Cruise ship vacations can be some of the most luxurious holidays a person can have. Morton Jablin can certainly attest to that, as he and his wife Charlotte enjoyed breaks of that kind for over 50 years. However, for the last decade the retired sailor has actually lived aboard a cruise vessel.
In April 1988 construction began on the Seven Seas Navigator ship, leading to its launch some three years later. Despite that, though, it would be another eight years before work on the vessel was completed, in August 1999. Shortly after its completion, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises welcomed the Navigator into their company.
For the 12 months following completion, the Seven Seas Navigator’s home port could be found in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas. After that, the ship made its home in Hamilton, Bermuda, for over a decade. And in 2011 the vessel again moved back to the Bahamas.
The Navigator has been shepherding people across the ocean for close to 20 years, with the cruise ship boasting many luxurious features. And furthermore the Radisson vessel has also appeared in the 2004 crime caper After the Sunset. This action-comedy film starred the likes of Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan.
The Navigator wasn’t the only ship in Radisson’s fleet, though. Indeed, boats like the Seven Seas Voyager and the Seven Seas Mariner play their part as well. The Voyager, in particular, has enjoyed some very favorable reviews for its services, including a lengthy write-up in the UK’s Cruise International magazine.
Indeed, the Voyager’s luxurious features were described in great detail, as the writer recalled their four-day trip aboard the vessel. “I was in a standard (deluxe) suite, but there was nothing standard about it,” they wrote in Cruise International. “It was the biggest suite I had been in on a ship.”
“[The suite was] 306 square foot with a 50 square foot balcony,” the writer continued. “[It also had] a walk-in wardrobe, huge double bed, sitting area and bathroom with [a] bath, stuffed with toiletries including L’Occitane. A complimentary bottle of champagne was waiting for me and, moments after my arrival, Cristina, my chambermaid, greeted me with a handshake and a big smile.”
After talking about the Voyager’s interior, the magazine writer then shifted their focus to the cruise ship’s guests. At that point, they revealed an assumption that was subsequently set straight during their time on board. “The other misconception that I had was that the average age [of guests] would be at least 70,” the author wrote.
“[I thought the cruise would be] made up of recent (or not so recent) retirees who were enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” the writer said. “When dining that first evening with Chief Purser Neal Sibal, I met another couple. Chick, who is 50, and his wife Sue, 43, from Newcastle. They are currently on their fifth world cruise.”
The writer’s misconception continued to shatter, as their time aboard the Voyager went on. “There was also the young couple from Southampton, Andy and Lucy, who had got married a few days earlier,” they continued. “They were loving it – and they’d never set foot on a cruise ship before.”
On that note, the magazine writer then made a rather astute observation about one of the ship’s older guests. “In fact, some passengers love it so much they never get off, such as ex-US Navy Captain Jablin,” they added. As suggested by his former rank, Jablin already boasted plenty of seafaring experience before traveling on cruise vessels.
Born in July 1924 Jablin grew up in Brooklyn, New York, ahead of joining the United States Navy. He subsequently moved overseas for a few years during the 1940s, working with the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence. However, when the officer eventually went back home to America in 1946 – and he had an idea.
During Jablin’s time abroad with the Navy, he became friendly with a manufacturer from Germany. The pair then discussed the possibility of bringing lace-making machines to United States. That conversation continued to swirl in the captain’s mind upon his return home and so he decided to act.
Jablin initially utilized his skills as a pharmacist following his time in the Navy, earning over $60 per week. With the lace-making idea continuing to linger in his brain, though, the Brooklyn native then started his own business in that area. From there, the company went from strength to strength.
Jablin built a successful business alongside his wife Charlotte and their two kids, but he faced some difficulties along the way. As time progressed, China became the leading manufacturer of lace due to lower labor costs, meaning a large part of the industry left America and Europe. However, the captain’s company didn’t buckle under the pressure.
Jablin’s business survived that scare, with the company eventually going on to own over half of America’s 70 lace-making machines. In 1989 though, he made another big decision. Following years of hard work on land and at sea, the former navy officer announced his retirement, leaving one of his grandchildren in charge.
While Jablin was busy building his lace business, though, he also spent plenty of time with Charlotte on board a number of cruise ships. For over 50 years, the couple embarked on trips across the ocean, meeting new people along the way. “My wife Charlotte always traveled with me and we made friends with other couples and crew,” he told Forbes magazine in December 2018.
Jablin and his wife were eventually directed towards Radisson Seven Seas Cruises by one of their friends. So the pair became regulars aboard the Voyager and the Mariner for a few years, before switching to the Navigator. In fact, the latter turned into their go-to ship in the year 2000.
Of all the ships in that particular fleet, the Navigator is the smallest, with the vessel holding under 500 guests on board. Jablin and Charlotte were often included in that number, as they continued their travels together at sea aboard the boat. Sadly, though, that all changed in 2005.
Charlotte died that year, leaving behind her heartbroken husband, children and grandchildren. Not long after that, Jablin then made a bold decision about what to do next. Despite owning a Florida condo, the captain packed his bags and moved aboard the Navigator permanently – where he’s since remained.
