For Beatrice Muller, it's the perfect retirement community. The people are first-class. The staff dotes on her. And there's a nice selection of shops, a beauty salon and restaurants within walking distance—a major consideration. After all, you can't drive a car on the Queen Elizabeth 2.
Since January 2000, Muller, 82, has lived full-time on the pride of the Cunard Line. "This ship," she says, "is very much family, from the captain to the people in the engine room." And her presence, says Capt. Ronald Warwick, the skipper, "has made the ship more homey than it already was."
Muller first took to the waves with her husband, Robert, a retired engineer, in 1995. "It was supposed to be a once in a lifetime world cruise," she says, "but we never stopped." They made an annual event of the QE2's four-month voyage until Robert succumbed to emphysema on board in March 1999. "When Dad died," says son Geoff, 45, a database consultant (brother Allen, 51, is an engineer), "Mom lost something huge. But she said, 'Let me go where I'll have fun and do the things I love.' "
Muller, who estimates that her seafaring lifestyle costs about $5,000 a month, including her cabin and day trips in favorite ports of call, like Hong Kong and the Seychelles-sold her houses in New Jersey and Maine before moving to permanent quarters on 4-Deck. She spends her time—except for three weeks a year when the 963-ft. ship is in dry dock in Southampton, England playing bridge, corresponding with friends via e-mail and hitting the dance floor every night after dinner.
"Fifty-seven years ago," says Muller, "I married the best dancer I know—and I'm still dancing."
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