A gentle ocean breeze wafts through his office as Mario Salcedo takes time away from his computer work to chat with me. The sound of seagulls diving for dinner echoes in the distance.
Ocean air? Seagulls? What kind of office does Mario have?
Well, it certainly is not a typical office. And Mario is not a typical financial advisor. Although he is working away, Mario is actually on a cruise ship – the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas. In fact, Mario lives on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
“For 23 years,” he admits. “Always on Royal Caribbean. It’s the best lifestyle I can find. More than 9,000 nights cruising with Royal Caribbean, 52 weeks a year. Cruising never gets old.”
Stand back and look at his office – actually a high oval table and three tall stools with back rests and foot rests. The table and chairs are cordoned off from the rest of the ship with black security tape stretched from poles to outline the make-believe walls of his office.
Along with the computer and cellphone on his table is a big ashtray. Mario is a devoted cigar smoker and his “office” is on the smoking section of the ship, pool Deck 15, port side.
“Cigar smokers are very sharing, very friendly,” Mario says and, sure enough, while we are chatting a man stops by and hands Mario a special cigar. In return, Mario reaches into his stash and pulls out a cigar for the man who has sat down nearby.
Super Mario’s Office
Behind Mario is a big sign that proclaims, “Super Mario’s Office.” Made by Royal Caribbean ship crew, the sign honors the nickname given to Mario years ago by a ship captain.
So how did it all start? Why would a man with a successful career in international finance for a multi-national corporation quit his job at age 47 and decide to live year-round on cruise ships?
Clad in sweat pants, Royal Caribbean T-shirt and flip-flops, Mario says he got tired of the suit- and-tie business world and the long flights to international clients. After 21 years, he wanted to get off the business merry-go-round and enjoy a more leisurely life.
Born in Cuba, Mario and his parents fled to America when he was 7 years old. Studying economics and finance in college, Mario originally planned to become an attorney but was drawn to finance.
Seeing the cruise ships in port from his Miami condo, the lifelong bachelor took his first cruise in 1997 and was hooked. Initially he tried many cruise lines but decided Royal Caribbean suits him best. At most, Mario now spends about 10 nights a year between cruises in his Miami condo. The rest of his time he is on a Royal Caribbean ship.
Except when COVID curtailed cruises. “I didn’t cruise for 15 months. It was miserable not knowing when ships would cruise again,” Mario says, adding that he spent his pandemic down time in Aruba where he could scuba dive to keep in touch with the ocean.
“My first cruise back was July 2 this year on Freedom of the Seas,” he says. “Perfect name – Freedom.”
Cruises Booked into 2023
Now, Mario has Royal Caribbean cruises booked into April of 2023. “Some weeks, I have two cruises booked so I’ll have to decide which ones I want to take and cancel the others,” he says.
Mario usually books an interior stateroom because it’s less expensive and he uses it only to sleep, shower and dress. Most days, he works about five hours managing investment portfolios for private clients from his pool deck office. “The rest of the time, I have fun. And zero stress,” he says with a smile.
A “very social person,” Mario likes to take a dip in the pool after work, do some salsa dancing in the evening, chat with passengers and crew and dine at one of the ship’s restaurants. “I don’t eat like regular cruisers so I don’t gain weight. I skip one meal a day and eat healthy,” he says. “Tonight I’ll eat at Playmakers and tomorrow night it will be Johnny Rockets.”
Although he doesn’t take shore excursions – “I’ve done them all” – Mario does have a passion for scuba diving and may indulge in that on Caribbean cruises. On one of the rare days he finds himself on dry land, Mario says he quickly realizes that he has lost his land legs.
“I’m so used to be on ships that it feels more comfortable to me than being on land,” he explains.
As I was leaving, Mario had a question of his own. “I don’t know why people are so interested in me and what I’m doing.”
The answer is simple, I told him. “Because people are envious and many would like to do what you are doing.” Makes sense to me.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
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