A life-long member of the travel industry, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Ramon Jacinto has no regrets about his chosen career path.
“I’ve only been in travel and if I could live my life all over again, I would choose the same career path,” Jacinto told PAX. “I’ve worked in hospitality and for airlines, tour operators, tourism associations and cruise lines - my hands-down favourite!”
Graduating university with a business management degree, Jacinto said that while he was at first unsure of how to translate his education into a career, his love of travel soon provided an answer, leading to his first industry job as a front desk associate with Mandarin Oriental Manila.
Based in Richmond, BC – “Canada’s Asian food capital,” Jacinto added – he currently works as a business development director for NCL, “training and educating travel partners on the fun, freestyle world of Norwegian Cruise Line.
“I also focus on helping them make money in this very competitive environment using the Norwegian Toolbox, promotions and perks,” he added.
This week, PAX checks in with Jacinto on the advantages of smaller airports, global foodie destinations and why never to ask for Alberta beef while dining in Saskatchewan.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Ramon Jacinto (RJ): In this day and age, a good phone is mostly all you need. I have two – an iPhone for business and a Huawei for personal use to stay in touch with my family and to take photos. I also travel with good headphones to block out airport and airplane noise and to get the best audio when watching my food and travel shows.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
RJ: Having grown up in Asia, I am biased toward Asian destinations. Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong are top of my list for their food scenes and hustle and bustle, but I also love Hawaii for its Aloha spirit that you cannot find anywhere else.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
RJ: I have not been to Changi Airport in Singapore for many years now, but it remains one of my favourites. It feels more like a large Asian luxury hotel than a functional airport. YVR will also always be up in my list because it is my home airport and has everything a modern airport needs. But I also love tiny airports like Lethbridge, Comox and Regina because you can get from the Air Canada check-in desk to security to your boarding gate in under 30 seconds.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
RJ: I love making a difference in a travel partner’s life by sharing my passion for cruising with the hope that they will see the world from a different perspective. I also love meeting people and learning from their experiences and passion for travel. I also love this industry because I have access to all the experts (and deals!) within my fingertips.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
RJ: I took several vacations growing up, but my first overseas one was Hong Kong when I was 12. It was memorable because I experienced the wonder of a totally different culture to that which I grew up in. It opened my eyes to the fact that this world is indeed filled with amazing cultures that we need to learn from and appreciate, instead of wondering why they are different from the North American way of life that we are used to.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
RJ: My daughter’s wedding in Honolulu in 2017. The largest purchase was the hotel bill including the wedding ceremony expenses, etc. Please don’t ask how much because my bank account is still stressed about it.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
RJ: My mom’s home-cooked Filipino meal in her home will always be number one. But other favourites are Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong (world’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurant); hawker centres in Singapore; Taiwan’s Night Market food stalls; Japan’s hole-in-the-wall tempura joints; and Korea’s outdoor barbecue places.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
Where do I start? Travellers that talk loudly on their phones, especially when they’re hands-free; people that put the window shade down throughout the flight including takeoff and landing (they should just travel in a cargo plane without windows); people that hog the airplane arm rest thinking they paid for them and I didn’t; people that say “that’s me” when they call Zone 1 to board; people that call a massive cruise ship a “boat” (ugh!); people that talk loudly while the airplane safety demo is going on; people that talk louder than the PA announcement during a cruise ship muster drill; people that simply do not have basic common courtesy. I can go on but I’ll just stop here!
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
RJ: I’d say cooking. I grew up observing my mom in the kitchen almost daily and accompanying her to the wet markets. My cooking skills lean toward Asian cuisine though, but my family finds it useful in their daily lives. And they appreciate it. Usually.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
RJ: Definitely up! Enjoy the view of the world from above, people!
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
RJ: Back in 2009-2010, I found myself on a business trip to Swift Current, SK. Being in a smallish town, I had to rely on local knowledge to get some tips on the best restaurants as this was long before Google and Yelp. I found myself in a local steakhouse by the highway as recommended by three hotel staff. When I got the menu, the first question I asked the waitress (which regrettably, I should NOT have asked) was ‘do you serve Alberta beef here?’ She looked at me in the eye, placed her hands on her waist and said ‘Sir, Alberta is not the only place you can get good quality beef in Canada!’ After putting my foot in my mouth, I went on to order a nice steak. Although the meal was tasty, I can only imagine what she did to it before she took it out of the kitchen. Lesson learned.
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to NCL?
Norwegian’s differentiating factor is its Freestyle Cruising (follow the stars instead of a schedule), and that our Free at Sea promotion brings tremendous value to a cruise, bringing cruising closer to being all-inclusive. The added perks are all commissionable too!
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