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This Man Has Been Living on a Cruise Ship for Twenty Years

"I'm the happiest guy in the world."

Most people take a cruise in order to have a vacation. But for Mario Salcedo, 65, his whole life is a vacation.

"The way I look at it, I don't have any vacation," he said in a recent profile by The New York Times."People come here for vacation. I don't. I come here to live my life. Adopting a cruise ship life is basically escaping from reality. You are basically escaping the world as you know it on land and you're saying 'I don't want to be a part of that anymore. I want to create my own little world and I want to be away from all the issues that come up with living on land.'"

His cruise-ship life has eliminated what he calls "non-value added activities," such as taking out the trash, cleaning the apartment, or running errands. Instead, he spends his days listening to music, drinking cognac, eating great food, ballroom dancing, scuba diving, or smoking a Cohiba cigar on board. While he doesn't make an effort to meet people, as he doesn't like groups, he's made friends with other cruise regulars on his many voyages. He's even fallen in love a few times, and, as he jokes, he's even "gotten married and divorced on the same cruise" before.

"Im the happiest guy in the world," he said.

Salcedo, or "Super Mario," as he's known on the cruise ships, didn't intend to be a lifelong cruiser.

"When I hit 45, I wanted to start a new chapter in my life traveling around the world—that was my vision," he said in a 2016 profile for CN Traveler. "But I didn't know about the logistics, whether air, train, or sea."

He booked a trip on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, which at the time boasted a myriad of new amenities like an ice skating rink and a rock climbing wall, and while he jumps from one cruise to another, he's been loyal to the liner ever since.

"Nothing could lure me away from them, because I get treated like royalty," he said, "The captains all know me."

He usually plans his trips as far as two years in advance, and budgets around $70,000 a year for his lifestyle, using his credit card for purchases so that the airline miles cover his flights between points of departure. While he keeps a condo in Miami, he spends very little time there.

All in all, he only spends about 15 days on land every year, which is, ironically, when he puts on most of his weight.

"I don't eat like a regular cruiser. I skip one meal a day, and eat smart," he said. "I do lots of dancing and walking. I only put on a couple of pounds when I'm on land eating at McDonald's and Burger King."

How does he do it? He runs an online investment management business, working from his laptop in a corner table of the ship that has a cardboard with the words "Super Mario's Office" written on it. While technology may have its downsides, it's also opened up opportunities for more people to live a comfortable, non-traditional life like Mario's.

After all, the $70,000-a-year that he spends scuba-diving in the Cayman Islands is a lot less than what most people eeking out humdrum lives in big cities spend. It's also on par with current annual prices at assisted-living facilities, where fees can range from $36,000 to $72,000 a year.

Not to mention liners offer loyalty programs, which people like "Mama Lee," an 88-year-old Floridian who has been living aboard Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity luxury cruise ship for about a decade, takes full advantage of. She lives in an a private stateroom for an annual fee of $164,000, which covers all entertainment and meals.

Not everyone can afford such a luxurious lifestyle, and people with health issues can find themselves suffering in this sea-faring existence, which is why experts suggest booking short cruises to see how well you adjust to your sea legs. But it's an enticing and realistic option for retirees, or those who are self-employed, in a time in which more and more people are choosing exciting, alternative lifestyles.

To learn more about how to adopt this kind of existence, check out A Practical Guide to Quitting Your Job and Traveling the World.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more