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Bill Filomena sets sail on his 132nd cruise since 2008

Sep 18, 2014 - It's always a good day for Bill Filomena. Since 2008, Filomena has been on 131 cruises visiting over 100 countries. He was about to embark on his 100th cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines, and stopped by the (The Cruise Experts Agency) office in Visalia, California to finally meet face to face the people who have helped send him off on these adventures.  One would assume Filomena retired with a lot of money in order to travel, but that was not the case.

Filomena was a business man from Yonkers, New York. He was married to the love of his life, and was blessed with five children and three granddaughters. When his wife passed away in 2007, Filomena sold everything—his cars, home, and everything in his house.  All that was left was his suitcase, which is now what he calls home. It wasn't long before someone suggested he take a cruise.

Unfortunately, during his service in the Navy, he suffered every day from sea sickness for four years on the rough Mediterranean Sea. If asked then if he could see himself taking cruises after retirement, he would've answered with a resounding NO. He had no desire to ever set foot on a ship again. However, he would consider taking a cruise on one condition--if something could be done about the sea sickness, he was willing to give it a try. Someone suggested the magnetic wristbands, so Filomena booked his first cruise on the Carnival Spirit, still his favorite ship today, and cruised the Inside Passage through Alaska. He did not get sea sick and there was no need for the wristbands. He was hooked.

While on his first cruise, he joined another guest for dinner who gave him some valuable advice. If Filomena was going to continue cruising, he should, first, strive to become a platinum member, and second, buy stock in the cruise line. He bought 100 shares of Carnival Corp stock, and is enjoying the benefits of being a Platinum member—including his 100th cruise for free. It was good advice.

In order to settle a myth, Andy Melilli, Vice President, asked Filomena if it was cheaper to live on a cruise ship than stay in a retirement home. "Only if you're healthy," said Filomena. Cruise ships are not set up for extensive medical services, so it is best to cruise while you're still healthy. Otherwise, it is a great value for retirement.

Every day on the ship, Filomena started his day off the same—a bowl of fresh berries for breakfast followed by an hour walk around the perimeter of the ship. What was most impressive about this man was how much he reads. He reads two to three books a day which requires him to dedicate an entire suitcase to books. What has he read? What has he not read? At that point, I put my pencil down and just looked at him. He just smiled back.

Where does a man go next that has sailed all the Carnival cruise ships, all the Holland America ships, and has been on five Princess cruises? He goes again. When asked where his favorite place was, "Wherever I am today is the best place," Filomena said with a twinkle in his eye and a half smile.

He received his BA degree from St. John's University, and an MBA in business administration. After the Navy, he worked for the railroad before getting a job with General Foods, working his way up the ladder to the executive offices, and became the man behind the Birds Eye label. When Kraft bought out General Foods, he took the early retirement offer.  He went to work for the Red Cross and raised $75 million in 10 years--$35 million alone during 9/11, and restructured their In-Kind donations system. For the last seven years of his career he worked with FEMA, but after hurricane's Katrina and Rita it was time to retire. He has an impressive resume, but even more impressive as a kind, human being.

Surely a man this educated, experienced, and traveled must have a Bucket List of places still on a list. Not Filomena. "There's nothing on my to-do list. I've accomplished everything," Filomena said. Never have I met a man so accomplished and content. He does not worry about tomorrow. He finds joy in each day, and sees it as a blessing. He plans to continue cruising until he feels like doing something else.

Bill Filamino Linda Rachel cropped


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