, because your grandsons are smiling at you in feedback.”

Lane has yet to tell her daughter or grandsons that she will be boarding the cruise. “I don’t want them trying to talk me out of it,” she says. Lane thinks they’ll support her decision, but three years is a long time, and it’s likely she won’t see many of her loved ones on earth while she travels around the world.

But Lane is eager to make video calls to family and friends in remote areas – and she’s excited to forge new relationships on board. She has heard that there will be many solo travelers on the trip and believes they will be eager to socialize. In fact, the cruise line has already connected many guests through an app, Lane says, and “it’s been a good time already.”

“We’ve already gotten to know each other – we already volunteer to help each other out on things and give each other ideas, answer questions and make plans. It’s already fun.”

Lane has been happily single for a long time and dismisses the idea that she might find love on board.

“It’s not going to happen. It’s completely out of my head. I have no interest. I want to make friends,” she says.

Also, when she made the decision to book the three-year cruise, she felt very grateful for her independence – she spoke with people who said they wanted to join, but their partner or spouse is not. interested, so it does not happen.

“I don’t have that,” she said. “I can stay at home if I want. I can go somewhere if I want. The only thing stopping me from doing things is health. As long as I’m in control of that, I’m fine.”

Lane has a medical condition in her lungs which she says makes her more susceptible to the effects of Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses. She has rarely been out of her house, let alone on vacation, since the pandemic took hold.

But rather than dread boarding a cruise ship, Lane suggests she’ll be more comfortable on board than on land – she’s confident in the cruise’s Covid measures and the medical facilities available on board, and also plans to take its own precautions.

“When I’m on the boat, when I’m anywhere there are other people, I wear an N95 mask, a surgical mask and goggles,” she says.

Lane will not disembark the ship in certain destinations, such as Antarctica, where cold air could aggravate his lungs. But she’s very excited for much of the ship’s itinerary, including stops in Scotland and Ireland, places she thinks her ancestors hail from but have never visited before.

life on board

This is the pool deck of the MV Gemini. Lane says she loves the feeling of being on the water and looks forward to experiencing it every day.

In total, the MV Gemini will call at 375 ports during her three-year voyage, 208 of which will be overnight. The ship will stop everywhere, from India to China, from the Maldives to Australia, with some stopovers lasting several nights.

Lane is excited to see the world, and happy travelers will have time to soak up each destination, but she thinks she’ll spend more time aboard the ship than most of her fellow travelers.

“To me, the ocean is the thing,” she says. “The ship itself in the ocean is the draw.”

Lane plans to blog about her experience — “my goal is to write something every day,” she says. She hopes the blog, which she writes under a pseudonym, will allow her to savor the journey and share her adventures with loved ones back home and with strangers.

Lane hopes his dispatches will inspire others to take risks and step out of their comfort zone. She still regrets the years she spent in her forties, putting off travel.

“I think I was always waiting for the perfect time to go when life is good, when the money is good, when the dates are good, when other people want to go,” she says. .

“Don’t stay home,” she encourages. “Home can be where the heart is, home can be where you hang your hat – hang your hat, then get on the boat, get on the plane, get in the car, go somewhere. “

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