Born in Rome, Filippo is a certified tour guide in both Norway and Italy, and speaks six languages! “Before becoming a licensed guide,” he says, “I was always fascinated and inspired by other guides, for their knowledge of places and their being the true cultural ambassadors of their countries.” His favorite part of his work is engaging the travelers he leads, sharing his own experiences, and asking for feedback so he can constantly improve. He says that what he hopes to achieve most at Vantage is helping people understand what life is like as a local.
Gail Bryant, European Ocean Cruises
It was by happenstance that British-born Gail landed in travel. While working in a small French hotel barge, the resident tour leader fell ill, so Gail stepped in at the last minute. “Even though it was really nerve-wracking that first time, I loved it,” she said. “Although I’ve done other jobs in travel, this is always my preferred position.” She now boasts more than 20 years in travel, including planning and development, but Gail loves leading Vantage travelers around the UK the most. “There’s something special about sharing the country of your birth with travelers,” she said. “I love introducing the varied cultures of the British Isles. For such a small place, it’s incredible just how different people are in each place we visit! Even if the distance between them is less than 100 miles, the customs, accents, and even the language can be nothing alike!”
George Bihoi, European River Cruises
Born in Romania, George attended to a bilingual high school where French was the second language. As a result, he is both fluent in the language and quite knowledgeable about French history and culture. Then, living in Paris during his university years, he fell in love with the city’s vibrancy, history, and culture — all of which he enjoys introducing to Vantage travelers. Over the years, George has also taken more than 50 trips to the south of France, during which he also discovered the wonders of French cuisine. And, while his favorite meal is coq au vin served with a nice Beaujolais, he’s especially fond of some of France’s nearly 250 varieties of cheese. “Alongside wine and bread, cheese is the country’s culinary holy trinity,” says George. “I’m more than pleased to share this with travelers as we cruise along the Saône and Rhône rivers." Vantage travelers often compliment George Bihoi’s “wonderful bedside manner,” which is no surprise, since he happens to have a Master’s degree in Health Care and Human Resources. Beyond his love and knowledge of all things French, perhaps George's best qualification to lead you along the French Waterways is his strong desire to give travelers the opportunity to discover new worlds.
Renata Lovrovic, European River Cruises
Renata, born in Novi Sad, Serbia, says that becoming a Cruise Director is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating ways to see the world and learn about a country’s history while sharing your love of travel with people just like you. She stresses that you can’t do this job if you don’t like people: “You have to love and care about people, enjoy their company, and get on with everyone. That is the nature of the job.” In her free time, Renata likes to read and learn more about the places she visits. For her, “work” means being part of someone’s happiest holiday memories, and she works hard to provide her travelers with a memorable journey.
Johanna (Anske) Mol, African Safaris
For Johanna, becoming a tour guide started with a getaway. “A personal holiday in Cape Town,” she says,” playing the tourist myself and enjoying all the natural beauty made me fall in love with South Africa. Having had a year of African experiences by then — after Uganda and Zimbabwe — made me want to be a tour guide in this magnificent part of the world.” She has been to many unforgettable places, including Uganda, Mozambique, Austria, Belgium, Spain, and Turkey. For Johanna, the best part of being a tour guide is when she can show guests how to enjoy natural beauty, and when she can teach them about fauna, flora, history, and geography.
Mohamed Anwar Eissa, Egyptian Small Ship Cruises
Born in Egypt, Mohamed is a guide and ambassador who has spent most of the past 25 years leading tours. Always ready to share knowledgeable insights or a well-timed joke, his passion for Egyptian’s history, beauty, and wonders have made him a sought-after freelance Egyptological guide throughout Egypt and the Middle East. A specialist in Middle Eastern cultures, Mohamed has traveled extensively throughout the region, leading tours in Jordan, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. Besides guiding, he enjoys educating and inspiring travelers from all over the world who, just like him, share his boundless curiosity and admiration for ancient cultures.
Paula Harrigan, Australia & New Zealand Land Tours
Paula, who's from Melbourne, Australia, says that she was interested in the idea of being a tour guide since she was little. “I was lucky enough to spend a year traveling around the world with my parents when I was young,” she says. “From that time, I was very keen to keep exploring and learning more about other cultures. The job of Tour Director allows me that opportunity and the chance to share that passion with others.” When she’s not leading tours in Australia, she splits her time between a few hobbies: photography, the outdoors, and cycling. Paula also loves a good café and has never met a cake that she didn't like!
David Kalama Mwadime, African Safaris
Born in Kenya, David has lived in Tanzania, the Netherlands, and the United States. He says that wildlife and people were the two main factors that influenced his decision to become a tour guide. “In my tender age,” he says, “I used to rescue all kinds of small wildlife, especially young ones who got lost or lost their parents. I also used to admire the tourist vans that visited Tsavo East National Park, one of the largest national parks in Kenya.” David says that he truly feels how fulfilling his work is when he sees the emotions his guests experience during the tours he leads. “This is where, without a doubt, I am reminded of how special my work is. I love it and this is what I was born to do.”
Zhang Yan, Asian Small Ship Cruises
Zhang was born and currently lives in Beijing, China. She started traveling when she was six years old and her grandma sent her to visit her parents — who worked in the service — on an overnight train. From there, she began taking the train to visit all different parts of China. “I believe my dream to see the world started at that time,” she says. “I loved the culture, people, and history, so that’s why I became a Tour Director.” She studied foreign trade and journalism in college and holds certificates in Chinese cooking and Chinese as a second language. Her favorite memories are asking her travelers what they found most memorable about the trip, receiving the feedback that China was on their bucket list, and that she’d helped their dreams come true!
Darko was born and currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia. He speaks three languages (Croatian, English, and Italian) and spent some time in Venice. He began to feel naturally drawn toward becoming a guide when he was studying art history in Zagreb, and has since visited 163 countries and lead tours in 70 of them! Of all of those destinations, the Mediterranean holds a special place in his heart. His goal for his travelers is that they get the full picture of each destination, including the culture, customs, gastronomy, language, nature, and local people. When he’s not leading tours, he spends his time fulfilling his own travel aspirations.
Enrique Virto, South American Ocean Cruises
Peruvian-born Enrique has been to all seven continents and 50 countries. “I love to travel — I like to change weather, geography, terrains,” he says. “Traveling is feeling existence in-depth.” He studied history in Peru, philosophy in France, German in Germany, and obtained a license from tourism from the University of Peru. Travelers respond to Enrique’s zest for life and sense of humor. When you’re traveling with Enrique, look forward to “interacting with the locals, tasting typical food and drinks, listening to local music, and learning the spirit and philosophy of each place.” He adds, “We forget some information about the places we visit, but the things I mentioned before stay with the traveler.”
Patricio Thyjssen, Antarctica Expeditions
Patricio credits his travel bug to working as a flight attendant for three years. But he’s not just a tour guide — he’s a private pilot, too, and speaks five languages. After all, you need to have some special skills when you’re spending weeks at a time exploring Antarctica! Before age 30, Patricio had visited all seven continents, but his favorite part of the world remains South Georgia and Antarctica: “Some reasons for that include the imposing albatrosses flying by in the Falkland Islands… South Georgia’s infinite king penguin and fur seal colonies… and Antarctica’s dynamic landscape that almost seems to belong to a different planet!”