To sum up just a few of his duties: Travel. Learn about travel, culture and history. Teach about travel, culture and history. Repeat.
While aboard Holland America’s ms Eurodam, Ian agreed to spend a few minutes answering my questions about what could possibly be the best job in the world … or at least on the seven seas.
1. What do you do as a cruise travel guide?
I pull together all the port information for everywhere the ship travels. Some people aren’t interested in taking a cruise-planned shore excursion and would rather travel independently, so I find out all the nuts and bolts on how they can do that. I find out how much it costs to take a taxi or how people would get somewhere to do their own activities. Sometimes people ask me if they think certain tours are suited for them, and I have to know enough about the activities to provide information so that they can make that decision. Before the ship docks anywhere, I hold presentations about the different ports with information about the history and culture of a place. In Europe especially, people are interested in learning about the cultural-related aspects of a destination. I also have office hours if someone would like to talk one-on-one about their travel plans. Once the cruise ship is in port, I wait right off the ship as everyone is leaving to answer last-minute questions people have before spending the day on shore.
2. How did you become a cruise ship travel guide?
I started traveling in college. When I heard about a job opening with another cruise company, it seemed like the ideal way to see the world. I worked for them for one year then took a job with Holland America. I’ve been working here for the past three years. I work for five months then take three to four weeks off before coming back on for another contract term. During the time I have off, I do a lot of research. I read guidebooks and visit new places because things change all the time. I’ve been to all of the places I recommend. My real passion is travel, and I hope I share that passion with other people.
I have been to 82 countries. I’m holding out on some of the smaller countries like Lichtenstein for when I’m closer to hitting 100. I want to go back to Argentina some day and I would like to do a more extensive tour of Africa. I also want to spend more time in India.
4. What travel destination is a must-see?
There are actually four places that people have to visit:
- New Zealand is a fantastic country. I would recommend people go by ship the first time and rent a car the second time they visit.
- Vietnam has the friendliest people. People should visit the beach and try to get up into the mountains. The country has amazing hotels. I’m especially fond of Ho Chi Minh.
- Santorini, Greece, is stunning. People should visit Oia; it has the best baklava. There are a ton of tourists here but it’s just too beautiful to pass up. I recommend people get a cappuccino and enjoy the scenery.
- St. Petersburg, Russia, is best discovered with a walking tour. The Singer House has one of the best coffee shops in St. Petersburg. It’s on the second floor.
5. What is the best travel secret you can divulge to travelers?
Ask questions and do your research. Things change all the time, so don’t be afraid to ask. People might read about sites or places in guidebooks or see something on a TV show that is outdated. It can be frustrating for people to discover that something they read about in a book or see on TV doesn’t exist anymore.