Celebrating his 10th anniversary with Holland America Line this fall, Tom Steer got his travel start while working in a very different industry.
“Twenty years ago, after college I was climbing the ladder in the UK TV industry, working my way into London studios as production assistant, while supporting myself working in sales by day,” Steer recalled. “One day sitting on the tube, I saw an ad in a newspaper that said ‘WORK-TRAVEL-EARN-Become a Videographer on a Cruise Ship’ – it became my golden ticket and introduced me to a whole new world, and there was no going back.”
“When I stepped foot on that first ship in the Caribbean,” he continued, “my job was to film the daily events and games on board (with a VHS camera the size of a suitcase!), and to my surprise, to also manage snorkel equipment rentals and give seminars on how to snorkel – I was in at the deep end you could say."
According to Steer, “the rest is history,” as he would go on to work on more than 20 ships for four cruise lines, visiting 193 different ports in 85 countries and sailing to all seven continents – all while working as a sales manager in various departments.
Today, the North Vancouver resident serves as a business development manager for HAL and Seabourn Cruise Line in the Western Canada region, “keeping travel partners across BC, Alberta and Saskatoon up to date, with phone calls and office visits,” Steer said.
“I’m regularly meeting with agency managers, hosting webinars, lunch & learns and seminars. I also get to showcase the HAL and Seabourn experience to agencies’ clients directly, at their consumer shows.”
Today, PAX checks in with Steer on memorable meals on the Copacabana, shopping for engagement rings in Spain and why a certain cruise passenger never yelled 'Bingo!'
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Tom Steer (TS): Noise-cancelling headphones, an open mind and Carmex lip balm – I’m often flying into -30 degree weather in Alberta and Saskatchewan!
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
TS: Cat Island, Bahamas: this was our honeymoon spot. It’s also a stone’s throw from one of my other favourite places on earth – HAL’s private Island Half Moon Cay; Sifnos, Greece: getting off the beaten track in the Greek Isles and going where the Athenians themselves vacation was amazing; Barcelona, Spain: for the tapas, sangria, beaches, architecture, history, vibrant culture … I can keep going!
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
TS: London City Airport. Nothing beats flying in to the heart of London right by the Thames. It’s also equidistant from where I grew up and the West End of London. Also, YVR of course. It deserves all of the awards and it means that I have arrived home.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
TS: That we’re not selling office supplies! We give people something to look forward to and get excited for. Vacations help people make meaningful connections with the world around them. That is something to feel good about! Also, I’m a people person and being out in the field with fun and driven folks in travel sales makes me tick. Also, I love the friendly competition and camaraderie – I’m always aiming to make HAL and Seabourn number one.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
TS: The first trip I can remember when I was young was to Bournemouth, on the sunny south coast of England. I remember learning to boogie-board and eating fish and chips on the golden beaches. My first overseas vacation was to Dublin.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
TS: My wife’s engagement ring, purchased across the street from Gaudí’s Casa Milà, in Barcelona.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
TS: Ceviche in old San Jaun, Puerto Rico. Salt-baked whole sea bass in Kumkapi Fish Market, Istanbul. Many sunset suppers in Mykonos and Santorini. However, the most memorable of all has to be at Marius Degustare in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – it was a decadent, mind-blowing combo of never-ending churrascaria, sashimi, steaks, oysters and caipirinhas.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
TS: When people only look at the world through their phone and are not truly in the moment.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
TS: You should always have me on your team in any general knowledge quiz, name that tune contest or pub trivia game. Also, I still have some old-school DJ turntable skills, although they may be a little rusty these days. Being a parent of a five- and a three-year-old though, means I discover talents I didn’t know I had, every day.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
TS: Many years ago, I got to know a guest who was on board a ship with me for 120 days. He liked to go to the sail-away bingo, buy a bingo card then sit at the back of the lounge with his sunglasses on. He didn’t win once during the entire 120 days – not even a line! He only told us on his last day that it was where he liked to go for his afternoon nap every day but didn’t want to appear rude, so always bought a bingo card and wore his shades.
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to HAL?
TS: Let your clients know about the all new Explore4 promotion: it gives them up to $800 SBC, a Pinnacle Grill Dinner, beverage cards for third and fourth guests, with an internet package for Verandah staterooms and above on more than 650 sailings in 2020 and 2021.
Also, look out for our next ship Ryndam, coming in 2021. She will be the third of the Pinnacle Class, joining her sisters Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam. They feature all four Music Walk lounges, including the awesome Rolling Stone Rock Room!
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!