After the death of her husband, Lee Wachtstetter decided to become a permanent guest aboard a luxury cruise ship. The octogenarian, affectionately known as Mama Lee to the crew members, has lived aboard the cruise liner Crystal Serenity for the past seven years.
“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,” she told The Asbury Park Press.
Lee’s husband introduced her to cruising and the pair went on nearly 100 cruises together during their 50 year marriage. Since then, she estimates that she has gone on over 100 more.
Initially after selling her Florida estate, Lee spent three years aboard another liner before making the switch to Crystal Serenity.
“Before coming aboard this ship I lived on a Holland America liner for three years. The day they announced they were stopping the dance host program was the day I decided to leave.
“I enjoy dancing, and this was the best of the remaining ships that still use dance hosts,” she said.
The luxury liner, which boasts a Christian Dior store, jewelry store, and Broadway level shows, costs Mama Lee an estimated $164,000.00 a year. She resides in a single occupancy stateroom on the seventh floor of the luxury liner.
When not dancing, Lee enjoys having dining and meeting new guests. She can often be seen doing needlepoint while on the deck, and teaches the hobby to fellow guests aboard the ship. She has been to nearly every country with a port, and stopped counting after visiting 100 countries.
Which country is her favorite to visit? Wachstetter says Istanbul.
“I can’t resist the Grand Bazaar,” she said. “You can find gorgeously regal or glitzy outfits there, perfect for formal or casual wear and not terribly expensive. I have to restrain myself every time because of my limited cabin space.”
Though she does not regularly leave port now that she’s already visited so many countries, Mama Lee looks forward to docking in Miami so that she can visit family. She keeps in daily contact with family using a laptop and sees them as much as five times per year, depending on the cruise schedule.