Entering the peak of the Petroleum Era, it was found that it was dramatically cheaper to put retirement and nursing home patients on cruise ships rather than keep them in terrestrial care facilities. The free market of the cruise industry streamlined itself to the point that it was more economical and efficient to keep passengers on their 250-500 kiloton liners. These ships allowed for the passengers to travel in comfort, and to continue having a good quality of life compared to the traditional almost prison like facilities. The end of the Petroleum Era saw most of the cruise ships salvaged for their metal content, or grounded due to a lack of fuel, but the lesson did not go forgotten.
The Pensioner Ship
The Pensioner Ship concept was launched by Golden Star Lines, as a way to get government funding for their ship line through providing retirement and hostel care for the aged and infirm. GSL carried on the basic concept of high efficiency passenger care, as well as entertainment accommodations of high quality. The benefits of the Pensioner ship were many. The cost of care for the elderly decreased. Finding people to work on the senior cruisers was dramatically easier than conventional terrestrial facilities, the aged and the infirm were moved out of high demand, high density population centers, and the seniors themselves benefited from a more positive community. The access to the ship facilities and a non-sedentary lifestyle allowed for a greater quality of life, and with this, many seniors, many of whom would have been left to languish in state care facilities found the motivation and support to pursue their creative passions. Retro-media entertainment has boomed because of Pensioner programs, such as hardcopy writing, music performance, and other non-Cognitive technology forms of entertainment.
The Kitty Hawk
The Kitty Hawk is a sample surface ship, configured for economy and efficiency. It plies the sea lanes of the Atlantic Ocean and allows for it's passengers to travel leisurely around the Atlantic Federation. It has a modest power supply, transits between islands, seacologies, and raft cities, and is a form of government funded tourism. The ship has a dimensional reactor power plant, a single magnetic caterpillar drive system, no weaponry, and very minimal armor protection.
Details: Marine Pensioner Ship (MPS)
Length: 300 meters
Displacement: 100,000 tons
Speed: 18 knots
Capacity: 5,000 passengers, 35,000 tons supplies
Crew: 1200 (including 800 autons
Nether-Node CogNet system - this is an internal CogNet node that runs at a slower cerebro-kinetic speed, and is fully internal. This prevents outside hackers from getting into the node to exploit the pensioners, and it allows the pensioners to recreate the homes and times of their youth, a sort of retro-Pleasantville versus the hustle and bustle of the modern day.
Mock Restaurants - allowing for socializing and maintaining a healthy diet.
Sports and rec facilities geared towards senior interests and abilities.
Shore leave - seniors can travel and experience other places, which has proven a boon to their quality of life and happiness. There are also bonuses for said destinations in tourism revenue and multi-culturalism.
The Nether-Node is different from other CogNet nodes in that as a senior deteriorates with age, their neurokinetics also degrade. This means that over time, their ability to interface with Cognitive tech diminishes. The Nether-node is configured to compensate for this and one of the main features is that the longer a person interacts with the node, the more of a node avatar they generate, and this can function as a back-up for them when doing things. Though the organic mind and body may be failing, the cognitive mind and virtual body remain. Eventually the user will pass away. If there is a chance to perform a death-watch, the pensioner can be hooked into the node and perform a 'transit' from their bodies to the node, where they can continue to exist, living in their shared communal Pleasantville.
This is not immortality, and once a person dies, their spirit does move on. The machine has spend a great deal of time building a matrix of the person's vocabulary, mannerisms, and beliefs, so that the virtual simulacra is very close to the original person. They are by no means sentient, but the programming and matrix are clever enough to pass most Turing tests. The technology behind the Nether-node was very likely a product of the illegal Maia Project
One of the side bonuses of the Pensioner lines is that their travel, while slow and economical, still takes them to different places. These places benefit from the economic influx of the pensioners limited incomes, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, the crew's income, and the economic boons from providing berthing for said ships. This applies to both surface ships, and space ships. The old tourists are generally welcome because unlike younger people, they are less prone to violence, criminal activity, seeking out illegal entertainment, or otherwise being a nuisance. On the other hand, they are far less trendy, and have a fixed level of income for shore leave recreation. Many pensioners are ship bound, either by limited funds or phyiscal limitations.
The Algernon is a fairly common example of the Pensioner space cruiser. It has a similar power plant compared to the Kitty Hawk, but has regular ion boosters for propulsion and station keeping. The ship travels between moons, planets, and space stations, providing tourism revenue, as well as Soverign Traffic. With S.T. an international power can claim domain over certain space lanes, since their ships are there, thus turning ships like the Algernon into pieces in games of diplomacy.
