Widow lives full time on luxe cruise ship for $164,000 a year

This lady gets how to do retirement.

Lee Wachtstetter and her husband were avid cruise fans, so before her husband died in 1997, his final wish was for her to keep cruising. So the 86-year-old widow sold her sprawling Fort Lauderdale house on 10 acres and took up permanent residence on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship, where she’s lived for about seven years.

crystal serenity pool

Image: Gary Benbridge via Flickr

What a cool retirement idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? She’s taken care of, comfortable and has her independence. Genius — if you can afford the price tag.

Wachtsetter estimates it costs her $164,000 a year to live on the cruise ship, which includes her private stateroom, meals and beverages, parties, dancing, lectures and other daily activities. She was attracted to Crystal Serenity because it’s ranked as one of the best cruise lines in the world and for its accommodations for passengers traveling alone.

Now Mama Lee, as she’s known by the crew of the Crystal Serenity, travels the world in style and luxury. She doesn’t always go ashore for excursions, she says, with one notable and exotic exception: Istanbul.

“I can’t resist the Grand Bazaar,” Wachtstetter said. “You can find gorgeously regal or glitzy outfits there, perfect for formal or casual wear and not terribly expensive. I have to restrain myself every time because of my limited cabin space.”

She says she misses her family but communicates with one of her children or grandchildren every day online.

“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.”

She spends her time dancing the night away, dining at her regular table for eight and hanging in the Palm Court lounge, doing her needlepoint.

“The crew members bend over backwards to keep me 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.”

A smart lady enjoying retirement like a boss. Admit it — you’re a little bit jealous.

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