Ship part

I live on a cruise ship half the year – what it’s like + what I spend

  • I’m a “woman on board” – I live on a cruise ship half the year while my husband works there.
  • There are plenty of perks, like free laundry, food, and room service.
  • We typically spend just under $100 a week on tips, special meals, and internet access.

Hello, my name is Christine and I live half my year on a cruise ship.

Some would say that I live like I’m on vacation every day – and I do. Every day I’m in a new place and my biggest decisions are whether I want to go for tea time, lie in the sun, or go wine tasting.

Here’s some background – I’m a former cruise and travel director and my husband is a chief staff engineer. I have been sailing intermittently for almost 12 years and he for 30 years.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I lost my career due to organizational changes and am now sailing with my husband as a “woman on board”, also known as WOB. When we’re not living on a cruise ship, we live in Vlissingen, the Netherlands.

Not all crew members can sail their partners for free – this is a privilege often reserved for high-ranking officers. Before the pandemic, my husband enjoyed this benefit as a “husband on board” while I worked 12 hour days.

Here’s what my week looks like and what I’m spending:

I pay $20 a week for internet access

As I write this, I’m watching the ocean as we sail off the coast of California.

Crew members on board – including my husband – can use


free but I pay for unlimited internet access.

I need internet anytime since I write and share our world on my TikTok, @Dutchworld_Americangirl.

the front of a cruise ship showing the deck and the water below

We love living at sea and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Christine Kesteloo

$10 per week to tip our steward

I try to keep our room tidy, but we also have a wonderful steward who comes by every day. He vacuums, changes the sheets, dusts, cleans our small bathroom and leaves us clean towels.

A room steward is a perk for high-ranking officers on the ship, and we choose to always tip.

Typically, we give her $10 a week. Sometimes we’ll pick him up at the port or give him an extra $20 if he goes ashore for lunch.

Tipping culture is quite different on ships. I would say that my husband and I are considered great tipsters when tipping coworkers, especially since many don’t “believe” in tipping.

Our laundry is done every day for free

Another bonus is having our laundry done every day for free.

Every morning around 7:30 am, after my husband leaves for work, our steward checks to see if we have anything to wash. I just put the soiled clothes in a cloth bag and list what’s inside on a piece of paper.

There is also a place to wash personal effects and a free laundry room for crew members.

A crowded cruise ship deck covered with a glass roof

There are almost always a few pools open.

Christine Kesteloo

Meals are free, but we spend extra on specialty restaurants and room service

Most of our food on board is free and I am well fed. There is a wide selection including a buffet, pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, sushi and pretty much anything else you can dream of.

We only pay for food if we decide to dine at one of the specialty restaurants on the ship, which usually costs between $20 and $50 per person. We generally tip between $5 and $10.

Room service is complimentary when ordered on the ship, and we generally tip between $2 and $5 each time.

A burger, fries, a glass of ice cream and a can of diet coke on a tray

I don’t cook, which is probably a good thing. I am not Betty Crocker.

Christine Kesteloo

In total, a typical week of this lifestyle costs us less than $100

Usually we spend $20 on internet access, about $27 on tips, and $40 on specialty restaurants for a total of $87.