Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Former Carnival Cruise Line president Bob Dickinson was fond of saying that cruising was so cheap "you can't afford to stay home."

As if to prove the point, Cruisewatch.com has a list of a half-dozen U.S. cities in which, by their calculation, it really is cheaper to go on a cruise for the year rather than stay home.

The list includes Honolulu; Los Angeles; Greenwich, Conn.; San Francisco; and of course, New York. They're the cities with the most expensive cost of living in the country.

New York, for example, costs $33,124 a year, while a cruise averages $22,694, according to Cruisewatch. The New York figure is derived from 2012 U.S. Census data for groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and services.

The figure for a year-long cruise is an average of the cheapest fares for an interior cabin for each of 52 weeks in 2017.

The cost varies considerably. The cheapest cabin Cruisewatch found was on a four-night Mexican Baja itinerary in January on the Carnival Imagination, which clocked in at $313.25 for the week. By July, the same cabin goes for $715 a week.

And in most cities it still isn't more expensive to stay home, including my hometown of Miami ($20,020 a year) and surprisingly, Chicago, which costs $20,384 a year, according to Cruisewatch.

Still, it is a fun and interesting exercise to run the comparison for a town near you. Cruisewatch lists 132 of them on its site. One caveat is that the cruise fare is per person, so to pay the amount Cruisewatch suggests, you would have to get someone else to go along or pay a solo surcharge, which would typically double the cost.

Incidentally, it is often said that retirees would be better off financially taking a permanent cruise rather than checking into a nursing home. Medical issues aside, it turns out to be true under the Cruisewatch methodology.

The average nationwide cost (2010 data) for a semi-private nursing home room is about $74,820, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.  An assisted living facility costs $42,000 a year.

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