The Passion of Cruising: A Special Guest Blog by Royal’s Leading Cruiser, Mario Salcedo

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Introduction by Lillian Murphy, Vice President of One-to-One Marketing

What if cruising was more than your favorite vacation – what if it was your way of life? For our top cruiser, Mario Salcedo, Royal Caribbean’s ships are home and the crew is family. Mario is our most frequent guest, with over 2,800 Crown & Anchor Society cruise points earned, and 120 more voyages booked through 2012. Here’s his story.

It was a simple question – “Can you remember your first cruise”? , a guest once asked me. “Of course I can, it was the best cruise of my life,” I replied … at that moment in time, that is.

Upon completing my first cruise back in the mid 90’s I knew there were more to come but I could never imagine cruising would become a way of life for me in the future.

Hi, I’m Mario Salcedo, an addicted “frequent floater” and true loyal to Royal.  I’ve been called many things – a cruise rat, a cruise hound, a cruise freak, the George Clooney of cruising, among others.  My friends onboard just call me “Super Mario.”  But it wasn’t always that way.

I’ve lived in Miami, Florida since childhood.  My parents were forced to leave Cuba in the early 60’s seeking freedom from a brutal dictatorship and a chance at a second life.  Soon after, we became proud naturalized citizens of the US.  I love the United States and especially Miami, where I initially developed a passion for the ocean.

As a student I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in finance and economics at top notch universities and entered the corporate world to pursue a career in international financial management in Latin America and the Caribbean region.  My job required extensive travel to many of the Caribbean islands.  It was during these visits that I encountered up close these magnificent cruise ships. I decided that cruising in the Caribbean was something I eventually had to do.

When the opportunity came, I took my first cruise (not on Royal Caribbean!).  My life was changed instantaneously.  I came to the conclusion that cruising was not only the perfect vacation but the perfect lifestyle.

Mario Riding the FlowRider with the Crew

But how to make it happen when one is immersed in the 9 to 5 work routine?  I had to disrupt and redesign my life.  On my 48th birthday, I decided to leave the corporate world, start a small and simple to manage financial venture which would provide cash flow, and booked 6 back-to-back cruises.  I sampled every major cruise, every type of ship, many itineraries, with absolutely no loyalty towards any particular cruise line.

At the turn of the new millennium my emerging cruising career was about to be redefined.  The Voyager of the Seas just came out and I sailed her.  She was the grandest and most innovative ship afloat at the time.  She left me breathless!  I had found the perfect ship and the perfect cruise line!

Then, the Explorer, the Adventure and the Navigator were sequentially introduced.  I became emotionally attached to Navigator and sailed her every other week up until 2007 when she relocated to Europe.  One of my saddest moments was when I saw her sailing out of the Port of Miami on the transatlantic crossing. I was left homeless, ship-less, and broken-hearted!

But not for long.  The Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas were then being home-ported in Miami. The crew on the Liberty decided to “adopt” me, and quickly I fell cautiously in love all over again with this young lady!   I sailed her 100 times in a span of 4 years.  Recently I “dropped her off” in Barcelona for her European season.

In between my Liberty cruises, I cruised on the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.  Without a doubt, these revolutionary ships have set a high bar in the cruising industry with all their incredible amenities and innovative features.   I have now settled in quite nicely on the Majesty of the Seas sailing the Bahamas.  The crew on Majesty of the Seas has “taken me over” making sure I’m well looked after.  She’s not the biggest or most glamorous ship in the fleet but she sure has the biggest heart!

I’m often asked “What makes you so loyal to Royal”? The answer is quite simple:

Royal Caribbean International has the most innovative/creative ships in the world, full of incredible amenities.

– They have the friendliest, most dedicated, professional, and enjoyable crew on the high seas.

– The incentives and rewards program for repeat guests is second to none.  My favorite reward – free cruises for every 50 completed, once the highest tier level is achieved.

What are my favorite activities on a cruise?

– Scuba diving in the Caribbean

– Dancing salsa music and playing percussion with the Latin band at the Boleros lounge.

– Socializing and meeting guests from around the world.

– Interacting with crew members.

I also take the time to answer multitude of questions from guests, such as:

– What are the best activities and venues?

– What to do at the various ports of call?

– What recommendations for future cruising?

To be able to contribute to guests cruise experience, especially first time cruisers, is extremely gratifying. In this endeavor, I consider myself a sort of an unofficial ambassador to Royal Caribbean.

A frequently asked question is: What are the most memorable or WOW moments experienced during my cruising life?  I tell them I’ve experienced many such moments but the absolute most thrilling ones were:

– Doing a dive under the hull of the Navigator while docked in Nassau.  What a thrill it was to have had the unique opportunity to explore underwater the azipod propellers and bow thrusters!

– Being Santa Claus on the Majesty during the Christmas cruise last year and handing out gifts to over 300 kids.

– Being interviewed on the Liberty’s navigational bridge by Captain Charles Teige while sitting in his Captain’s chair.

– Going scuba diving with a group of officers on the ship’s rescue boat in Belize and Coco Cay.

Mario on the Bridge onboard Liberty of the Seas

Many people ask me how often I cruise.  Well, I now cruise every week.  My future cruise schedule shows 120 bookings, all on Royal Caribbean International ships.

As I reflect back on my years of cruising, I smile and think what an exhilarating ride it has been!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of every day on the ocean.  And yet, it feels as though I’m just getting started … and I will continue on this amazing journey as long as the higher authority gives me good health and as long as I’m having fun.

Happy cruising to all of you!

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