Russell A. (Rusty) Pickett is a retired career Naval officer, having spent more than 26 years as a Submariner. He served in a variety of assignments across the country including Headquarters staffs in Washington DC and Norfolk, Virginia . He was Captain of the nuclear attack submarine USS L. MENDEL RIVERS (SSN 686) homeported in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as Submarine Training Facility, Charleston South Carolina and Navy ROTC at the University of Notre Dame. As a result of his military experience, Rusty has traveled extensively around the world. He has enjoyed more than 60 cruises throughout the Atlantic and Pacific, the Antarctic and the rivers of Europe!

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior from Yale University and has a Master of Business Administration degree from Charleston Southern University.  

He was designated a “Shellback” aboard USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) in the Pacific Ocean in 1985.

Although Shellback Cruises is a “cruise oriented” travel agency able to book cruises on any cruise, river cruise or barge company worldwide, we are able to arrange a full assortment of worldwide land/sea packages and select land only packages though such companies as Disney and Disney Adventures, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America,  Globus/Cosmos/Monograms/Avalon Waterways, Blue Sky Hawaii Tours, Funjet Vacations, Abercrombie and Kent, Qantas Vacations, Brendan Worldwide, GoGo Vacations, Pleasant Holidays, Celtic Tours, CIE Tours, Tauck World Discovery and Tauck Bridges, Classic Custom Vacations, Universal Studios Vacations and many others. The company has booked individual, group and fundraising packages for travel worldwide. The company is also a specialist in arranging military - especially Navy - reunions in Charleston, South Carolina.  The company's customers live throughout North America and Canada.

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Industry/professional certifications include:

The ASTA Verified Travel Advisor designation lets the travel industry and the consumer know that the travel advisor has met ASTA criteria for industry knowledge, professionalism, and ethics.


Member, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)


Elite Cruise Counselor having been examined and certified  by CLIA. Rusty Pickett is one of only just over several hundred travel agents in North America to achieve this distinction. Click the CLIA button to learn about the value of booking with and Elite Cruise Counsellor! 


Certified Luxury Cruise Specialist, having been examined and certified by CLIA!


Board Member: Cruise Lines International Travel Agent Advisory Board (2004 - 2009)


Certified "Distinguished Travel Professional" by Travel Professionals Network


Certified professional agency by the International Air Transport Association

Member Agency: Travel Leaders Network… a network of more than 9000 Agencies


Former Chapter Director and Advisory Board Member, ASTA Small Business Network (ASTASBN)


Member. Buy Veteran is a national campaign spearheaded by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA).


Member; Past President, South Carolina Chapter American Society of Travel Advisors



He travels and cruises extensively to ensure he keeps current on recent industry trends, and routinely attends industry and travel company trade shows, presentations, and ship orientations.  He has been profiled in international trade magazines including Travel Trade Magazine, ASTA Agency Magazine and NACTA’s Agent Life.  He was panelist for the 21st Annual Travel Trade Cruise-a-thon and NACTA International Conferences. Additionally he has represented the cruise industry through routine interviews on the local Charleston area TV stations, and periodically writes for a variety of industry trade publications.  He routinely participates in industry surveys and discussions and conducts regional travel agent seminars for agents home based in South Carolina. 

He is also a certified open ocean diver, and can assist you with planning that great dive adventure!

As a volunteer within the community, Rusty Pickett has served as a Distinguished Lt. Governor of Division 21, Carolinas District Kiwanis International from 2007 - 2009, Lt. Governor Elect 2018-2019, and is a distinguished Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Charleston. He is a member of the South Carolina Chapter of the Naval Submarine League, The Military Officers Association, United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. and the Charleston Council of the Navy League of the United States, Council 6250 and Lynch Assembly of the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.