Life at sea - An interview with Royal Caribbean's top cruiser, Super Mario


I think we have all said we wish our cruise vacation was longer, or we could stay on board another week. But can you imagine staying on board for over two decades?

That’s exactly what Super Mario does. He’s Royal Caribbean’s top cruiser, with the most nights sailed on board. I was lucky enough to sail with Super Mario during my recent Enchantment of the Seas cruise. At the time of interviewing him on October 15, 2017 he has 7,003 Crown and Anchor points.


Twenty years ago, he decided he wanted to take a cruise and fell in love with them. Before he found Royal Caribbean he spent three years exploring different cruise lines. In fact, he’s done over 150 sailings with other cruise lines before he found Royal Caribbean. He sailed with all the major cruise lines, searching for the right one he could call home.


It wasn’t until November 21, 1999 he tried his first Royal Caribbean cruise, on Voyager of the Seas. Mario described the moment he first saw her sail into Miami, Florida and how massive the ship was.

He knew right away he had to get on board that ship. Voyager of the Seas was the first ship that debuted the Royal Promenade deck. Mario said he was blown away with this ship and all she had to offer. After that sailing Super Mario never looked back, he’s been on board Royal Caribbean ships for the last 18 years straight.


While talking to Mario I tried to get him to tell me his favorite ship, but he doesn’t have one. He likes the longer sailings and always books the transatlantic and Panama Canal sailings.

So you must be thinking, well why is he on Enchantment of the Seas doing three and four night sailings. Mario has a home (he calls it his hotel) in Miami, Florida. So sailing out of Miami lets him travel home for a few hours on turn-around day. He likes to get off the ship at 7:30am, get McDonald’s for breakfast, and relax in his home.

Around 2pm he gets back to the ship to sail out again.


I asked Mario if he ever plans to stop cruising and he said no, “I’ll die on a cruise ship.”

Cruising is his passion and a way of life. It’s almost hard to believe but he works full-time at sea running a company. So during the day he’s in his “office” on the pool deck working. Royal Caribbean has made him a sign that hangs over his favorite table poolside that reads: Super Mario’s Office.


We talked about the many port of calls he’s traveled to over the years. One that stands out was traveling to China. He said, that was the one cruise that he didn’t talk to anyone because none of the passengers spoke English. Though his favorite port of call is in the Caribbean - Cozumel, Mexico.

Finally, we talked about his upcoming cruise schedule, which he books years in advance. He’s on board Enchantment for one more sailing, then a night in his “hotel” before he travels to Spain to jump on the Freedom of the Seas.

The Freedom will make her way from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale. He sure does love those transatlantic sailings; next year he’s going to bring over Symphony of the Seas to Miami, Florida.

After his Symphony cruise, he’s booked Independence of the Seas for 6 months straight!


It was such an honor to sit down with Super Mario and talk about his history at sea. I hope to cruise with him again soon, because he’s such an enjoyable person to talk to.

Have you ever sailed with Super Mario? If so, comment below when and which ship.

An inside look at how Royal Caribbean's Izumi restaurant went from concept to success


One of Royal Caribbean's most popular specialty restaurants is the Japanese cuisine establishment, Izumi, and it has been spreading to many ships across the fleet ever since it first debuted.

The man behind Izumi's prominent success is Izumi Master Chef Travis Kamiyama, whose 30 years of experience are now helping Royal Caribbean create the best sushi experience at sea.

Kamiyama considers himself an artist and a sushi chef and began training at only 14 years old.  He is the brainchild behind Izumi, having envisioned the restaurant while in a Japanese restaurant in Kyoto.  He wanted Izumi to be, "a Modern Japanese restaurant with both traditional and signature sushi that caters to the international market."

"I foresee Izumi being an iconic brand that offers a variety of sustainable concept of sushi and hot dishes that will suit our guests around the world."

