These Two Old-Timers Live Their Lives on Luxury Cruise Ships

Cruises are hugely popular with travelers and luxury-lovers all over the world. Setting off from fancy ports to exotic destinations like the Caribbean islands and coastal hotspots across the globe, cruises allow travelers to enjoy non-stop luxury and comfort from start to finish. They basically allow you to sit back, relax, and visit wonderful places without even lifting a finger.

The lobby of a cruise ship / Morton Jablin posing for the camera / Lee Wachtstetter posing on the cruise ship dressed nicely

Photo by James D Morgan, Shutterstock / Source: Twitter / Twitter

On a cruise ship, everything is taken care of on your behalf, from dinner to housekeeping and, of course, transportation too. And with so many benefits, many people wish they could stay on those ships forever. Well, some people have done just that! Two old-timers named Morton Jablin and Lee Wachtstetter have decided to live on-board luxury liners permanently, and they’re not alone. Read on to learn about the growing trend of elderly people living on cruises.

The Perfect Form of Travel

After trying a cruise for the very first time, most people fall in love with the idea so much that they have to go back again and again, each and every year. It’s easy to see why. When you compare a cruise to a typical form of vacation, it has a lot of advantages. For instance, on a cruise ship, all your travel arrangements are taken care of, so you don’t need to order buses or trains or rent a car.

Cruise ships in port in Barbuda

For illustrative purposes only. Photo by Martin Moxter / imageBROKER / Shutterstock

Cruise ships are also immensely luxurious spaces. They feel like mini-cities in and of themselves while offering all the amenities of a 5-star hotel in many cases. They have pools, cinemas, theaters, casinos, restaurants, and more. With so much to do in between ports, a cruise can be a phenomenal experience, appealing to folks of all ages and from all walks of life.

A Permanent Home?

Even though cruise ships are simply amazing, complete with wonderful crews who tend to your every need, top rate chefs for preparing delicious food each morning and night, and all the amenities you could hope to have in one place, could they really be a permanent home? Well, for some people, the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!”

A nice room on a cruise ship

Photo by James D Morgan / Shutterstock

Reports show that an increasing number of people are interested in living on a cruise permanently, or at least spending as much time on a cruise ship each year as they can possibly afford. A couple of pioneers, Morton Jablin and Lee Wachtstetter, have actually gone ahead and lived that dream for themselves. Read on to learn how they did it.

Living the Dream

People dream of a lot of things throughout their lives. They dream of winning the lottery, having a luxurious lifestyle, of owning their own private island. For Morton Jablin and Lee Wachtstetter, the ultimate dream was to live on a cruise ship, enjoying a truly unique way of life, each and every day.

Lee Wachtstetter receiving a kiss on the forehead from the ship’s captain

Source: Pinterest

Many people have similar fantasies. How nice would it be to wake up each day and have everything taken care of without worrying about rents, mortgages, utility bills, pets, kids, and all those other responsibilities that tie us down? This is why a lot of people take cruises to enjoy a little slice of the freedoms and luxuries they dream of, but Morton and Lee went one step further.

Who Is Lee Wachtstetter?

“Ladies first,” as they say, so let’s begin by introducing Lee Wachtstetter and learning all about her story before we move on to Morton. Lee Wachtstetter is an 89-year-old woman who has been living full time aboard a cruise ship since she was 77! Nicknamed Mama Lee to those who know her best, she’s a legend of the cruising scene.

Lee Wachtstetter pointing to a set of pink earrings on board her cruise ship

Source: Pinterest

But to truly understand the story of this awe-inspiring old lady, we have to go back into the past. Throughout her life, Lee enjoyed many cruises with her husband. They went on no less than 89 cruises together, using their money wisely to enjoy these amazing breaks and seeing so much of the world in the process.

Drama Strikes

Lee was married to her husband, Mason Wachtstetter, for fifty years. It was actually Mason who introduced Lee to cruising, taking her on board her very first ship and helping her see how wonderful it could be. From that moment on, she was absolutely in love with the concept of cruising and wanted to go away every single year.

Lee Wachtstetter and another man holding a buoy that says The Port of Hong Kong

Source: Flickr

That’s pretty much exactly what Lee and Mason did. They enjoyed countless trips together, but, sadly, all good things must come to an end eventually. When the couple reached their seventies, they were still cruising and making the most of life, but they got some terrible news: Mason was diagnosed with cancer, and he wouldn’t have long to live.

