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Travel Professional Interviews

CLIA Travel Agent Cruise News features an interview with a Travel Professional (Individual Agent Member, Travel Agency Member, Cruise Line Executive) each month. This feature provides an opportunity to hear directly from our members, who provide a unique perspective on the industry, tips of the trade, key learnings and insight into the Travel Professional's love of cruise travel. Check back next month for a new Travel Professional interview!

  • Carol Dyck, ECC 

    Cruise and Vacation Consultant, Expedia CruiseShipCenters
    West Vancouver, BC, Canada

    I was concerned about finding time to answer these questions to be honest! At 11pm tonight, I was busy quoting, answering questions, and holding cabins for clients. It is now almost 12:30am, and I am now answering the questions. This is my life as a travel agent! It is 7 days a week with never a day off, from morning until very late.

    I have been in the business almost 10 years. I started in February 2009. I never thought in a million years that I would be in sales. I ran a research lab in soil chemistry – about as far removed from sales as you could be! Then I went on a cruise with a friend whose roommate had to cancel. That cruise changed my life. After many more cruises, people were asking me for advice. I got laid off from the lab, and was looking for something else. I saw an ad in the local newspaper about opportunities with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and here I am, 10 years later. Read more...

  • Shawn Power, ECC, LCS

    Co-Owner, Powerventures Travel Services Ltd. (An Independent Agency in the Avoya Travel Network)
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

    I’ve been in the business for 12 years. It was truly due to my love of cruising… I took four cruises and loved them. My family and friends started cruising, based on Nancy’s and my experiences, so I figured why not get involved and make some money since people are already cruising due to my recommendations. Read more...

  • Avis Gardner

    Owner, It's Your Day Vacation
    Richmond, VA

    In 2008, I was introduced to the travel business by a high school classmate who heard that I was doing group cruises with my friends and family. She contacted me to see if I would be interested in joining a travel company she was with. I immediately declined. I didn't care about making money. She convinced me to take a look at the business. After a couple of weeks of hesitation, I watch the presentation and joined. After being in the business for 2 months, she quit. I had to figure a lot of the business on my own. I was up for the challenge. Read more...

  • Paul Parker, ACC

    Owner, Searcy Travel (An Independent Affiliate of OASIS Travel Network)
    Searcy, Arkansas

    My business partner, Gina, and I have a combined 30-plus years of experience in the travel business. I never planned on being in travel; my great aunt was a travel agent, so I think that she passed the travel bug onto me. My first experience with a cruise line was during college, when my parents booked a half-dozen cabins for a family reunion.Read more...

  • Gary E. Smith, ECCS

    2018 Elite Cruise Counsellor of the Year Vacation Specialist/Owner, Dream Vacations - TravelPerks
    Springfield, Oregon

    I was speechless, which for me is very rare. I am so very proud to have been bestowed this award. Although I know it was given to me, I do believe that it was earned by the contributions of many others. It was earned through the relationships I have with so many in this industry. In any relationship, I am at best only 50% of what makes it work. Hence, I’d like to thank CLIA, Dream Vacations / CruiseOne / World Travel Holdings, our suppliers, my incredible staff, our great clients, and most especially – my wife. Without these amazing relationships, I would not have been able to achieve this honor. I’ve been very blessed in my life, and I try each day to live up and give back to the life I enjoy so much. The honor of this award both gives me proof that I’m giving back as I should and gives me the need to do more. Read more...

  • Gwiin Correa, MCC

    Owner/Travel Advisor, Memorable Moments Travel
    Monrovia, CA

    I opened my agency in 2005 because I love to travel to different places and experience different cultures, art, food, and people. I have friends and family that have never traveled outside of their neighborhoods, and I wanted to change that. So, in 2007, I began to focus and specialize in group and celebratory travel, but whether your group is 2 or 30, my passion is to help create moments that will last a lifetime, anywhere in the world. As a travel designer, I look forward to crafting a one-of-a-kind travel itinerary full of memorable moments for my clients.. Read more...

