THE TRAVELS OF A
A conversation with Mario Salcedo
who has sailed as a passenger on more
than 400 Royal Caribbean cruises.
Richard H. Wagner
For many people, a cruise is a once in a life time experience. Others cruise
regularly, perhaps a few times a year. However, for still others, cruising is an
One such super-cruiser is Mario Salcedo, who had done over 500 cruises, the
majority of which have been on Royal Caribbean ships. This includes more than
80 cruises on Liberty of the Seas alone. He estimates that he has spent over 10
years at sea cruising. What is even more amazing is that he has done all of this in
just 13 years.
Mario's career before cruising was in corporate finance. Based in his
hometown Miami, Florida, Mario worked for a number of large companies
including Federal Express. His area of responsibility was Latin America and the
Caribbean. His job involved a great amount of travel to these countries during
which he became aware of the attractive lifestyle the area offers to tourists.
"There were all these beautiful people on the beach having a good time. The only
problem was that I was coming in with a suit and tie and a briefcase."
The more he traveled, the greater his ambition grew to become part of this
attractive lifestyle. "Finally, at 47, I left my job. 'I've had a good career but now it
is time to move on.' I left a lot of benefits and money on the table because at 47
you are not vested."
In order to "stay stimulated" he set up a small business in which he manages
investment portfolios for a select group of clients. That business, however, was
intended to be a sideline to his new career - - cruising.
Before he left the corporate world, Mario had never gone on a cruise. So in
order to find out what cruising was all about, he booked six cruises back-to-back
on six different ships belonging to six different cruise lines. "It gave me a
sampling of what cruising was like. It confirmed what I had thought and I said 'I
really, really want to do this for the rest of my life."
After his initial six cruises, Mario booked more cruises on various cruise
lines. "I have pretty much done all the cruise lines including a lot of the smaller
ones like Crystal, Silver Seas, Seabourn, Regent, Windstar, Windjammer and all
the majors." The only major lines absent from his catalog are Disney, P&O and
Most of the cruises that he took were out of Florida. "I did a few in the
Mediterranean, a few from the West Coast to Hawaii. I did Alaska. I did
[Panama] Canal crossings but let's say 80 to 80 percent were from Florida to the
Between 1997 and 2000, Mario took approximately 110 cruises on cruise lines
other than Royal Caribbean.
In late 1999, however, Royal Caribbean brought Voyager of the Seas into
service and it changed Mario's life. "I had done Royal Caribbean - - I had done the
Majesty, the Sovereign, the Monarch - - but when the Voyager of the Seas came
out it took my breath away. That was the one ship of all the ships that I had done
which made me say 'Wow, this is magnificent."
"What made the Voyager different from other ships? It was the largest cruise
ship in the world when it came out. It had the Royal Promenade and the Royal
Promenade was unbelievable. The pool area, the whole ship just blew me away.
At that point, I said, 'I have found my place. I have found ships that fit my likings,
my personality, my tastes, everything. From late 2000 to date, I have been loyal to
While Voyager of the Seas was the ship that initially captivated Mario, he has
become most closely associated with Liberty of the Seas. Liberty, which entered
service in 2007, is the second of Royal Caribbean's three Freedom class ships.
Mario has sailed on all three but the Liberty is his favorite. "The crew onboard the
Liberty of the Seas embraced me They made me feel extra special so I gravitated
from the Freedom to the Liberty. As I did more Libertys, they completely
enveloped me. All the crew members basically treat me like family."
His loyalty to the Liberty has not kept him from trying Royal Caribbean's
newest ships - - the giant Oasis of the Seas and her sister Allure of the Seas. "It
just takes cruising to a whole different new dimension. [The Oasis-class is] a
game changer. You go on one of those ships and if you are an experienced cruiser
you are going to be wowed. There is no way not to be wowed just by stepping onto
the Royal Promenade which is twice as wide as the ones [on the Freedom class
ships]. Then all the things that it has - - the zip line, the Flo-riders, the Aqua
Theater, and the Central Park. It just takes it to a whole different level."
As a result, Mario has taken over 400 cruises on Royal Caribbean ships. "I
have sailed every ship in Royal Caribbean, every one of the 22 ships." On
average, Mario has taken about 40 cruises a year. He has spent every day for the
last two and a quarter years cruising, mostly on Liberty of the Seas.
Mario does have a home on land. He has an oceanfront condominium in Miami.
"It is beautiful and I love it". He uses it to store his possessions and as his home
office for his portfolio management business.
Each week when the ship he is on returns to Miami, Mario goes to his
condominium early in the morning and spends the day working on his business. He
also drops off laundry from the last cruise and picks up fresh laundry for the
upcoming cruise. In the afternoon, he returns to the ship.
Mario has a maid who cleans the apartment and does the laundry. She also
washes his car, which he confesses "I never use. It just gathers dust."
Sometimes Mario does work for his portfolio management business while at
sea. If there is work that he was unable to complete at his home office on
turnaround day, he will bring it back to the ship. Also, if market conditions
provide an opportunity, he will do trades for his clients over the internet. "I have
traded millions of dollars of stocks from the ships. . . . Very seldom do I do it but
I do do it occasionally"
Until recently, Liberty of the Seas was based in Miami. It was very convenient
for Mario to have his favorite ship so close to home. However, in the Spring of
2011, she was redeployed to Barcelona, Spain and upon her return to the United
States for the winter season, she will be based in Port Everglades.