A Dying Wish

The cancer diagnosis came as a big blow to the couple. Mason and Lee had been together for as long as either of them could remember. They’d spent their lives side by side, enjoying so much happiness and making so many magical memories with one another. In a way, their life had seemed like one never-ending fairy tale, filled with one wonderful moment after another.

Lee Wachtstetter sitting at a table in a cruise ships dining room

Source: Pinterest

Unfortunately, cancer is one of the worst killers of them all, and it put an end to Lee and Mason’s happy union. After five incredible decades together, Mason and Lee had to finally say goodbye, but Mason had one last thing to say to his wife before he passed. He asked her to respect his dying wish: not to stop cruising.

Respecting Mason’s Wishes

Perhaps Mason had worried that Lee might grow bored of cruises without him or feel sad about taking a cruise alone. But that’s clearly not what he wanted. He wanted his wife to carry on making the most of her life, living every day to the max, making more happy memories by herself, and with new friends, she would meet along the way.

Lee Wachtstetter knitting in a lounging area on a cruise ship

Source: Flickr

Lee heard her husband loud and clear. She vowed to honor his last wish, no matter what. So, in the early months after his passing, she continued to book cruises and set out on ships around the world, heading back to her five-bedroom Fort Lauderdale home in between each one and enjoying the Florida sunshine and the company of her friends and family when she could.

A Leap of Faith

As life went by and Lee continued to enjoy cruises now and then, she started to feel like something was missing. She was still having so much fun on cruise ships and always looked forward to her next adventure, but the time in between each cruise was less enjoyable. Her daughter seemed to notice this and gave her mom a recommendation.

Lee Wachtstetter and a waiter dancing on an open dance floor during a cruise

Source: Pinterest

Lee’s daughter suggested that her mom should try living on a cruise ship full-time. It might have sounded like a crazy idea at the time, but, to Lee, it seemed like the most exciting prospect in the world. She wasn’t too keen about the prospect of leaving her daughter, three sons, and several grandkids behind, but she was determined to give it a try, so she took a big leap of faith.

The Dream That Never Ends

Lee was 77 years old when she decided to move onto a cruise ship permanently. She didn’t actually buy a permanent cabin or apartment, but instead simply booked tickets on a back-to-back, round-the-world cruise, traveling continuously to exotic locations all over the globe. She’s approaching her nineties now, and she’s still cruising, going non-stop for over a decade.

Lee Wachtstetter having her order taken in a cruise ship dining room

Source: Flickr

It’s been like a dream that never ends for this incredible old lady. As someone who had already been on dozens of cruises in the past, she adapted instantly to the permanent cruise ship lifestyle, feeling right at home aboard a luxurious Crystal Cruises liner and making the most of each and every day she got.

A Stunning New Home

Mama Lee chose the Crystal Serenity as her official cruise ship home. Owned and operated by Crystal Cruises, the Crystal Serenity was built in 2003 and runs around the world voyages throughout the year. The vessel cost about $350 million to make and was formally christened and completed in the summer of 2003.

A Crystal Serenity cruise ship preparing to leave the port

Photo by John Greim / Shutterstock

The vessel has 13 decks in total and a maximum capacity of 1,040 passengers, with about 650 crew members. Incredibly, Mama Lee has actually been on board the ship much longer than most of those crew members. An elegant and stylish ship, the Serenity has wonderful rooms, lots of restaurants offering everything from Italian plates to sushi, butlers, live entertainment, a nightclub, and more.

Over 100 Solo Cruises

Incredibly, Mama Lee had done more cruises on her own since her husband’s passing than she did with him when he was alive! She’s done over 100 cruises so far, including 15 world cruises, and has visited over 100 countries! She says that she “stopped counting after 100” and basically thinks that she’s been to pretty much every country with a port on the planet.

Lee Wachtstetter walking on the deck with shopping bags in her hand

Source: YouTube

In fact, she’s seen so many places so many times that she has now stopped going out on shore excursions, letting all the other guests enjoy the sights and sounds while she stays on the ship and gets the place all to herself. She does, however, like to step off the boat if it ever visits Istanbul, which is one of her favorite places for buying new clothes.

An Unparalleled Lifestyle

Since making the move to a cruise ship, Mama Lee has enjoyed life like no other. Each day, she has 24/7 access to health care, live entertainment, fine dining, housekeeping services, friendly crew members, and all kinds of other amenities too. For her, it’s like the ultimate retirement village, with the added bonus of getting to see and experience all kinds of locations across the globe.