  • Jackie Friedman

    President, Nexion Travel Group
    Irving, TX

    My original plan was to be a composer. I graduated from university with a degree in music composition, but soon realized that it would be very difficult to make a living composing and I wasn’t otherwise prepared for a specific career. My mother, who was pressuring me to get a job, said I needed to find something I was passionate about. My aunt and uncle worked in the travel business and, along with my mother, encouraged me to explore the world of travel, which I agreed to, first and foremost, to get my mother off my back. I went to travel school and volunteered at a local agency two afternoons a week. It didn’t take long until I was hooked. Read more...

  • Jason Coleman, ECCS, LCS

    Business Development Manager/MentorU Coach, UNIGLOBE Travel Center
    Irvine, California

    I started in the industry in 1998 as a meeting planner at an educational association in Washington, DC (yeah for my 20-year anniversary!!!). In that role, I planned dozens of events and conferences each year—from small board meetings to large, thousand-delegate multi-day conventions. But I was getting bored with the monotony and repetitiveness of that. In 2001, I took my first cruise on Disney Cruise Line. It was just a three-night sailing to the Bahamas, but I was hooked! During the day, I would people-watch on the pool deck, and realized that I wanted to work with people going on vacation. They looked like they were having a great time and I wanted to be in that environment. I immediately started researching how to get into the cruise industry when I stumbled on a CLIA VHS tape titled “Principles of Professional Selling” on EBay. On the reverse side, I saw the video instructor was Dr. Marc Mancini, who then taught travel at West Los Angeles College, a community college in my area. I registered for my first semester of classes two months later, and the rest is history! Read more...

  • Linda “Casey” Rainey, MCC

    Independent Travel Agent, Goldrush Getaways
    Sacramento, CA

    I believe in always giving the client what they want, and more than what they expect. When they state “I get good pricing online by myself”, I educate them on how I take care of all the little details, like keying in their guest check-in information. I even get their boarding passes and luggage tags for them. I listen to what they want and imagine myself going with them and how could I make their vacation better. My three main steps to selling cruises: 1. Listen 2. Imagine 3. Sell. Read more...

  • Cheryl Mitchell

    Owner, Vacations By Cheryl (Independent Contractor of the KHM Travel Group) ECC
    Plantation, FL

    I was first inspired to enter this profession because of a lifetime love of travel instilled in me, by my parents, at a very early age, taking their seven children cross-country every summer in their '64 Chevy. As we grew older my parents liked the idea of taking family vacations, and my father always wanted me to be in charge of organizing these trips. This led me to the idea of leaving my career in the hospitality industry and moving into the travel field. I have now been in the business almost 11 years.Read more...

  • Drew Daly

    General Manager of Network Engagement and Performance, World Travel Holdings Chairman, CLIA STARBoard
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Thank you so much and Happy New Year! You are too kind. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I do and for the amazing organization I am part of. It is a great question. As I look back on my childhood, I can attribute my passion for travel to my parents. Every year they would take us on a family vacation to a different state. They made sure we had unique experiences along the way. I always loved packing a bag and heading out on the road from that point forward. I did not realize then that it would translate into a rewarding career in the travel industry for more than two decades.Read more...

  • Jen Cron, ACC

    Owner, Dream Vacations
    Charlotte, NC

    I had taken some time off to stay home with my daughter and when it came time to go back to work, I was looking for something legitimate that I could do from home and my husband found CruiseOne. We had already fallen in love with cruising, but I was one of those people who didn’t even realize that travel agents were still a thing. Now that I know and understand the value that agents provide, one of my favorite things is educating people about the value that we add. Read more...

  • John Chernesky

    SVP, North America Sales & Trade Marketing
    Princess Cruises & Cunard Line

    After dropping out of kindergarten, my first job was in the Hotel Services Department at Princess Cruises. I was a Coordinator supporting the ships, which was a great way for me to start building relationships with the shipboard teams – many of whom I still know today! My world expanded when the SVP of Fleet Operations hired me to essentially be his chief of staff. The blinders I had been wearing were ripped off and suddenly I was exposed to the broader business... Read more...