The story of how Izumi began goes back to 2008, when Kamiyama was introduced to Royal Caribbean by the former Vice President of Celebrity Cruise Line, Jacques Van Staden.  

Kamiyama worked with Royal Caribbean's Food & Beverage start up team to create the Izumi concept.  Kamiyama was tasked with coming up with an iconic Japanese restaurant that was duplicatable.

Royal Caribbean chose the name Izumi for the restaurant, because it means natural springs and art/decor, so the name seemed like a natural fit.

Izumi first debuted on Oasis of the Seas in 2009.  Back then, the restaurant had a cover charge along with a la carte pricing for the items.  Eventually, Royal Caribbean dropped the cover charge and went straight to a la carte pricing.

"Izumi started out way under, but management was reluctant," Kamiyama said.  "Today it's streamlined with only a la carte pricing and we are spot on in pricing."

Izumi's success meant the restaurant quickly spread to other ships in the fleet.  Kamiyama believes the reason is because of the food and the people working there, "What stands out in Izumi is not only an excellent menu but the heart of the people, the chefs and servers. They are dedicated and loyal."

Today, Kamiyama serves as the Master Chef for Izumi, where he visits different ships in the fleet to motivate and relay his passion to others in the restaurant.

"As chef, my goal is to give the best every day. We are only as good as our last meal."

Izumi will be coming to Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, and the restaurant will feature not only sushi but teppanyaki style dining at the restaurant's hibachi section.

What does the future hold for Izumi? The chef simply says, "I forsee Izumi being an iconic brand that offers a variety of sustainable concept of sushi and hot dishes that will suit our guests around the world."

Interview with Royal Caribbean ship designer on how a cruise ship like Quantum of the Seas gets built


Quantum of the Seas is in the midst of construction currently and already, there's a lot of anticipation for Royal Caribbean's newest class of cruise ship.  With any new ship, questions surrounding the design and architecture process pop up regarding what obstacles and challenges does Royal Caribbean face and how do they get around them.  

We had the chance to speak to Royal Caribbean Design Manager for New Builds Jodi Barozinsky, who is working on the design of Quantum of the Seas about how a Royal Caribbean ship is designed.  Barozinsky has been designing Royal Caribbean ships for a long time, starting with Vision class ships, followed by Radiance class, Voyager class and Oasis class.

Jodi started out working with Royal Caribbean as a design consultant in the 1990s and eventually was hired by Royal Caribbean to work exclusively for them.  Since her work on Oasis of the Seas, she has been working in the design department managing the various designers throughout the world that work on Royal Caribbean's ships.  

Her early work on Vision class, Radiance class and Voyager class was centered around the casino, the theater, kids  area and suites.  Starting with Oasis class and continuing to Quantum class, she's focused more on the overall design of the ship, primarily in the public areas and with the design consultants.

Looking at Quantum of the Seas, the biggest challenge Barozinsky identified was the sheer large span of time involved from when a project begins and when it ends and wanting to keep the design contemporary and relevant to what's hip when the ship launches.

"The period of time that we start and finish is a fairly long period. Sometimes three to four years. Staying up on top of what's current and what's cutting edge is always a challenge," Barozinsky said about how time factors in. "That deadline at the end, they're still delivering that ship in October of 2014.  So, trying to stay current and make sure the design is right for the day it gets delivered is a huge challenge."

As an example, Jodi mentions on Quantum of the Seas they had designed all of the dining rooms and about a year later the Operations team felt the design wasn't, "current" and had to be re-designed.  Thus, the dining rooms have been designed twice so far on Quantum of the Seas.

Another challenge is living up to Royal Caribbean's slogans of delivering the "WOW" to their guests and so with every new class of ship, the designers are tasked with coming up with that new "WOW" while staying within the budgetary confines of the project.

"To get those WOWs in there, it may mean compromising something else that's not as critical and deciding on what those compromises are to get the WOW."

