In 2011, Virtuoso client Judy Hanzel turned her vacation of a lifetime into a lifetime vacation. After a world cruise, she decided she’d rather be living aboard a cruise ship. Her new home: Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity.

Living aboard a cruise ship: Judy Hanzel and friends on the Crystal Serenity
Judy Hanzel (center) with some of her friends on board the Crystal Serenity

“My husband is still living, but he’d rather be dead than cruise,” the 76-year-old Hanzel explains of her unorthodox decision. “Friends had lined me up to go into this nursing facility, and he said, ‘Is this what you want? Judy, we can do better.’ The next day, he found out who my travel agent was, called him up, and signed me up to cruise for a year. I’ve never been so happy.”

Hanzel shows no signs of debarking any time soon. After retiring from a 30-year career at global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, she tried to find something that excited her: “I cleaned everything up, and thought, what do I do now? I started with all the ladies’ organizations. It was a nice thing to do, but it got boring.”

Why Hanzel Loves the Cruise Lifestyle

Living aboard a cruise ship, by comparison, is never boring. With few ties to home, the lifestyle suits Hanzel well. “Other than my husband I’m alone,” she says. “I have no relatives at all. Onboard, everyone’s pleasant all the time. Once you start living here, they know you, start calling you by name. When you work in the business world, it’s competitive. This is not competitive.”

The crew have become her family at sea. “My best friends are the employees,” she enthuses. “I sit at the captain’s table; I have a wonderful butler named Jason, who does anything and everything for me. If I get up late and can’t find something, the bellboys are in my closet trying to help me. I’m very grateful for them.”

Living aboard a cruise ship: Crystal Serenity
Hanzel lives on board the Crystal Serenity full time: “I’ve never had a bad day.”

Hanzel thrives on board the Crystal Serenity. She goes on shore excursions during the day to explore whatever port of call the ship visits. And in the evening she walks around the ship with one of the gentleman hosts, or takes in the entertainment. “They have very elegant entertainment,” she notes. “Some of it is good enough certainly for Broadway. They have people from all walks of life who come on and entertain, plus the people who are here all the time.”

Where Hanzel’s Been and Hasn’t Been

Hanzel has no idea how many countries she’s been to, but does know where she hasn’t been: “The only places I have missed are Tanzania and places along the eastern part of Africa, otherwise I’ve been to every place I’ve ever wanted to go.”

But even repeat destinations get this world traveler excited: “The South Sea islands, I’m going soon there, to Bora Bora and all those really pretty places. I’ve been before, but I’m about to go again. I’m very excited about it, it’s been years since I’ve been there.”

Challenges with Living Aboard a Cruise Ship

The only tricky part of living aboard a cruise ship is when Hanzel needs services on land. She relies on the ship’s concierge, her personal assistant and her Virtuoso travel advisor to keep things running smoothly. “You have to assist not just with the business part of it, but the personal part as well,” observes Hanzel’s advisor, Michael Kempinski. “Handling a bank issue, or insurance claim, you wind up having to be a little bit of a personal assistant.”

Living aboard a cruise ship: Crystal Serenity in Venice
Hanzel has seen virtually everywhere in the world during her stay on the Crystal Serenity

Kempinski has helped with everything from finding doctors and lawyers in specific ports of call, to getting documents or medicines delivered to Hanzel. She keeps in touch with him and her assistant via a satellite phone.

Living aboard a cruise ship, which Kempinski estimates costs his client $480,000 per year, before expenditures like excursions, the spa and a personal trainer, isn’t a good fit for everyone. But it’s a great fit for Judy Hanzel.

“I’ve been here three years,” she gushes, “and I’ve never had a bad day.”

Sound Great to You?

If you’re contemplating life at sea – for a week-long cruise or a longer sojourn like Hanzel’s – consider consulting with a Virtuoso travel advisor who specializes in cruises. They can recommend the line and ship that will be perfect for your needs.


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