An estimated 24 million people are expected to take cruises this year. One report showed more than a quarter of them are age 60 or older, and more than one-fifth are retired. For many of those passengers, the ships are like a second home, but for one woman, ocean liner Crystal Serenity is her only home.
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
1. How often does Lee Wachtstetter talk to her family?
2. How long has she been living on the Crystal Serenity?
3. What is the last thing Lee’s husband told her?
4. What does she say about her grandchildren?
5. Why does she love it when everybody goes touring and she stays on board?
6. What does ‘5.15’ mean?
7. How much do it cost for Lee to live on the ship?
8. How long did it take a ship to cross the Northwest Passage when it was first done?
An estimated 24 million people are expected to take cruises this year. One report showed more than a quarter of them are age 60 or older, and more than one-fifth are retired. For many of those passengers, ships are like a second home, but for one woman, the ocean liner is her only home. CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg met her while covering another story on board. Peter, good morning.
Good morning, Nora. Part of the reason cruises are so popular for retirees is because so much is taken care of for them, the cooking, cleaning, entertainment, all the activities. But when the cruise is over, most of them return home to their regular lives. But Lee Wachtstetter showed us how she found a way to travel the world without ever leaving home.
Did you miss me?
You could say 88-year-old Lee Wachtstetter has earned her sea legs.
How often are you talking to the family at home?
I talk to them every day.
I’ll talk to them twice a day if it means I don’t have to be there.
Aboard the Crystal Serenity, she’s known simply as Mama Lee and she’s been living there for the past eight years.
I don’t have to shop, I don’t have to cook, I don’t have to do anything. I do what I want, when I want, if I want.
She and her late husband, Mason, took nearly 100 cruises together before he died in 1997.
The last thing he ever said to me, this was the day before he died, ‘Don’t you quit cruising.’ I started frequent cruising. But I got very, very tired of packing and unpacking. So I said, there’s got to be a better way to do this.
And the answer was, how about I don’t leave it at all!
Mama Lee sold her house in Florida, along with her car and most of her belongings, and never looked back.
Everybody knows her, she knows everybody.
Birger Vorland is captain of the Crystal Serenity.
She’s a little bit of a diva, in a good way. She gets along with her day, and she makes herself busy, and she has her things and her opinions, and she’s a wonderful person.
At your age, there are a lot of people who would say, ‘Well, I’m going to go to a retirement place.’
Oh, no, no, no. [Really?] Not me. Why do that? I’m now a great-grandmother. My grandchildren are having children. But I don’t want to be there every minute for that. I love babies, but they grow up!
Mama Lee has now done more than 240 cruises around the world, and visited hundreds of different ports. But where the ship is going? Irrelevant. For Mama Lee, these days, the ship is the destination.
Everything is ‘Been there, done that.’ If I’ve been there and done that, I don’t go off the ship. And I love it when everybody goes touring. I got the whole ship to myself with all the help.
You’ve got this figured out!
And you don’t really get off the ship anymore?
Cruise director Rick Spath considers himself part of her extended family at sea.
That’s Lee, she doesn’t care where the ship goes, she loves to dance her way around the world.
I dance every single day at 5:15, 7 days a week.
Do you ever sit back and think about what your life would be like if you weren’t on the ship?
Very boring. I think I live a fairy tale existence. It’s not a real life, I realize that. Not everybody does this. But a lot of people could.
I still think I do the same dance at seven every dance.
Yes, you do, but that’s okay.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How much does it cost Lee Wachtstetter to do the cruise? He estimated about $175,000 a year. And by the way, since she goes on the cruise wherever the ship goes, she’s one of a thousand passengers who spent $22,000…, that’s the other story we’re covering, this ship was actually the largest ship ever to attempt the Northwest Passage. They started sailing from Seward all the way north going 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle back to New York. It’s a thirty-two voyage, and to put this in perspective, when it was first done in 1903, it took them three years.
Is there one place she will get off the ship?
Yes, when the ship goes into dry dock, here’s what happens, it only happens once every like six or seven years, they literally pull up to the harbour, pull up to the dock, there’s another ship there and they walk her 50 feet and she goes on another ship.
Where does she get her doctor’s appointments and stuff like that? I mean, does she… I mean…
So far she’s dancing.
Yeah, that’s great!
On the Crystal Serenity. Peter, thank you.
1 every day
2 for eight years
3 don’t you quit cruising
4 they are having children now. She’s a grandmother
5 because she has the ship to herself
6 the time she dances at every day
7 $175,000 a year
8 three years