After her husband died of cancer in 1997, Lee Wachtstetter decided to honor his wishes and permanently live on the sea. She sold her five-bedroom Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home and moved to a stateroom aboard a luxury cruise ship.
The 86-year-old widow, who used to cruise with her husband quite often during their 50-year marriage, lived on a Holland America Line cruise ship until it discontinued its dance host program.
Mrs. Wachtstetter then moved on board the Crystal Serenity and has been living on the 1,070-passenger cruise ship for the past seven years.
Since moving to the see, Mrs. Wachtstetter has completed more than 200 cruises, including 15 round-the-world trips, which took her to more than 100 countries.
Some of Crystal Serenity’s 655 crew members took to calling her Mama Lee and her nickname has stuck. “Nobody can pronounce my last name anyway, so it’s fine with me”, she explained to The Miami Herald. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Lee Wachtstetter, who has been nicknamed Mama Lee, sold her five-bedroom Fort Lauderdale area home and moved aboard a luxury cruise ship after her husband died in 1997.
2. The Crystal Serenity can carry up to 1,070 passengers and has a crew of 655. It’s been cruising for 11 years.
Mrs. Wachtstetter rarely gets off her ship, but keeps in touch with her family online and visits them when the ship docks in Miami. She misses her three sons and seven grandchildren, but says that “they have families of their own and do what’s right for them”.
She told the Asbury Park Press:
The day before my husband died of cancer in 1997, he told me, “Don’t stop cruising.” So here I am today living a stress-free, fairy-tale life.
I enjoy dancing, and this was the best of the remaining ships that still use dance hosts. My husband didn’t dance, just didn’t like to, and encouraged me to dance with the hosts. I dance every night for a couple hours after dinner.
3. Mrs. Wachtstetter believes that living on the Serenity this year will cost her around $164,000.
4. Mrs. Wachtstetter has been living on the Crystal Serenity and enjoying the facilities aboard the ship for almost seven years.
Mrs. Wachtstetter has estimated that living on the ship this year will cost her around $164,000. That price includes her room, meals, beverages, dancing programs, entertainment, movies, lectures, as well as cocktail parties with the captain.
In addition to dancing and taking part in other scheduled activities, Mrs. Wachtstetter devotes some of her time to doing needlepoint work in the ship’s Palm Court lounge.
She’s been doing needlepoint for about as long as she’s been cruising and gives everything she creates to the ship’s crew because it gives her “great pleasure” and they are “almost like family now”.
Mrs. Wachtstetter does not plan to celebrate her 87th birthday in May on land, or any subsequent birthday for that matter. She says she isn’t sure whether she would ever “be able to readjust to the real world again”, because she’s spoiled and that anyway, the “crew members bend over backwards” to keep her happy.
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