Cruise ship voyages can be some of the most luxurious vacations that a person will ever experience. And Morton Jablin can likely attest to that fact, as he and his wife, Charlotte, enjoyed breaks of this kind for over 50 years during their marriage. However, for the past decade the former sailor has actually lived aboard one of these pleasure-trip vessels.
In April 1988 construction began on the Seven Seas Navigator, leading to the ship’s launch some three years later. Despite the launch, though, it would be another eight years before work on the vessel was completed. Then, shortly after the craft’s completion, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises – now Regent Seven Seas Cruises – welcomed the Navigator into its fold.
For the 12 months that followed, the Seven Seas Navigator’s home port was Nassau – the capital city of the Bahamas. And following that, the ship called Hamilton, Bermuda, home for over a decade. Then in 2011 the vessel moved back to the Bahamas.
The Navigator has been carrying people out across the ocean for close to 20 years – and this is a cruise ship that boasts many deluxe features, too. Yet besides its more typical activities and amenities, the Seven Seas vessel has also appeared in the 2004 crime caper After the Sunset – an action-comedy film that starred the likes of Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan.
The Navigator isn’t the only ship to have figured in Seven Seas’ fleet, either. Vessels such as the Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner have played their parts as well. And the Voyager, in particular, has enjoyed some very favorable reviews, including a lengthy write-up in the U.K.’s Cruise International magazine.
In the article, 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. “It was the biggest suite I had been in on a ship.”
“[The suite was] 306 square feet with a 50-square-foot balcony,” the writer continued. “[It also had] a walk-in wardrobe, [a] huge double bed, [a] sitting area – and [a] 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 waxing lyrical about the Voyager’s interior, the magazine writer shifted focus to the cruise ship’s guests. And at this point in the piece, 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 explained. “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.”
And the writer’s misconception continued to be challenged during their time aboard the Voyager. “There was also the young couple from Southampton, Andy and Lucy, who had got married a few days earlier,” they wrote. “They were loving it – and they’d never set foot on a cruise ship before.”
And on that note, the writer then made a rather astute observation about one of the ship’s older guests. “In fact, some passengers love it so much [that] they never get off – such as ex-U.S. Navy Captain [Morton] Jablin,” they added. Now as suggested by his nickname, Jablin already boasted plenty of seafaring experience from before his time spent traveling on cruise vessels.
Born in July 1924, Jablin grew up in Brooklyn, New York, ahead of joining the United States Navy. He then moved overseas for a few years, working with the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence. However, when the sailor came back home to America in 1946, a life-changing idea soon germinated.
During Jablin’s time abroad with the Navy, he had, you see, become acquainted with a manufacturer from Germany. The pair had then discussed the possibility of bringing lace-making machines to United States. And upon the sailor’s return home, this conversation continued to swirl in his mind – and so he decided to act.
Following his time in the Navy, Jablin initially utilized his skills as a pharmacist, earning a weekly income of just over $60. With the lace-making idea continuing to linger in his consciousness, however, the Brooklyn native then started his own business in the industry. And from there, the company went from strength to strength.
Yes, alongside his wife, Charlotte, and their two kids, Jablin built a successful business. And yet he also faced some difficulties along the way. As time progressed, China became the leading manufacturer of lace thanks to the lower cost of labor there, and this meant that a large part of the industry left America and Europe. However, the former seaman’s company didn’t buckle under the pressure.
Jablin’s business survived the scare, with the company eventually going on to own over half of America’s 70 lace-making machines. But in 1989 the business owner made another big decision. Following years of work at sea and then on land, the former Navy man announced his retirement, leaving a grandson of his in charge of the company.
Yet while Jablin had been busy building his lace-making business, he had also spent plenty of time with his wife on board various cruise ships. For over 50 years, in fact, the couple had embarked on such trips, 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.
And it was one of the couple’s friends who eventually directed them to Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. So it was that for a few years Jablin and his wife grew to be regulars aboard the Voyager and the Mariner – before then switching to the Navigator. The latter in fact became their go-to ship in the year 2000.
Now of all the ships in the Seven Seas fleet, the Navigator is the smallest, with the vessel able to accommodate fewer than 500 guests. And the Jablins were sometimes among those guests’ number as they continued their travels at sea together aboard the ship. However, that all changed in 2005.