  • Jeannie Lipphard, ACC, MCC, ECC, ECCS, LCS

    Travel Agent/Independent Contractor, Cruise & Travel Planner (hosted by Nexion)
    Centreville, Maryland

    In the late 1990’s I started cruising and loved it – not only the fun aspect of cruising/traveling but also the behind scenes operations and the industry including the history of the major cruise lines, the ships, and more. My travel agent at the time, Diane Mason (also an ECCS, CLIA Individual Agent Member), suggested I consider getting into the business so I went to work for her and her husband Jim Mason in 2001 as a home-based agent. After getting accredited (ACC, MCC, ECC, ECCS, and LCS), traveling to new destinations, attending conferences/seminars, as well as learning the business, I went on my own in 2005. It took those first few years working with mentors like Diane and Jim as well as building a client base to set myself up for success. Remember the business does not fall in your lap – it takes many hours of hard work and investment in yourself and your business (travel, certifications, education, etc) to be successful in any type of sales plus a huge passion for cruise travel – you have to love what you sell! Read more...

  • Eddie Diaz

    Destination Event Producer, Eventful Voyages by Dream Vacations
    Belle Isle, Florida

    My career as a travel agent completes the full circle, dating back to 1993 when I was working as cruise staff on the famous Big Red Boat by Premier Cruise Lines. I will never forget my first embarkation, what an exciting day! There was something magical about stepping onto this massive vessel bound for new adventures. To this day, embarkation happens to be my favorite day of any cruise. There is a heartfelt rush that makes me feel like an adventurer or an explorer. I can’t deny it, I simply love cruises. Read more...

  • Kimberly Jahn

    President/Owner Travel Consultant, Pack Your Bags Travel
    Pinckney, Michigan

    I am an Independent Contractor working with my host agency and it has been amazing for me and my business. I loved to travel myself and now I get paid to help others do what I love so much! I have been in the Travel Industry for 12 years, started in Corporate then Government and now my own agency. Read more...

  • Kristian C. Anderson, ACC

    Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
    Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

    I’ve been in the travel industry just about my entire adult life. After graduating from High School with an entire summer before college started, my mother suggested that I find a job and “be productive.” In the summer of 1988, for $4.77 an hour, I started working part time, loading bags onto airplanes on the ramp for Continental Airlines. At first, it was just a “job” but it wasn’t too long before I caught the travel bug and realized that I could fly all over the world. Read more...

  • Leneiva Head

    Independent Travel Agent

    My career as a travel agent is exciting! It includes cruise and land travel. I enjoy helping my clients with their travel plans. I've been in the travel industry for a year. I've spent a significant amount of time taking classes in an effort to prepare myself to provide the best service available to my clients. Read more...

  • Rob Karp

    Founder and CEO, MilesAhead, a proud associate of Valerie Wilson Travel
    New York

    I’ve been in the business for a little over four years and I am about to begin my junior year at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. MilesAhead was founded back when I was 14. Today we are a team of 10+, on track for a $5m+ book of business and to help clients redeem 50m frequent flyer miles in 2017. My initial passion for the travel and hospitality industry was airlines; I love them, I love flying and I love to design itineraries. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I learned all about turning frequent flier miles into (nearly) free airfare. My friends and family inspired and encouraged me to go out and start a business. It started out where family, friends (and then friends of friends) would call me to find out how best to use their miles, and I would gladly help them. A client base built up quickly, and those clients started to ask me to help them make their arrangements—air, hotel, cruise, everything. People saw value in working with an expert to help them optimize their miles, and their excitement led to seeking a full-service travel advising experience. Read more...

  • Lucinda Belden, ECC

    Owner – Agent, Dream Vacations – Stingray Travel
    Carrollton, TX

    Being nominated by Dream Vacations was an honor in itself. Finding out I was receiving the award…I was completely overwhelmed. This honor was a confirmation that if you follow your dreams, even when you may not see the connection between some of your pursuits, they will come together in surprising and amazing ways. Read more...