The other consideration for coming up with these WOW ammenities is the small details, like with Oasis class what to do when a deluge of rain hits the ship and where does the water go considering there's a huge "hole" in the middle of the ship where Central Park is and prevent flooding.

Another challenge for Quantum of the Seas is that the designers are calling the ship, "the technology ship", which refers to how the team wants to bring in the newest cutting edge technology onto the ship.  This includes the way Royal Caribbean operates the ship, the signage, art work and so more much. 

When asked about what guests should look for in the design of a Royal Caribbean ship, Barozinsky thinks it's the small, overlooked details of basic design that are major considerations that many guests don't notice.  An example is at any bar, there cannot be anything over the top that may collect dust for health code concerns.  Moreover, what they do design needs to hold up so that something does not need to be torn out and redesigned later due to a health issue.

Also Barozinsky is rather proud of the lengths Royal Caribbean goes to in terms of guest accessibility.  She mentioned Royal Caribbean has its own special guidelines for the cruise line to follow and the result has been a lot of compliments from guests with special needs because they find the ships very accomodating.

So what's the most rewarding aspect of designing a Royal Caribbean cruise ship?  Jodi thinks it's seeing the interest that they get from the highest executive level for what they do and so their work is very imporant and knowing what they work in sails in ports all around the world.  

"Anyone you talk to, whether I'm travelling next to some stranger on a plane and they ask what you do and you get into a conversation.  They know that ship, they know about that room that you designed.  To me, it just feels good.  It made a difference and someone actually noticed something that you worked on.  You can really take pride in that."

If Jodi's work sounds really fun and interesting and you're perhaps a student in college looking to be a designer to, her advice to them is take college courses on ship design, which are already being offered these days.  

Barozinsky also mentioned that Royal Caribbean offers summer internships to interior design or architecture college students and would be a great avenue to take to get the right background to work on a Royal Caribbean team.  She also says you have to love it and you give it your all and be willing to work hard.  And the reward?  The cultural aspect of working with the foreign shipyards as well as the guests you are designing for that come from all over the world.

Interview with Royal Caribbean's VP of Marketing Lisa Bauer


Travel Blackboard interviewed Royal Caribbean's senior vice president for global sales and marketing, Lisa Bauer, to talk about her new role with Royal Caribbean and her experience at Royal Caribbean.  

When asked about what she'd like to see improved in the cruise industry, Bauer responded, "It would be nice to get a global voice for cruising. I think that they all do a great job, but that would be the one thing, if we could all figure out how to come together and make a global cruise industry, versus all the regional associations."

Bauer also commented on Royal Caribbean's recent revitalization program that has been upgrading it's entire fleet of ships in an effort to make them all more relevant in a time when new ships get a lot of attention.

"Well the guests’ reaction has really been unbelievable because the ships right now and the ratings from all our customers are quite high. "

"They’re amazed that we took something that was already so great and made it even better. "

We’ve done this thing and now every ship is our best ship and that’s really caught on!

"You go on Rhapsody of the Seas and it’s like a brand new ship! The people that loved the ship before because they loved the crew and they love that type of ship and they love where it goes now have a ship that’s got an incredible entertainment experience etc... "

"So the fact is that the guests have already loved it and then it’s like “wow”. "

"Our ratings are up double digits, which is unbelievable, because they were already so high. "

"This was a big deal; it was a lot of money. But it was really to make sure that our guests had a consistent brand experience. The ability to have these key brand elements, no matter what ship you get on in the world, is very important to us and it is resonating amazingly with the guests. " 

Interview with Royal Caribbean performer Padraic Connelly


We had the opportunity to interview Padraic Connelly, a performer on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, who is best known onboard the ship for playing the role of Wilbur Turnblad in "Hairspray".