Details: Standard Space Pensioner Cruise Liner
Length: 550 meters
Displacement: 90,000 tons
Speed: 0.50 G acceleration/1.5 G flank acceleration
Capacity: 12,000 passengers, 45,000 tons supplies
Crew: 2,500 (including 1200 autons)
Twice the standard facilities of the Kitty Hawk type, 12 restaurants, 16 sports and rec centers, 3 media centers, etc
Aerodrome - the Algernon carries 44 lifepods and 20 life boats, as well as six Gigs (6 man courier shuttles) and 2 100 passenger launches. These craft assist in loading and unloading crew, rescue operations, and so forth. They are short range and not rated for long use, compared to a lifepod or lifeboat.
Point Defense system - the Algernon has 24 medium lasers for point defense from being hit by space debris. It has a single cruise missile launcher to deter pirates, and carries 6 Swordfish anti-ship missiles. Each Swordfish has a 10 kiloton non-nuclear warhead.
Space versus the Sea
The main difference between the space and the sea cruise lines is margin of profit. The sea lines generate a higher profit ratio as the oceanic ships are cheaper to build and maintain, and require less skilled crew. The space lines are more expensive, the ships cost more, and require more extensive training for the crew and officers. The Atlantic Federation offsets most of this with subsidies for the line operators, and in fact, for almost any civilian space line operator.
Federation ships carry their own zone of sovereignty, much like American aircraft carriers in the Petroleum Era. Thus, the more ships with Federation flags, the more Federation territory and dominance in space. The construction and crewing of said ships also ensures the continued economic activity of shipyards, anchorages, and other space facilities. The existence of a growing civilian space sector also gives members of the military places to work after they have retired from active service.
Analog versus Cognitive
The cheapest way to handle the issue of senior citizens would be to just plug them into a terrestrial nether-node until they die, and there are plenty of places that do this, especially in the poorer parts of the Federation, and other parts of the world. This has been linked to decreased lifespan, and the seniors in question don't generate anything or social, cultural, or economic profit. Rather, it is a sort of digital death-care system. This also doesn't benefit the Federation, or any of the industries around the fleet.
The Pensioner Ships and the industry around them is in the end, nothing more than a way to exploit senior citizens. That they are happy and enjoy themselves in the process is simply an unexpected benefit.
Serenity Station is a pensioner station in Lunar orbit, and a Final Destination. Pensioner lines visit Serenity to change passengers and crew, as well as handle their nether-nodes. Serenity has a nether-matrix where the various ship nodes are copied over, making internal data room for the new passengers. The various Mayberrys, Pleasantvilles, and Retrovilles remain running in the matrix, and the data the matrix generates can be packaged and sold to interested third parties. The station has a dual fusion power core, a station keeping drive, and a large internal hangar for receiving small and medium sized liners.
Details: Bernal Sphere type space station
Length: 2200 meters
Displacement: 1.5 million tons (rocky asteroid shell)
Speed: 0.05 G station keeping
Capacity: 300,000 passengers, 275,000 tons supplies
Crew: 12,500 plus 20,000 autons
The seniors space mega-city, Serenity has hundreds of establishments, rec areas, media areas, and at bare minimum, ten times anything a ship has.
Nether-matrix with up to 1,000 nether nodes connected.
Full AISC integrated system - in this case Serenity is served by the AISC Selene
Fleet tending facilities, including life pods, life boats, and launches to accommodate 60% of the passengers and crew
Like the pensioner ships, the pensioner stations serve the same exploitative purpose. If there is a station, the Federation fleet is obligated to protect it, and it is part of the Federation's space dominion. Likewise, the construction of things like pleasuredromes, pensioner stations, and so forth keeps mined out asteroids, reduced to their rocky matrix, from simply being discarded. It might take a decade to mine all the profitable ore out of a hunk of space rock, then there is all the habitat and other facilities built. Rather than tear it down, send the rock to burn up in the sun, it is more profitable to refit these mining outposts.
Real Money versus Funny Munny
It has long been established that the Atlantic Federation operates on a Freemium economy, a sort of universal basic income tethered to voluntary employment. Terms like profits and money are tossed around quite a lot in the context of the pensioners ship and such. This is the other side of the Freemium economy, where the real money and influence come into play. The collective economic power of the pensioners is negligible. The economic power of the shipbuilders, and the habitat builders, the auton manufacturers, far outshadow them.
Murder she Wrote - a long time wanted criminal is discovered to be quite surprisingly, an old pensioner lady. The PC bounty hunters have to hunt her down, which means chasing down a luxury pensioner cruiser on a trans-jovian cruise. Quite aware of her status, the murderess has contacted an anti-bounty hunter seibertronian who will protect her until the ship reaches Ganymede and she goes to the surface to be technoformatted into a machine intelligence herself.
Lusitania - someone is using pensioner ships to smuggle illegal cargo, the PCs have to find the illegal cargo, and then find out who on the ship is keeping an eye on it, then, find out who they work for. Who is putting the ships in jeopardy by loading exotic and dangerous materials on them?