Now at 94 years of age, Jablin has become a recognizable figure on the Navigator, eating at the same table each day on his own. “I couldn’t achieve this lifestyle anywhere else,” he told Forbes. “The crew is overly gracious and kind to me. I can’t think of enough good adjectives. They are unbelievable.”
On that note, Jablin touched upon the daily schedule he follows on the ship, starting with his breakfast. Unlike lunch and dinner, he prefers to eat his first meal of the day in his room, before venturing out. From there, he generally opts for one dish in particular for his two other meals.
“My life is very routine but comfortable,” Jablin said. “The food is excellent overall, but I prefer to eat Dover sole [a sort of flatfish] at both meals, every day.” Due to that stringent pattern, the Navigator crew ensure that his table is set up exactly the same each day, making the captain’s life easier.
However, Jablin has still had to make some changes to his routine in the last few years as a result of his advancing age. Indeed, the 94-year-old can’t participate in the trips that take place on land anymore, with his eyesight proving to be an issue. According to the former navy officer, he’s almost blind.
Despite all that, though, Jablin has refused to get too down about it, making a heartfelt observation. “Charlotte and I had already been everywhere,” he told Forbes. “I used to get four newspapers, and do Sudokus and crossword puzzles but I haven’t been able to do that either for the last two years.”
While those activities are now off the table, Jablin is still able to keep himself fit aboard the Navigator by walking around a number of the decks. Due to his knowledge of the vessel, he knows where to go and what to avoid. And one of his favorite areas is the shopping deck.
“I’m intelligent enough not to walk where I’d have a problem,” Jablin said. “Nobody is on that deck during the day and as an ex-Navy man, I have my sea legs.” As for the captain’s room, the crew of the Navigator have done their best to make him as comfortable as possible.
With that in mind, Jablin is staying in one of the ship’s staterooms, indicating the level of respect that the crew have for him. In addition to that, the crew have also made some adjustments. “They’ve installed brighter lights in my cabin, handrails in the bathroom and a special shaving mirror,” he informed Forbes magazine.
Meanwhile, Jablin continues to enjoy the live music performances on the Navigator as well, but there are some areas of the ship that he has no interest in. There’s a casino alongside the shops on the 94-year-old’s favorite deck, which he chooses to avoid. “I was never a gambler,” he claimed.
Not long after the publication of the Forbes article about Jablin, the Cruise Law News Facebook account shared it with all of their followers. This is a specialist page which has more than 200,000 likes from online users. And unsurprisingly, the story resonated on the social media website.
Indeed, Jablin’s journey and subsequent long-term stay on board the Navigator drew plenty of praise online. And the Cruise Law News post itself earned almost 600 likes. The story also generated several comments from online users, most of which hailed the captain’s attitude aboard the ship.
“This sure beats being cooped up in a nursing home,” wrote one Facebook user in the post’s comments section. “And [it] probably costs just as much.” And another person agreed with that very sentiment, with a reply stating that, “For many, it costs far less than a nursing home!”
Elsewhere, another commenter praised Cruise Law News for posting about Jablin’s story, before switching their attention to the former navy officer. “Thanks for sharing this article,” this person wrote. “This man is doing it right, in style and on his own terms.” On that note, somebody else felt the need to share some more kind words.
“[Jablin] is a smart and lucky person,” wrote somebody else on the social media website. “He does that because he can afford it. This way he doesn’t feel alone, has everything he can need at his hand, he is living a luxury life, eating good food and so on.”
However, this person believed that there could be some potential downsides to Jablin’s living situation. “The only bad things are the days with sea storms,” they added. “I guess he will have lived [through] a lot of them. I also guess that his life would be better if he could share his time with a friend, somebody to talk with.”
With that in mind, Jablin still has a strong relationship with his family, regardless of his varying locations on the ocean. The captain’s sons and their families make sure to visit him whenever the Navigator stops off in Miami, Florida. Meanwhile, some of his older friends from previous cruise trips also drop in from time to time.
Given Jablin’s age, the appearance of an old acquaintance can be a very welcoming sight, as he himself admitted rather bittersweetly. “At my age, most of my friends are dead,” the 94-year-old told Forbes. Despite that, though, he remains very deliberate in how he interacts with the Navigator’s other guests.
While Jablin doesn’t shirk away from conversations during his lunch and dinner in the dining room, he often keeps to his lonesome. In the mind of the man himself, the age gap between him and the other passengers makes small talk somewhat difficult. However, there is a notable exception to that.
Jablin continues to share a very close relationship with the Navigator’s crew, many of which he’ll see throughout the day. On that note, the widower then spoke about why he’s wanted to stay on the cruise ship for all this time. “I couldn’t achieve this lifestyle anywhere else,” he said. “If I need a nurse or doctor, someone is in my cabin within five minutes.”
“No matter what the time of day, if I need something, someone is here in ten or 15 minutes,” Jablin added. “If I weren’t on this ship, I would have to have someone living with me. Where else could I feel this secure and safe? Life on board couldn’t be better.”