For some, a dream home is a gorgeous mansion with acres of beautiful greenery. For others, it’s a elegant penthouse in an urban skyscraper. For Florida widow Lee Wachtstetter, it’s a 1,070-passenger luxury cruise ship — the Crystal Serenity.
During her 50-year marriage, “Mama Lee” (as she’s known aboard the ship) went on nearly 90 cruises with her husband. And during her eight-year stay aboard the Crystal Serenity, she’s done nearly a hundred more, plus 15 world cruises. After her husband passed away, Wachstetter decided to sell their five-bedroom, 10-acre home in Fort Lauderdale and make her new home in a “location” that she had grown to love — the ocean.
Although she admits that her single-occupancy, seventh-deck stateroom has “limited” space, Wachstetter enjoys all of the amenities of the Serenity, which set sail on its maiden voyage in 2003. Approximately $164,000 a year covers her cabin, regular and specialty restaurant meals (with beverages available at lunch and dinner), gratuities, nightly ballroom dancing with hosts, and Broadway-type entertainment. In addition, there are the captain’s frequent cocktail parties, movies, lectures and other scheduled daily activities.
And this isn’t Mama Lee’s first “home” aboard a cruise ship — she previously lived for three years on a Holland America ship. But when they discontinued their dance host program — she’s loved to dance her whole life — she decided to “move” to the Crystal Serenity. After all, the Crystal Cruise Line is always rated among the world’s best, and the Serenity is their newest ship.
And Wachtstetter enjoys the communal dining experience of a cruise ship, regularly sitting at a table for eight and making new friends. Of course, with all of the delicious culinary options on the menu, she confides that she’s working on losing a few extra pounds that she gained since coming on board.
Most days, Mama Lee can be found doing needlepoint in the Palm Court lounge — it’s “her second love.” Everything that she makes, she gives to staff members of the 655-person crew; in turn, they have become like family to her, providing a near-concierge-level of service.
She’s able to keep in touch with her three sons and seven grandchildren via her laptop computer. And whenever the Serenity docks in Miami — as many as five times a year — she visits with the family members that live nearby.
Mama Lee isn’t the only full-time resident on a Crystal cruise ship — there are three others living a similar lifestyle. But Wachtstetter has been doing it the longest. She credits her late husband, who told her “Don’t stop cruising” before he passed away. Today, Mama Lee claims that she’s living a “stress-free, fairy-tale life.”