The Endless Cruise: 7 Years On Crystal Serenity

Open Jaw

Mama Lee

Some people take a week long cruise and wish they could stay aboard for another week. Lee Wachtstetter, an 86 yr. old American widow, has been cruising the world on Crystal Serenity for the past 7 years and plans to continue as long as she can.

Known as Mama Lee aboard the ship, Wachtstetter pays over $200,000 a year to live on the 1,070 pax vessel. That’s not cheap, but for Wachtstetter the Serenity offers far more interest and variety than even the toniest retirement home.

The money covers a single occupancy 7th deck cabin; meals (regular and specialty); lunch and dinner beverages; tips; nightly ballroom dancing with hosts; shipboard entertainment; cocktail parties; movies; lectures and a host of other daily activities.

In some ways, Wachtstetter sees the lifestyle as a tribute to her late husband, a banker and real estate appraiser who loved being at sea. The couple enjoyed 89 cruises over their 50 years of married life.

Since her husband’s death, Wachtstetter has done nearly 100 more, including 15 world cruises. One of the last things her husband said to her: “Don’t stop cruising.”

She says she rarely bothers going ashore nowadays because she has already seen most cities and prefers the serenity of the quiet ship. She makes an exception for Istanbul, where she never fails to visit the Grand Bazaar.

Asked how many countries she had visited, Wachtstetter said she had stopped counting at 100. “Just say I’ve been to almost any country that has a port.”

(will not be published)