Talk about sailing into the sunset.
One Florida senior citizen has bid farewell to life on land and taken up permanent residence on luxury cruise.
Lee Wachtstetter, 86, has been living on Crystal Cruises' Serenity liner for almost seven years, reports the Asbury Park Press. During that time, Wachtstetter, or "Mama Lee" as she's known aboard to most of 655 crew members, estimates she's spent about $164,000 a year for her floating home.
Her six figure tab covers the costs of her seventh deck stateroom, all meals with beverages included, nightly ballroom dancing, Broadway-style shows, captain's cocktail parties, movies, lectures and gratuities for the staff.
But the widow says its all worth it to live out what many would consider a real dream come true.
"My husband introduced me to cruising," she told the Asbury Park Press. "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."
86-year-old Lee Wachstetter has lived aboard the Serenity for almost seven years.
Just before her husband died, Wachstetter said that he told his wife to "never stop cruising" and she took it to heart. After selling her five bedroom Fort Lauderdale, which included 10 acres, Mama Lee was encouraged by her family to do something that she loved. Though she loves life on the high seas, she admits there is one drawback.
"When my children were all young, I took them on cruises many times. Now they have families of their own and do what's right for them," she says, lamenting that she really misses her Flordia-based family.
But luckily for Wachstetter, Miami is a well-known cruise port. "I hear from one of them every day, and visit with them whenever we dock in Miami. Last year we docked in Miami five times."
Since becoming a Serenity resident, Wachtstetter estimates that she's visited over a 100 countries.
"Just say I've been to almost any country that has a port," she says. She enjoyed visiting Asian countries because they are "so different" from America. Nowadays, she usually opts to stay onboard when the ship docks at various ports. She enjoys the quiet as other tourists go off for the day. But she makes an exception for Istanbul, and "can't resist the Grand Bazaar."
At night, Wachtstetter dines in the main dining room, and says she enjoys meeting new people. Her home, the 11-year old Serenity can hold up to 1,070 passengers at a time so there are plenty of new faces each week.
Mama Lee takes advantage of the ship's nightly activities.
Wachstetter says that her husband never really enjoyed dancing so now she takes advantage of the ship's nightly program.
But the never-ending vacation lifestyle has taken a toll on Mama Lee's waistline. She estimates that she's gained about 25 pounds after feasting on decadent cruise food for the past seven years. But this active senior citizen didn't get discouraged and has put herself on strict fruit and vegetable diet to shed the weight. While many in their 80's are frequently in and out of doctor's officers, Wachtstetter credits good spirits and a great immune system for her good health aboard the Serenity.
"All the time I've been here I have never had a sick day," she said. "I'm so spoiled I doubt that I would ever be able to readjust to the real world again."