Rafael A. Ordoñez
The Apollo Group was founded 50 years ago in 1969 by Rafael A. Ordoñez, who was born in Asturias, Spain, in 1940. He migrated to the Dominican Republic in 1955 to work with his uncle as a farmer. Mr. Ordoñez toiled in the fields harvesting sugar cane by day and at night learned how to type.
Five years later, he landed a job on a cruise ship as an assistant waiter, then moved to the galley as an assistant butcher, before being given a job as a junior purser because he could type. Mr. Ordoñez eventually rose through the ranks to the position of chief purser aboard the Yarmouth.
Nearly a decade later in 1969, Mr. Ordoñez formed Apollo with partner Fred Fallick. They named the company after Apollo 11, the manned lunar module launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, that landed on the moon in 1969. That same year, the company was awarded its first concession aboard the Boheme for Commodore cruises. Mr. Ordoñez eventually bought out his partner in the early 70s.
In 1987, Mr. Ordoñez launched Discovery Cruise Lines from Fort Lauderdale, which he operated until 2014. It had become known as “America’s Favorite One-Day Cruise Line.”
One of the top honors of Mr. Ordoñez’s life came in 1996, when he was awarded the Cruz de Caballero (Spain's highest civilian honor) by the King of Spain, King Juan Carlos I, at a ceremony in Miami, Florida.
After an illustrious career spanning more than 40 years, Mr. Ordoñez retired and handed the mantle of leadership to his nephew in 2010. Sadly, Mr. Ordoñez passed away in 2017.
Today, his legacy lives on, with Jose Ramon Barerra Ordonez, the president and CEO of The Apollo Group, following in the footsteps of his uncle, company founder Rafael A. Ordoñez.