There are those that dream about escaping the humdrum of everyday life – and then there are those that actually do it.
Former financier Mario Salcedo is one of the latter.
The American has spent the past 23 years living on cruise ships, barely touching land since apart from a 15-month break due to the Covid pandemic.
He said: “Adopting a cruise-ship life is basically escaping from reality. You are basically exiting the world as you know it on land and you’re saying I don’t want to be a part of that anymore.”
Salcedo is better known onboard by the nickname ‘Super Mario’ after spending more than nine thousand nights on board Royal Caribbean ships, his cruise company of choice.
He left a lucrative career behind in 1997 aged 47 and by 2000 had started a new life on the seas where he does not have to carry out “non-value activities” like taking the rubbish out or doing the laundry.
Instead he passes time by swimming, watching baseball on TV and sipping cognac.
He also loves a touch of salsa dancing and sometimes mingling with staff and passengers.
He had never even been on a cruise until he quit his job and went on six, back-to-back, which sparked his love for them.
Bachelor Salcedo, who has no children, was the subject of a 2018 short documentary called Meet The Happiest Guy In The World – a title he gave himself – showing him enjoying the life of a permanent sailor chatting to staff and meeting passengers curious about his lifestyle.
His travels have taken him as far as China, Japan and New Zealand as well as through the Suez Canal.
But he recommended any first-time cruisers to start with a transatlantic crossing from a port like Southampton.
Anyone who has been on a cruise, however, will know that it is not the cheapest mode of transport and it raises the question of how he can afford it.
Aside from the money he made as financier, Salcedo manages investment portfolios for private clients from the comfort of the ship.
He also stays on inner, cheaper cabins and has his own travel booking agent who helps secure him the cheapest cruise deals, which he reserves two years ahead.
While his status in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty club means he is only charged a 150% single occupancy supplement as opposed to the regular 200%, helping drive down his expenditure.
Salcedo spends an estimated $60,000 to $70,000 each year, reports Conde Nast Traveler.
So far his extensive seafaring has cost him more than $1.4million.
Being a minor celebrity on the ships, he is afforded some special treatment like dining at the captain’s table and joining the crew onstage to wave goodbye to passengers at the end of each cruise.
He is also invited on the pre-inaugural cruise for every new Royal Caribbean ship launched – an experience usually reserved only for press and travel agents.
The super- cruiser spends only around two weeks on land each year, where he still owns a condo in Miami, but noted that he has “lost his land legs” and can’t walk in a straight line when there.
However, the pandemic forced him off his beloved ships for 15 months, instead spending all that time on the Caribbean island of Aruba going scuba diving (one of his passions) and fishing.
Salcedo reflected on the idea of becoming sick in old age and having to live out his last years in a “land hospital” – a scenario he called “pure hell”.
Instead, if that happens then he might take “one final Scuba dive and just go down 400ft”.