The casino inside of the Crystal Serenity cruise ship

Source: Crystal Serenity

Of course, it’s not perfect, and Mama Lee says she does miss her family but does all she can to keep in touch with her three sons and seven grandchildren through her laptop. Whenever her ship docks in Miami, she gets an opportunity to visit her family too. Her daughter sadly passed away, along with many of her friends from Florida, but she has lots of pals on board.

The Price of It All

Mason and Lee were a relatively wealthy couple. Mason worked as a banker and real estate appraiser, and the couple owned their own 5-bedroom home, saving smartly to afford their many cruises together. So, Mama Lee was in a privileged position when she began her permanent cruise lifestyle, but how much does she actually spend?

Lee Wachtstetter posing for a close-up photograph on the cruise ship

Source: YouTube

Well, many estimates and reports suggest that she spends around $160,000 to $180,000 per year to sail aboard the Crystal Serenity. It’s certainly not cheap, but before she left, Mama Lee sold her home, car, and pretty much everything she owned to build up the necessary funds to cover the cost of her voyages for the years ahead.

The Captain

Now let’s take a closer look at the story of Morton Jablin. In his mid-nineties, this man, known affectionately as “The Captain” to cruise lovers and crew members on board his incredible luxury liner home, is another example of an old-timer who chose to turn his love of cruising into a permanent lifestyle.

Morton Jablin with cruise ship employees in front of a view of a city

Source: Twitter

Just like Mama Lee, the “Captain” is a real icon in cruise circles. Many people are envious of what he has accomplished, and many others hope to emulate him and retire on a cruise ship. So how did Morton end up living aboard the extraordinary Seven Seas Navigator, enjoying a cozy cabin, live entertainment, and five-star dining each day? Read on for his story.

From Humble Beginnings

Morton Jablin was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He signed up for the US Navy, spending some time out of the States during his time with the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence during the Second World War. He came back home in 1946 and started to work as a pharmacist. At the time, he was earning just $65 a week, but he had a very interesting business idea that changed everything.

A navy captain standing in his service dress blue uniform

Source: Pinterest

While abroad during his military career, Morton came into contact with a German textile manufacturer who introduced him to some unique European lace-making machines. Morton decided to bring those machines over to America, starting up his own lace-making business and enjoying a lot of success.

From Strength to Strength

It was partly thanks to Morton’s efforts that the lace-making industry gradually began to take off in the US. As time went by and Chinese labor emerged as a cheaper option for textiles in general, the industry started to move towards Asia. However, the Captain’s company is still going strong to this day, owning the majority of lace-making machines in America right now.

A spinning mill photographed in the mid or late 20th century

Photo by Granger / Shutterstock

In the meantime, Morton met the love of his life – his wife Charlotte – and had two children. Those children went on to have children of their own, and Morton eventually left the lace business in the capable hands of one of his grandsons, who is currently in his forties.

A Passion for Cruises

Just like Lee and Mason Wachtstetter, Morton and his wife Charlotte also both enjoyed going on cruises together. Over a period of more than fifty years, the couple sailed with lots of different cruise lines, explored countless ships, and visited many amazing locations around the world.

Morton Jablin eating his breakfast in the dining room at his special table

Source: Twitter

“My wife, Charlotte, always traveled with me and we made friends with other couples and crew,” Morton explained in an interview, revealing how he and Charlotte really enjoyed the cruise experience, watching the live shows, chatting with the crew members, and forming friendships with other cruisers. They both made some amazing memories through the course of all those journeys.

A New Way of Life

Sadly, just as Mama Lee lost her husband, Morton also lost his wife. Charlotte passed away over a decade ago, and it was then that Morton decided to move onto a cruise ship for good. In an almost identical story to Mama Lee, once Morton was a widower, he felt like any time he spent on land was wasted. He wanted to make the most of every single second, so it made sense to simply get on a ship and never leave!

Morton Jablin posing for the camera

Source: Twitter

In the years prior to Charlotte’s passing, the couple had sailed almost exclusively on Radisson’s Seven Seas Cruises, like the Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager, enjoying the experiences each time, so Morton decided that the Seven Seas Navigator would be a good permanent home for the rest of his life.