  • Deborah Fogarty, ECC

    Owner, Be Well Travel, LCC (an Independent Affiliate of Nexion)
    Pembroke Pines, FL

    Being a travel agent is the best decision I ever made – I started it as a side job (always working for banks and CPA firms and “hated” my job). I fell into the industry working as an assistant for a semi-retired stock-broker that also had his own travel agency – he encouraged me to join him in the business. I went home the afternoon I was hired and immediately signed up for a CLIA Membership and enrolled to earn my ACC. I started booking friends and family and then through natural organic networking my business grew in leaps and bounds. I love working for myself and setting goals and seeing it all come to fruition. My specialties are Yoga/Wellness Cruises, Craft Beer and Wine cruises and Corporate Incentive cruises. The travel industry is one of the most viable successful industries to be in.Read more...

  • Deidre Lynn Harmon, ECC

    Travel Specialist, IMN2Travel (Affiliated with Xstream Travel)
    Collingdale, PA

    I’m fairly new to travel, having only been in the business for 5 years. I always had a passion for traveling, but not for cruising. Once I overcame my initial fear of cruising and went on my first cruise, I was bitten by the “cruise bug” and have been cruising ever since. Cruising is an excellent way of meeting people, seeing the world, and building lasting relationships with clients and vendors alike.Read more...

  • Joni Cohen, Elite Cruise Counsellor of the Year

    President, Travel Advisor
    Northbrook, Il

    I began my career as a travel agent in 1981. After 9 years of cruising and enjoying it so much, I wanted to spread the word to let others know the great experiences and value they can have by cruising. Assisting and guiding my clients to their dream vacations has always given me a sense of satisfaction. Selling travel is a wonderful gift making my “job” a pleasure. My business is mainly repeat clients and referrals which tells me I am doing something right. I look forward to each day to bring happiness to them. Read more...

  • Joyce Hosier, ECC

    Franchise Owner and Travel Professional
    Cruise Planners

    I am happy to say that I will soon be celebrating my ten year anniversary in the travel business. 2010 was perhaps one of the worst times to be starting a new business since the economy was suffering a bad recession, but I did not let that stop me. Read more...

  • Dawn Ogden, ACC

    Travel Agent Concierge, Xstream Travel
    Allen, TX

    I have always truly enjoyed being the go-to-person for my family and friends, spending endless hours online exploring destinations for the next big vacation. I launched my home-based travel agency Dawn’s Destinations Travel Service in March 2007 turning my passion for travel into a nice part-time income. My niche markets are now primarily cruise groups (class and family reunions) and romance travel (anniversaries, vow renewals, destination weddings and honeymoons). Cruisers are the greatest percentage of my travel business clientele!Read more...

  • Ferne C. Sapp, ACC

    Independent Travel Agent,
    Covington, GA

    I’m able to enjoy the best of both worlds—the working world and entrepreneurial world. By day, I serve as a Campus Pastor of our multi-site church, where I spend my time helping, serving, leading, training, and equipping people. It is a challenging, yet rewarding role because I have the privilege of creating and adopting new initiatives for our rapidly growing campus. In between my weekly sermon preparation, I often find my mind reflecting over the places I’ve been and people I’ve met in my “night job” of being a Travel Agent and business owner. What’s most amazing is that my role is essentially the same; helping and serving people as they travel the world and live out their dreams. I am a Cruise Specialist, certified by pretty much every cruise line, including being a Princess Commodore. I am blessed to be a wife of over 20 years, a mother of two “kid-adults,” and a Grammy to two amazing grands.Read more...

  • Rebecca Needham, MCC

    Independent Travel Counselor, Triumph Travel
    Jacksonville, FL

    Travel has always been an important aspect of my life, from my family childhood vacations to studying abroad in Scotland while in college. Four years ago, I took this enthusiasm for travel one step further by becoming an Independent Travel Counselor with my Grandmother's Agency "Triumph Travel." She helped me learn not only the technical aspects of travel, but the human side of travel, such really getting to know your client and understanding their travel needs. I specialize in customized vacation itineraries and a lot of my business involves cruise packages. Read more...

  • Skip Fortier, TAE

    Vice President of Network Expansion, Avoya Travel
    Alexandria, VA

    After serving in the US Navy and having the opportunity to travel the globe I was hooked on travel. I started in the industry as a reservation and gate agent for United Airlines in the mid 1980’s. Back then it was easy to hop on a free flight to Europe on my days off and the world was my oyster. I loved seeing new destinations and learning about other cultures. Read more...