Woman pays $164k per year to live onboard cruise ship

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Lee Wachtstetter, an 86-year-old widow, lives permanently aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.
Asbury Park Press

One Florida widow is spending $164k each year to live her life on the seas, permanently.

Lee Wachtstetter, an 86-year-old Florida widow, has been living onboard the Crystal Serenity for nearly seven years following the death of her husband. Known as Mama Lee by the cruise ship staff, Wachtstetter sold her five-bedroom Fort Lauderdale-area home to settle on the cruise ship.

"My husband introduced me to cruising . . . Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our 50-year marriage we did 89 cruises. I've done nearly a hundred more and 15 world cruises," Wachstetter 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."

The Crystal Serenity, where Wachstetter has spent nearly seven years living on.

Wachstetter approximates that it will cost her around $134,000 to live onboard the Serenity this year. That includes costs of lodging, meals, nightly ballroom dancing and Broadway-caliber entertainment - as well as the captain's frequent cocktail parties and other activities.

"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," Wachstetter told the Asbury Park Press. "I dance every night for a couple hours after dinner, have been doing it for years. And I've also trained with the ship's dance instructors."

Three other women live on Crystal vessels but none nearly as long as Wachstetter, Hubert Buelacher, Serenity's hotel director, told the Asbury Park Press. "She's just an amazing woman, one of a kind."