The travel industry took a big hit during the pandemic, especially cruise ships. In some cases, passengers were quarantined on ships for weeks, as ports were wary of COVID-19 transmission. Being stuck aboard what’s basically a petri dish for weeks or months sounds awful, but there are passengers who willingly spend years on cruise ships. And among them, Mario Salcedo is king. He’s lived ship-to-ship for two decades, and according to Aeon and the New York Times, he’s ‘the happiest guy in the world.’
Ship crews call him “Super Mario.” In 2018, Lance Oppenheim went aboard the Enchantment of the Seas to document what life for Super Mario looks like:
The first thing I thought of when I saw this was money. How do these people afford to permanently live on Royal Caribbean cruise ships? I mean, they don’t have to worry about a mortgage and the bills that land lovers have to deal with. Also, a lot of these folks are middle-aged and retired. Their jobs now consist of coordinating and booking their next stay(s) aboard cruise ships, with rows and rows of spreadsheets to show for it.
That’s kind of how Salcedo became the “cruising king,” as the NYT calls him. He burned out after working for over twenty years in finance. He claimed he spent more time away than at home, and thought it was time to make a change:
For nearly two decades, Mario had been living out of his suitcase, traveling extensively for his corporate job as the director of international finance at a multinational corporation. He spent more time in and out of hotel rooms scattered across Latin America than he did at his home in Miami. After working nonstop for nearly 21 years, Mario — burned out — decided it was time to pursue a lifelong goal: to travel around the world, without leaving home. In 1997, he quit his job, packed an even bigger suitcase and quietly disappeared from the lives of his friends and family to pursue a new life on the open water.
Salcedo’s answer sounds counterintuitive, but the paradoxes don’t stop there. He claims he’s carved a niche for himself, and that he’s found solitude among the countless tourists that come and go. Almost as if he made the transience of his life permanent so he could come to terms with it, and found a way to turn strangers into those closest to him. At least while at sea. Aeon claims the pandemic put his perma-cruiser life on hiatus, but he’s since come back aboard:
It’s a lifestyle he took up some 23 years ago after leaving a lucrative career in finance, and, with the exception a 15-month COVID-19 interruption, hasn’t left since. Eliminating all ‘non-value-added activities’ from his life, such as taking out the garbage or doing laundry, Salcedo enjoys cruising on his own terms, rarely disembarking on stops and eschewing other large-group actives that most of his vacationing shipmates enjoy.
Salcedo remains undaunted and unbothered by what he calls “life on land.” And if gas prices keep going up, maybe living on a cruise ship isn’t the worst idea.