Reprinted from Audrey Grant's Better Bridge, January/February 2011 Issue.
Roberta Salob and I have enjoyed a unique and special friendship for many years. Last month we met on the Crystal Serenity for a couple of days when our cruises overlapped. You may have already met Roberta and her husband Arnold, but I wanted to tell you the story of how they built their famous business.
Roberta and Arnold Salob are the founders of BRIDGE HOLIDAYS. They’re known worldwide for taking bridge groups on extraordinary cruises to every continent in the world. They travel exclusively on the prestigious Crystal Line. Here’s how it all started.
Roberta’s bridge school in Long Island represented the cutting edge in bridge education from the early eighties. In 1991, a student talked to her about an idea. His nephew was vice-president of a new luxury cruise line; she should consider doing the onboard bridge program. "I wasn’t interested," she said. "It would be confining and boring. He persisted. One day I asked Arnold if he wanted to go. ‘If you want to go, we’ll do it.’"
They fell in love with cruising. "It wasn’t confining or boring," she laughed. "You get up in the morning, and you’re in a different place. It was very exciting to us. We got the idea that we could do this as a business, but first we’d have to go to school to become travel agents." They did just that, and then presented their certification and credentials to Crystal Cruises. "In June of 1991, we set off to Alaska on the Crystal Harmony. We had 38 people. I don’t remember how many we had on our last cruise, but I do remember that on our first...we had 38!"
"At the time, we thought it might be a one-time experience. Arnold was working at Merrill Lynch; I had a busy teaching program. We didn’t see it as all-consuming. But we decided to do another cruise. In fact, two cruises, because we couldn’t choose among exciting destinations. Should we go to Australia, or Europe...or the Arctic or Antarctica? We chose them all!"
Crystal expanded, launching the Crystal Symphony in 1995. Arnold retired after a 29-year career in 1998. The conditions were right for them to launch their cruise business. A frequently asked question of married couples in business together is: How do you like working with your spouse? Or, as Roberta phrased it, "How do you stand working together?"
They both enthusiastically say they enjoy each other’s company. "We’re truly best friends," Arnold says. "It’s been fun to build a business from scratch." They’ve been married for a long time and have two children; their son is an orthopaedic surgeon and their daughter a dermatologist. They have three grandchildren, with one more on the way. "They don’t play bridge," Roberta smiled, and added " ...yet!"
What contributes to such outstanding success? "I think our motto says it: We love what we do and you will too! The ports are exciting, but we find more and more that the cruisers are interested in bridge. They don’t have to participate in the bridge activities, but they know there’s daily afternoon duplicate games both at sea and in port. There’s also a daily bridge lecture."
Roberta has always been interested in bridge education. She’s a past president of The American Bridge Teachers’ Association. She’s the author of the ROBERTA SEZ publications, and the award winning BRIDGE GUIDE. You can visit her site for more information: www.bridgeholidays.com or call 800-807-7009.