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86-Year-Old Woman Has Been Living on Luxury Cruise Ship for Seven Years

For most of us a cruise around the world aboard a luxury ship is nothing but a fantasy, but for Lee Wachtstetter it’s everyday life. The 86-year-old has been living on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship for the last seven years, hardly ever setting foot on dry land.

The Florida woman sold her five-bedroom home in Fort Lauderdale shortly after she lost her husband ,Guy Mason Wachtstetter, to cancer, and moved into the stateroom of a Holland America Line ship. When that ship discontinued its dance host program, she moved to the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity, where she has been living for the past seven years!

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Lee, fondly known as ‘Mama Lee’ by the ship’s 600-strong staff, recalls how she spent most of her 50-year marriage cruising with her husband. “My husband introduced me to cruising,” she said. “Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our 5o-year marriage we did 89 cruises. 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 octogenarian has completed over 200 cruises, including  15 round-the-world trips. Although the Crystal Serenity has stops in over 100 countries, she rarely ever goes ashore, and keeps in touch with her family through the internet and visits them whenever her ship docks in Miami. Mama Lee admits that she misses her sons and grandchildren, but says that “they have families of their own and do what’s right for them.”

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“I enjoy dancing, and this was the best of the remaining ships that still use dance hosts,” she added. “My husband didn’t dance, just didn’t like to, and encouraged me to dance with the hosts. I dance every night for a couple of hours after dinner.”

Living on the Serenity costs Lee an estimated $164,000 per year, including her room, meals, beverages, dancing programs, entertainment, movies, lectures, and cocktail parties with the captain. The Crystal Serenity also has a chef’s garden, retail stores like Christian Dior, a theater, and all-you-can-eat buffets that Lee claims have left their mark on her figure.

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Apart from dancing and other scheduled activities, Lee says that she has been keeping herself busy with needlepoint. Everything she makes she gives away to the crew, whom she has come to see as members of her own family. In fact, the crew goes to such great lengths to make her feel comfortable that she isn’t sure if she’d ever be able to readjust in the real world again.

Lee is remarkably healthy for her age, making it relatively easier for her to spend most of her time on a ship. She doesn’t take any regular medications, and reportedly stays as far away from doctors as possible. “Now I have arthritis and don’t want to deal with cobblestones. I also don’t use the stairs. I’m glad I can still dance and don’t want to do anything to risk an injury that would keep me from it,” she said.

“She’s just an amazing woman,” said Serenity’s hotel director Hubert Buelacher. “One of a kind.”

Sources: ABC News, Miami News Herald

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