"It's a big problem because the Liberty is going to be gone six months to
Europe. So I have a six month gap that I have to fill. I do not want to leave Royal
Caribbean. I want to stick with RCI. So what I am going to be doing is a little bit
of Allure, a little bit of Oasis, a little bit of Freedom, a little bit of Majesty and
Monarch. I am [also] going to be doing a couple of other European Mediterranean
cruises. Then in October, I will fly to Barcelona and pick up the Liberty and bring
her back. I am staying on the Liberty from November 12 every single week until
April and then I am crossing [to Europe] with her and the cycle repeats itself."
Royal Caribbean has not officially dedicated a cabin for Mario's use. Inasmuch
as he does not always cruise on the same ship, such an arrangement would hardly
be practical. However, when he is cruising on one of the Voyager or Freedom
class ships, Mario does prefer one of the aft junior suites. "I carry with me a
magnetic sign which attaches to the door which says 'Mario's Suite'. Any one who
walks by knows that I am there. It is my address."
Nor does he receive a special price from Royal Caribbean that is just for him.
"I get the same deal as the top tier [of Royal's loyalty program] would get. I do not
get any special pricing deals at all."
He books his cruises when he is onboard in the future cruise office. "You
have the advantage of getting a $100 onboard credit." But he does have a travel
agent. As per Royal's policy, his travel agent gets a commission for the bookings
he makes with the future cruise office. In return, "I make my travel agent
responsible for the post booking support. I expect her to follow all of my 52 open
bookings every week to make sure that if any of them have dropped in price, she
will request the difference. That is the only thing she has to do for me."
Onboard, "I get super-duper Gold Anchor service." Amongst other things, he
is often invited to dine at the captain's table. He knows everyone and likes to use
his contacts to help resolve issues that other guests may be having. He is so much
a member of the ship's company that he joins the crew onstage to wave good-bye
to the guests during the finale of the crew farewell performance at the end of each
Royal clearly appreciates his business. Mario has been invited on every
pre-inaugural cruise, which are normally limited to press and travel agents, for
each new ship since the debut of Freedom of the Seas. In addition, he was invited
to speak at a conference of Royal's senior executives to provide "the voice of the
customer." "They like to get my feedback."
Mario usually travels by himself. "I wouldn't say always but most of the time.
I am a single man. I have not gotten married yet. But once in a while I do bring a
companion with me."
When he is cruising, Mario does not remain isolated like a reclusive celebrity.
"I think one of the big, big things about cruising is meeting people. I love to
socialize. I go to the Concierge Lounge, the Diamond Lounge. I walk around. I go
to the bars. I love to meet people."
"The crew members point me out to the guests and then I get a barrage of
questions. The captain and the hotel director ask me 'how do you spend your
time?' I tell them: 'Answering questions.' People ask me all sorts of questions.
Where should we go in Cozumel? Should we go to Chops or Portofinos [the two
specialty restaurants on Liberty]? I just get from A to Z. "
When he reaches the various ports of call in the Caribbean, Mario indulges his
passion for scuba diving. According to Mario, diving and cruising go together like
"rum and coke, especially in the Caribbean." So when he began his cruising
career, Mario took the courses necessary to become a certified dive instructor just
so he would thoroughly understand diving. "I've done about 2,000 dives in the last
"When I go to Europe, I do not dive. I get to know the place."
"It has been a great ride. I made the right decision 13 years ago." His advice
to any one thinking of sampling the cruising life: "You have to find the cruise line
that fits your needs, your likings, your habits, your personality. I think that is the
major thing when a new customer is looking for a cruise - - which one fits me
better, which product offering. What do you like to do, what are your interests?"
|Its all about ships
Cruise ship interview - - Mario Salcedo
|To provide a frame of reference for Mario's achievement, the following is some
information on some other super-cruisers.
One of the best known super-cruisers is Lorraine Arzt who cruised some 5,400
days (about 14 years) on Princess ships. In fact, she sailed with Princess so much
that the line made her the godmother of Royal Princess (now P&O's Adonia) where
she was resident for several years.
Also well-known is Bea Mueller who lived aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth
2 for nine years until the ship went out of service in 2008. She had sailed
extensively on QE2 prior to taking up residence there. Living shoreside now, she
still occasionally takes a cruise.
Ms. Mueller was following in the footsteps of Clara L. MacBeth, who lived on
Cunard's Caronia (the "Green Goddess") for nearly 15 years in the middle of the
Still cruising regularly is Holland America Line's Louise Meis. "Mama Lou,"
as she is called by the crews, has done over 5,000 days at sea. She sails 10
months each year. Amongst other things, she reportedly likes to bring bicycles,
computers and other useful items along, which she gives to families in the various
ports of call.
Moving up the ranks rapidly is Bill Filomena, who sold his house in 2008 and
has been moving from ship to ship ever since. He reportedly did 41 cruises in
2009. In 2010, he sailed on all 23 ships in the Carnival Cruise Lines fleet. For
variety, he occasionally cruises with Holland America.
Liberty of the Seas.