Lee Wachtsetter’s husbands dying wish was that she lives out the rest of her life on the high seas.
And to honour this, Mrs Wachtsetter has been living on cruise ships since her husband’s death in 1997 costing her US$164,00 a year.
The 86-year-old grandma, who loves to dance, sold her five-bedroom Fort Lauderdale home set on 10-acres and moved to a stateroom aboard the Crystal Serenity.
The widow, known fondly as Mama Lee to the staff on Crystal Serenity, often cruised with her late husband of 50 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 USA Today.
“My husband introduced me to cruising. Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our marriage we did 89-cruises I’ve done nearly 100 more and 15 world cruises.”
She first lived on a Holland America Line ship until it discontinued its dance program then made the move to Crystal Serenity.
The line’s reputation and its range of dance program is what attracted her to Crystal Serenity.
The line’s program includes Ambassador Hosts who teach dance to passengers who are travelling alone or with a partner who many not like dancing.
And this is exactly what drew Mama Lee to her current home.
“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.
“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 dance every night for a couple of hours after dinner, have been doing it for years. And I’ve also trained with the ship’s dance instructors.”
So how many countries has Mama Lee visited to be exact?
“I stopped counting after 100. Just say I’ve been to almost any country that has a port.”
She now rarely goes ashore because she’s been to most destinations several times. But Istanbul is still an exception.
The 11-year-old Crystal Serenity holds 1,070 passengers and is known for its luxurious options.
Cruisers are waited on hand and foot and are extremely attentive.
So when you don’t find Mama Lee on the dancefloor, you’ll find her in the Palm Court lounge doing needlepoint.
“It’s my second love, having been doing it for 50 years. I’ve even helped teach it to some passengers. Everything I make I give to crewmembers. Gives me great pleasure.
“The crewmembers bend over backwards to keep my happy. Some are almost like family now. If they don’t have what I want, they get it. Even if they have to buy it off the ship or make it to my specific needs.”
Three other women live on Crystal vessels but none nearly as long as Mama Lee, according to Hubert Buelacher, Serenity’s hotel director. “She’s just an amazing woman, one of a kind.”