A Five-Star Home

The Seven Seas Navigator is a luxury, all-suite cruise ship operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The ship’s claim to fame is that it appeared in the movie After the Sunset, starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek, and it entered service way back in 1999. Most of the on-board cabins have their own private verandas, and the ship is designed with 5-star living in mind.

A photograph of the Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship cruising in the East River in New York

Photo by Norbert Eisele-Hein / imageBROKER / Shutterstock

It measures up at 566′ in length, with a maximum guest capacity of 490 and 345 crew members on board. The ship features a spa, fitness rooms, boutiques, lots of live entertainment, and a whole range of eateries too. It’s an amazing vessel, offering the highest possible standards of quality and service to its passengers and to the Captain.

A Daily Routine

You might think that with so many amenities and luxuries to enjoy aboard, every day on a ship would be its own unique adventure, but Morton likes to keep things simple and live a structured, scheduled life. He’s spent a lot of time on cruises, so he doesn’t need to run around and try every single restaurant and live show. He knows what he likes, and he follows a set routine each day.

A photograph of the Dover Sole fish on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator

Source: Twitter

In the morning, he gets up early and enjoys a delicious breakfast in his cabin. He does some daily exercise, walking around and enjoying the fresh sea air, and he often eats his favorite meal – Dover sole – for lunch and dinner in the ship’s main dining room. He chats with crew members and passengers now and then, as well as taking in some of the liner’s musical performances from time to time too.

Maintaining Family Ties

Morton still owns a condo in Boca Raton, Florida, just to store his possessions and qualify for health benefits, but he very rarely goes ashore. His two sons, both in their sixties, sometimes visit him on board, bringing their wives and kids and even grandkids too, so that the Captain still has ties to his family.

A condominium in Boca Raton, Florida

Source: Twitter

He has his own cell phone that he uses to chat with family while he’s traveling the world. Even though many of his friends have passed away now, he still sometimes spots some familiar faces on the ship, including friends that he and Charlotte once knew from previous cruises, which is always a nice surprise for him.

Making the Most of What He Has

Sadly, in recent years, the Captain has struggled with some eyesight issues. His eyesight started to fade, and he is now classed as 90% blind, which, of course, would make life much more challenging for anyone. Fortunately, the Captain continues to inspire us all with his positive outlook.

A photograph of the deck with a swimming pool and an area to lounge on a cruise ship

Photo by Steve Brown / Shutterstock

Even though he can’t partake in shore excursions and tours anymore, he has accepted this sudden change with his usual good grace, saying that he and Charlotte had already seen the world many times anyway. He’s still making the most of each day, enjoying the amenities and comforts of the ship, and continuing to lead a life he loves.

With A Little Help from His Friends

The Captain has had to adapt to his loss of eyesight. He still exercises each day. He walks for a couple of hours, steering clear of any areas that might pose any kind of risk or present any kind of hazard. As a former Navy man, he knows his way around a ship and can still have a lot of enjoyment, even without the ability to see everything all around him.

Morton Jablin’s table in the Compass Rose Dining Room

Morton Jablin’s table in the Compass Rose Dining Room. Source: Pinterest

His friends in the ship’s crew have also made special adjustments to help him out. They installed brighter lights in his cabin to help him get around more comfortably, as well as a special mirror in the bathroom and some new handrails too.

He Wouldn’t Change a Thing

The Captain’s life has been one amazing adventure, and, even though these new difficulties have arisen, he says he wouldn’t change a thing. He is still so happy with how things have turned out for him. He’s so happy living aboard the ship and says that he simply couldn’t get the same standard of living anywhere else in the world.

A photograph of a buffet on a cruise ship

Photo by Mirco Toniolo / rrebi / Agf / Shutterstock

He has tasty food to eat each day, friendly crew members and guests to chat with, lots of live entertainment and activities, and easy access to nurses and doctors if he needs them. He says that “life on board couldn’t be better,” adding that the cruise ship is the one place where he feels the safest and secure.

An Inspirational Pair

Morton Jablin and Lee Wachtstetter are two very inspiring people. They both lived their lives in love with cruises, lost their partners, and then chose to do the unthinkable, daring to make their dreams come true. For over a decade now, both have been living the high life, enjoying all the luxuries and comforts of a cruise liner right on their doorstep every single day.

