While she’s been in travel since 2003, there was a time when MSC Cruises’ Leanne Hill worked in a very different industry.
“I actually have a commerce degree and worked as an accountant, compliance auditor and risk analyst,” Hill recalled. “I can honestly say that travel is more fun than studying numbers and analyzing spreadsheets!”
Hill caught the travel bug after taking a cruise in her early 20s – “I was completely hooked,” she said – which eventually lead to her current role as MSC’s Western and Central Canada BDM, a role she’s held since 2018.
“I spend the majority of my time on emails and the phone helping agents with various issues,” the North Vancouver resident said. “I also spend a lot of time on the road between BC and Manitoba, meeting with agencies and conducting trainings on the MSC product. When busy season arrives, I attend many travel events and conferences, as well as conduct ship inspections and host trade events on my own ships. The day-to-day duties honestly change all the time.
This week, PAX checks in with Hill on roadtrip memories, where to find the world’s best pizza (it’s not Italy!) and selfies with Hong Kong’s Big Buddha in the fog.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Leanne Hill (LH): Passport – that’s a given; snacks, I am always hungry; and my “Ugly Doll” stuffy that has been around the world with me.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
LH: Anywhere in Europe! I view it as my second home. I appreciate the ease of travel and amazed at the fact that you can travel between countries within a matter of hours to experience vastly different people, cultures and food. You have to love the laid-back vibe and mentality as well as the history – and don’t forget the fashion!
Chile: my favorite thing about Chile is its diversity in landscape. You really can experience it all there. I started my travel in the metropolis of Santiago where we explored some of the best restaurants and sipped Pisco Sours. We then flew to the Atacama Desert for a lodge experience where we went on daily hiking excursions, visited hot springs, geysers and salt flats and even watched a soccer final in the quaint desert town of Toconao. We spent the last few days in Vina del Mar (on the coast) and in Maipo Valley (wine region), eating the freshest foods and drinking some of the best wines!
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
LH: Samui airport in Thailand. It’s really unique in that it is an open-air airport and feels like you are hanging out in a hut on the beach.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
LH: My biggest passion in life is travel, so there is nothing better than being able to talk about travel and cruises all day! I love listening to people’s travel stories and adventures, and everyone is so welcoming and nice. Working in this industry is like working with your best friends and family!
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
LH: My parents used to take my brothers and I on yearly roadtrips down the east coast of the US. We would never plan a final destination, we would just point at a map and go. Those were the days when you could book a motel the same day – that’s right, a motel with a pool in the parking lot. We would always get to go shopping beforehand to buy the newest cassette tape to listen to, while driving hours in our minivan!
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
LH: I have never splurged on a material item. I always spend my money on experiences and excursions – things that you can only do in that destination and rationalize the cost by saying, “when will I ever have the chance to do this again?” When in Rome….
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
LH: Pizza is my favorite food, but ironically, the best pizza that I have had was in Spain. Probably one of the most memorable and least desired foods was haggis in Scotland or black pudding in Ireland.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
LH: Packing! It stresses me out to no end. I also dislike flying because it’s a waste of time – I wish I could just be teleported everywhere.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
LH: I would like to say singing and dancing, but others would say these “talents” of mine should stay hidden!
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
LH: Both! I am really bad at packing, so I tend to bring everything, just in case.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
LH: Down during the flight and up when taking off and landing – not because flight attendants tell you to, but because I love to see where I am.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
LH: I was travelling with a work colleague on a three-day trip to Hong Kong. We paid to take a day excursion to see the Big Buddha, but it was so foggy that the best picture we got was us in front of his foot…well, we think it was his foot, we couldn’t see a thing! Or, the time we went on an “amazing race” around Macau to find a specific egg tart shop, only to keep coming back to the same sign that says “You are here.” Those are the type of situations where you want to cry at the time, but then look back and remember how ridiculous they were and have a good laugh.
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to MSC Cruises?
LH: MSC Cruises is a family-owned and operated cruise line and we are growing very quickly, adding another Merviglia-Plus class ship to our fleet in 2020 – MSC Virtuosa – bringing the total fleet count to 18 ships. We also opened up a Canadian office last year in Ontario, allowing agents to book in Canadian dollars and having a completely bilingual support team.
MSC Cruises is not just any cruise. We like to say we are “Europe by day, and Europe by night” and pride ourselves on our European style of cruising. We have five official languages on board and people from all different backgrounds and cultures sailing with us. We partner with Lego and Cirque du Soleil and our entertainment is some of the best at sea! If you are a frequent cruiser and want to try MSC, we hope you take advantage of our status match program. We are all about offering a World of Discovery to curious travellers interested in new places, new shores and new lands, all while enriching the travel experience!
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