Tell us a little about yourself, such as where you're from and how you got into the entertainment industry
I'm originally from Daytona Beach, FL. I first started doing musical theater at Flagler Palm Coast High School, where I had three incredibly inspirational directors. I ended up at the University of Florida as a Theater major, and while I was there I began performing and teaching with UF's Theatre Strike Force, which is the school's official improv group. After college, I moved with my two best friends (who, coincidentally, are now performing with The Second City on NCL's Dawn) and started performing at the IO Theater in Wrigleyville. When I'm not on a cruise ship, I'm doing a show called Whirled News Tonight ( ) which has been running continuously for the last seven years with almost the entire original cast.

How did you get your job as a performer on Royal Caribbean?
I found myself in a perfect situation for the RCCL job. My girlfriend had just moved to California to start grad school, and I'd missed out on a promotion opportunity in Chicago that'd I'd been gunning for for months. I got an email from the producer of Whirled News with the audition information in it, with a note saying, "I doubt you'd be interested in this, but just in case..." I went to the audition and, not really expecting anything from it, managed to walk in completely relaxed. It is to this day one of the best auditions of my entire life. Several weeks went by, and suddenly I got the email that I'd been hired. I had JUST sat down to watch a movie (I think it was "The Last Station") and just remember sitting in the theater, barely paying attention to the screen I was so shocked. A few weeks later, I was in Hollywood, FL, rehearsing with Cast 2 for the Oasis of the Seas Inaugural Season!
Which show(s) do you perform in on Oasis of the Seas?  
On the ship I start the week off performing as Wilbur Turnblad (and about four other parts) in "Hairspray: The Broadway Musical". I also do Royal Caribbean's "Throw Me a Line" improv comedy show with several of the other performers from "Hairspray". We have a handful of other duties including some fun interactive characters that stroll through the ship's neighborhoods and entertain guests, as well as teaching improv workshops for cruisers and occasionally hosting in the Oasis' Comedy Live lounge.
How is performing on a cruise ship like Oasis of the Seas different from performing on a gig back on land?
On land, like with most other jobs, you leave your house, you go to work, do the job, then come home. On the ship, you live and work in the same place. Plus, you end up being sort of a minor celebrity on the ship. During the show we're in makeup and wigs, but now and then when you're just eating lunch or reading a book, it can be a thrill for a performer to have a passenger recognize them. There's nothing as fulfilling as hearing your show made someone's vacation!
What's the best part about working on a cruise ship?
Aside from the chance to make cruisers' vacations even more magical, there is something to be said for having 24-hour dining and entertainment. Even though we're working, it's fun work and during our downtime we get to have just as much fun as the other guests and share in their fun! Even after months of running the same routes, the excitement of pulling into a port with snorkeling, swimming, excursions and dining never quite wears off.
Let's get to know you a little bit more...
  • Favorite restaurant on Oasis of the Seas
    Tie. Giovanni's Table for lunch, Solarium Bistro and Giovanni's for dinner. I cannot get enough of the risotto at Giovanni's or the pumpkin soup at Solarium!
  • Preferred drinks on a cruise ship
    It all depends on the mood! If we're sitting in the Schooner bar, listening to Ed or Paul play, nothing beats a Manhattan on the rocks. If it's a party on the pool deck, you have to grab a Bushwhacker. And for watching a show or people watching on the Royal Promenade, it's tough to beat a margarita on the rocks or a simple scotch and soda! And for the next morning, several of the ship's venues serve fresh-squeezed orange juice. LOTS of fresh-squeezed orange juice.... thank goodness....
  • Favorite port of call to visit
    Puerto Costa Maya on the Western Route for its INCREDIBLE food (don't miss the catch of the day or the fresh salsas and guacamole at Maya Bar) and the Mayan ruin tours. If you're heading to the Chacchoben ruins, ask for Luis, who's an amazing guide. On the Eastern Route, you absolutely can't beat St. Maarten. Whether you stay on the Dutch side in Philipsburg or head over to Marigot for a few hours, you'll have a blast!
  • Favorite song on the radio/iPod today
    I hate to admit it, but Cee Lo Green's "F*** You" has been topping my playlist lately (along with the rest of the album).