Lee Wachtstetter posing on the cruise ship dressed nicely / A photograph from above of the interior of a cruise ship with shops all around

Source: Twitter / Shutterstock

It’s extraordinary to see how these two people followed such similar paths. Both of them dared to try and do something that very few people would be willing to attempt. A lot of folks dream of living on a ship, but Lee and Morton really went for it, and their actions have inspired many others to follow in their footsteps. Read on to learn how you can do the same.

A Good Starting Point

If you’re interested in making a cruise ship your own permanent home but are perhaps a little hesitant about whether or not the idea is right for you, a great way to start is by taking a world cruise. These cruises usually run for at least a few months, letting you experience a sizable chunk of term on board a liner, witnessing and experiencing what your future life could be like.

An indoor bathhouse on a cruise ship

Photo by Murray Sanders / Daily Mail / Shutterstock

World cruises really give you a big taste of life on a ship, letting you wake up each day for weeks and months at a time, enjoying the amenities aboard: restaurants, live entertainment, swimming pools, and more. One of the best things about this is that you’ll build up tons of loyalty points with the cruise company, accessing massive discounts and exclusive rates that could help you save a lot of cash in the future.

The Biggest Yacht on Earth

Another way to give the cruising life a try for yourself is by purchasing your very own suite on the world’s biggest private yacht. The vessel is known as The World and it’s been sailing since 2002, going all over the globe and visiting all kinds of different cities. There are around 200 people currently living on The World, and the best part is that they get to decide where to go!

A photograph of the ship The World anchored near ashore

Photo by Fraser Gray / Shutterstock

The residents actually hold votes for which cities they’d like to visit each season, allowing them to feel almost like captains of their very own ship. The ship features 165 residences in total, across 12 separate decks, along with plenty of amenities like a gym, spa, and even putting greens for golf fans.

Blue World Voyages

Another option for those looking for their own permanent spot aboard a fancy, high-end cruise liner is offered by Blue World Voyages in the form of their new “Owners Club” scheme. As part of this initiative, Blue World Voyages is offering a set of luxury apartments for sale to those who dream of a life at sea.

A suite on the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship

Source: Shutterstock

The apartments vary in size from one-bedroom cabins to larger two-bedroom cabins, with each one fully furnished and fitted out with all you need, including access to your very own butler. Elsewhere on the ship, you’ll find fitness gyms, hockey simulators, golf greens, swimming pools, and more, and owners have the option to rent out their apartments when not using them.

The Cost

Of course, one of the big issues that many people have to deal with when considering living on a cruise ship or luxury yacht-like The World is the cost. On average, living on a fancy cruise liner doesn’t come cheap! Residences on The World, for instance, cost up to $20 million, while Blue World Voyages’ Owners Club apartments cost $4 million or more.

A relaxation room aboard a cruise ship

Source: Shutterstock

Still, as proven by Lee and Morton, it is possible to bring your cruise dreams to life on a more modest budget. Many cruise lovers choose to book back-to-back world cruises, which works out much cheaper than trying to buy a permanent cabin or apartment. Plus, if you can rack up enough loyalty points and take advantage of VIP schemes, you can get some amazing discounts on each trip.

A Cheaper Way of Life

Some experts even argue that you could actually save money in the long run by living out your latter years on a cruise ship as opposed to in a retirement village or nursing home. Statistics show, for example, that the average living costs of aged care accommodation work out at close to $1,000 per day.

People playing bingo on a cruise ship

Photo by Fraser Gray / Shutterstock

Meanwhile, you can book a fancy cruise liner for around the world trips at prices as low as $250 per day. This includes accommodation, food, and access to all those other amenities like pools, bars, and gyms too. Not to mention the fact that cruise ships have doctors and nurses to deal with any health issues.

A Different Kind of Life

As we can see from the experiences of Morton Jablin and Lee Wachtstetter, as well as the many other men and women who have decided to make permanent or semi-permanent homes for themselves aboard luxury cruise liners, it can be quite an incredible lifestyle. Every day offers something new, with countless conveniences, comforts, and amenities right at your fingertips.

A woman ordering food in a cruise ship restaurant

Photo by Francis Dean / Shutterstock

It might not be right for everyone, but it’s clearly a good fit for Morton and Lee, and there are plenty of ways to see if it’s right for you too, through things like around the world cruises and vessels like The World. One thing’s for sure: for Lee, Morton, and many others, sailing around the globe on a luxury liner definitely beats the bland rooms and mundane experiences of a typical old folks’ home!