Rob Mitchell's first cruise was in 1973, and he didn't set sail again until 2008. Since then, however, he and his wife May have done 60 cruises over 890 days, many of them back-to-back - a lifestyle of which many of us only dream of. The pair decided 6 years ago that they would make the adjustment required to spend their retirement at sea.
A life on the ocean wave: cruising retiree and novelist
These days, Rob has earned himself the reputation of 'cruising novelist' and if you have been on a few Princess cruises you may even have seen him working on his latest creation. Or perhaps, you've seen one of his books which he often leaves on the ship for passenger enjoyment.
Rob wasn't always a writer, however, and it was quite a journey to get to where he is today. Born, raised and educated (degrees in Law and Arts) in Melbourne, Rob spent years working in Fiji as a lawyer. He also part-owned and dived for a marine salvage company, continued in the law profession in Australia, and taught English in China with his wife, May.
Throughout these various jobs and life stages, however, Rob used writing as a creative outlet, and not without success. He has had 12 novels published, all available here on Amazon, and in 1988 his work 'The Lucinda Legacy', won a prize in the Australia-wide Bicentennial Novel Competition.
Passions come together
The writing and the cruising didn't always go hand-in-hand. Rob explained to us the process of becoming a cruising novelist:
"During the first couple of years I spent more time 'enjoying' the cruise, watching the sea speed by, and I read a lot. Up until that point I wrote mostly at home. I probably then realised that there were none of the mundane distractions on a cruise ship: lawns which had to be mown, trees trimmed, and so on. There was nothing that I had to do, nothing that was pricking my conscience. I started shipboard writing by doing all of my proofreading and editing on board ship, and then graduated to actual creative work."
Now his creative juices flow when onboard, and he has a routine which combines time spent writing and time spent enjoying the life they have chosen. He regularly rises at 6am, has a brief breakfast at the buffet and then does laps of the promenade for an hour to get in some exercise. During the day, he'll fit in 2-3 hours of work on the current book, amongst other carefree cruise pastimes.
The path less travelled
Cruising back-to-back is something that many cruise lovers have dreamed of and perhaps even seriously considered, but not many actually pursue. We asked Rob a few questions to understand how they got there.
What made you take the plunge and take up cruising as a retirement lifestyle?
"My wife May and I have done a number of land tours, but cruising is so easy. Once you get on the ship you unpack - and that is it! No more worries. Land tours you get a bus, sit in bus for 5 or six hours. Then you have to worry about where you're going to stay, what you're going to have for dinner. A cruise is value for money."
How would you describe your lifestyle?
"We are self-funded retirees. Writing brings in a very small amount of income."
What were your financial concerns?
"Cruising didn't require us to save. Cruising is not expensive, if you don't let it run away from you."
Do you have any advice for those considering taking up cruising on a more full-time basis?
"Simple. Just do it. Don't worry about sea-sickness, there's not much chance of it happening nowadays. Pick a short cruise to start with and work your way up. Have a budget for when you get on board. Figure out how much you can spend on drink, tours, gambling, etc, and keep to the budget."
Living life to the fullest
Rob says that their favourite aspect of cruising is "not having any worries. Problems are attended to by someone else. It's like being chauffeur-driven on a wide open highway."
A "sea change" refers to a marked life transformation - an idiom which originates from Shakespeare's play "The Tempest". There couldn't be a more perfect term to describe the lifestyle change that Rob Mitchell and his wife May have embarked upon.
Need more details? This is the first in a three-part series about Rob Mitchell the cruising novelist! Keep an eye out for volume two which will go into how he and May go about their cruising lifestyle.