Sadly, you see, Charlotte died that year – leaving behind her heartbroken husband, children and grandchildren. Then, not long after that, Jablin made a bold decision about what to do next. Despite owning a Florida condo, the ex-Navy man packed his bags and moved permanently aboard the Navigator. And there, somewhat incredibly, he’s remained ever since.
Now at the ripe old age of 94, Jablin has become a recognizable figure on the Navigator – on which he eats at the same table each day by himself. “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.”
Speaking to the magazine, Jablin also touched upon the daily schedule that he follows on the ship, starting with breakfast. Unlike his habits when it comes to lunch and dinner, the nonagenarian prefers to eat his first meal of the day in his room – before then venturing out. Then, later in the day, he generally opts for one dish in particular for his other two 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.” And in keeping with this stringent pattern, the Navigator crew ensure that the former sailor’s table is set up exactly the same way each day, making his life that much easier.
But as a result of his advancing age, Jablin has also had to make some changes to his routine over the past few years. For instance, the 94-year-old can’t participate in the trips on land any more, with his eyesight having proven to be an issue. Indeed, according to the former Navy man, he’s almost blind.
Despite such challenges, though, Jablin has refused to get too down about his health. And speaking to Forbes, he made a heartfelt observation. “Charlotte and I had already been everywhere,” he said. “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.”
Yet while those activities are now off the table, Jablin is still able to keep himself fit aboard the Navigator. How? 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.” Meanwhile, when it comes to the nonagenarian’s room, the crew of the Navigator have apparently done their best to make him as comfortable as possible.
Indeed, Jablin actually stays in one of the ship’s staterooms – indicating the level of respect that the cruise line has for him. And the crew have even made some adjustments to the suite. “They’ve installed brighter lights in my cabin, handrails in the bathroom and a special shaving mirror,” he revealed.
Elsewhere, Jablin also continues to enjoy the live music performances on the Navigator. And yet there’s at least one area of the ship in which he has no interest. Yes, alongside the shops on the 94-year-old’s favorite deck there is a casino – and it’s this that he chooses to avoid. “I was never a gambler,” he told Forbes.
Now, not long after the publication of the Forbes article about Jablin, the Cruise Law News Facebook account shared it with its followers. Cruise Law News’ Facebook profile is a specialist page that boasts more than 200,000 likes. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the story resonated on the social media website.
The story of Jablin’s life journey and long-term stay on board the Navigator in fact drew plenty of praise online. And the Cruise Law News post on the article about him itself earned almost 600 likes. The story also generated a number of comments from users, most of whom hailed the ex-Navy man’s position 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 sentiment with a reply stating, “For many, it costs far less than a nursing home!”
Meanwhile, one other commenter praised Cruise Law News for posting about Jablin’s story – before switching their attention to the former Navy man. “Thanks for sharing this article,” the user wrote. “This man is doing it right, in style and on his own terms.” And somebody else shared similarly supportive words.
“[Jablin] is a smart and lucky person,” the Facebook user wrote. “He does that because he can afford it. [But] this way he doesn’t feel alone, has everything he can need at hand, [and] he is living a luxury life, eating good food and so on.”
However, that same person reckoned there could be some potential downsides to Jablin’s situation. “The only bad things are the days with sea storms,” they surmised. “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.”
But that said, Jablin still in fact has a strong relationship with his family – regardless of his varying locations out on the ocean. You see, the former sailor’s sons and their families regularly visit him whenever the Navigator stops off in Miami. And some of his older friends from previous cruise trips also drop in from time to time.
What’s more, given Jablin’s age, the appearance of an old acquaintance can be a very welcoming sight – as he himself rather bittersweetly admitted. “At my age, most of my friends are dead,” the 94-year-old told Forbes. But, putting this aside, he remains very deliberate in how he interacts with the Navigator’s other guests.
While Jablin doesn’t shirk away from conversations during his lunches and dinners in the dining room, he nevertheless 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. And yet there is a notable exception to this.
Jablin continues to share a very close relationship with the Navigator’s crew – many of whom he’ll see throughout the day. And on this note, the widower has spoken about one of the reasons why he’s wanted to stay on the cruise ship for all this time. “If I need a nurse or doctor, someone is in my cabin within five minutes,” he told Forbes.
“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.”