66-year-old Mario Salcedo is among a small group of “frequent floaters” — people so enamored of the cruising life that they sail many times a year, often for months at a time.
Mario Salcedo doesn’t much care for dry land anymore.
That happens when you live your life on a cruise ship.
Over the past 20 years, Salcedo has taken 950 cruises, sailing about 350 days a year. Already, he has cruises booked every week through May 2018.
Though he owns a condo in Miami, he almost never goes there. Instead, you’ll find him on deck every day, perched at his laptop, working as an investment manager and traveling the world.
Salcedo is among a small group of “frequent floaters” — people so enamored of the cruising life that they sail many times a year, often for months at a time. Maybe no one, though, has moved their entire life on board as Salcedo has.
Salcedo, 66, was director of international finance at a multinational corporation in Miami when he quit his job in his mid-40s to fulfill two longtime goals: start his own small business and travel the world.
“I didn’t know how I was going to travel, whether I was going to fly everywhere. … All I know is I wanted to travel the world,” Salcedo said.
Living in Miami and seeing the cruise ships in port, he got the idea to take a cruise.
“I tried my first cruise and I said, ‘That’s it, I’m sold’ … and that’s how I got hooked,” he said.
Salcedo spent the next three years sampling practically every major cruise line on back-to-back cruises before discovering that he liked Royal Caribbean the best.
“I was jumping from ship to ship. I felt like a gypsy … ship-hopping every weekend,” Salcedo said. “[Then] I said this doesn’t make sense, this is really not a good quality of life. I need to have some stability in my cruising life.”
Since 2000, Salcedo has sailed only on ships operated by Royal Caribbean — 22 of the cruise line’s 24 ships so far. About 850 of his nearly 1,000 cruises have come on the Miami-based cruise line where he’s known as “Super Mario.”
On Deck 11 of Navigator, a plaque hangs on the wall next to a table in the smoking section: “Super Mario’s Office,” it says.
“Mario is famous. He is our absolute No. 1 cruiser,” said Gordon Marshall, Navigator’s hotel director. “He’s a good, well-known fixture on the ship … and he’s genuinely a very pleasant person to deal with.”
Bar server Cristiana Iordan met Salcedo in November while working in Navigator’s Connoisseurs lounge and cigar bar.
“Everybody knows who Super Mario is, and he’s a very nice person,” Iordan said. “He doesn’t give a hard time. He’s just Super Mario.”
Salcedo spends about $65,000 a year sailing on a mix of Caribbean cruises and transatlantic crossings, always booking lower-priced interior cabins to keep his budget in check.
To maintain some normalcy — and to avoid packing and unpacking between trips — he usually books a string of cruises about two years in advance to ensure he gets the same cabin.
That’s easier to do when you have Salcedo’s standing with Royal Caribbean’s rewards program.
People with 700 nights qualify for the program’s highest level. Salcedo has about 6,000.
The rewards also include free unlimited internet access, which Salcedo said enables him to do business at sea.
“I spend five to six hours per day running the business in my pool deck office,” he said. “Without internet access, free or otherwise, I would not be able to live on a cruise ship.”
On a typical day, Salcedo works from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then closes shop to take a dip in the pool or spend time with friends — ship-based friends, because he’s lost touch with most friends on land.
At night, Salcedo might dance in the Latin club Boleros, smoke in the cigar lounge or, on occasion, take in a show.
In the western Caribbean, he likes to scuba dive, and in Europe: tour cities in Spain.
He’s played Santa Claus on Majesty of the Seas and dived under the hull of Navigator while it was docked on a cruise in Nassau.
Cruising never gets old, Salcedo said — not even the food. Between the buffet restaurant and the specialty eateries, he always finds enough to satisfy him. At times, the staff prepares special dishes for him as a show of appreciation.
“It never gets boring,” he said. “And believe me, it beats having to do grocery shopping, cooking and washing dishes.”
Starting in May, Salcedo will begin a mix of cruises aboard Enchantment of the Seas and Empress of the Seas for about six months, and in late October he’ll fly to Barcelona to board Harmony of the Seas — Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, which debuts in Europe in May.
Salcedo will be among the cruisers sailing on Harmony for its transatlantic crossing to Fort Lauderdale. After that, he’ll sail for six months on Freedom of the Seas.
How long will he continue? “I’m going to be on cruise ships as long as I’m healthy and as long as I’m having fun,” he said.