At the end of the cruise season in our ““Living Lab”” in Saint John, we stop to celebrate – and our reflections on 2019 for Aquila were too remarkable not to share! In addition to a record-breaking cruise season for Aquila, 2019 has Aquila training in over 35 different destinations, including delivering programs in Spanish and French. 

 I’m often asked when I’ll retire, but honestly, I’m having the time of my life! Over the past several years, Melanie and Danielle have invested to now have majority ownership of the company, and they almost fully manage the day-to-day – leaving  me to do the things I love the most, including mentoring and coaching, training in destinations, and supporting new business development. Mentoring and coaching leaders is my ‘Ikigai’ as the Japanese call it – my purpose and my reason for being – and my role lets me do that, both in cruise destinations around the world and at Aquila. Why would I retire from something I am truly passionate about, especially since it never feels like work? 

 I’m very proud watching our team continue to grow and take Aquila to new heights with Melanie and Danielle at the helm. Melanie has been with Aquila since her first job in high school as a Tour Guide 28 years ago. Today, besides being partner, she is the developer of our new training programs, and the trainer who tests many of these new programs before passing them on to the team. She has also spent time this year helping ports in emerging destinations understand cruise with our Cruise Readiness programs, working with ACE Tour Operators to achieve their designation, and in the past month, she has helped both Silversea’s expedition team and MSC’s Ocean Cay team with training needs.

 Danielle is my daughter, so she has been immersed in the business from its inception – often referring to  Aquila as the first child of the family. She returned from Calgary in 2004 to take on the partner role with Melanie and is responsible for all of the operations in Saint John, what we call our ‘“Living Lab”’, where we learn all the lessons to teach and train all over the world. She is also part of the training team helping with Cruise Readiness and other programs. Our ‘“Living Lab”’ is key to the work we do coaching other operators and helping them with operational questions when they go through our ACE Tour Operator Designation.

Our incredible, hard-working and talented team are all engaged in some way with both the training and the operation sides of our business, usually with a primary focus in one area. And the growth of our training programs has meant some interesting growth for Aquila, also. For example, lately I’ve been training in French (I’m French Acadian), having just completed FCCA Frontline training in ‘les Iles de la Guadeloupe’, and soon will deliver all that and more in the French Polynesian Islands of Tahiti. At the same time, our fourth trainer Claudine’s focus has been growth in delivering FCCA Frontline training in Spanish in numerous Spanish-speaking cruise destinations, as well as training Tour Guides in English, all with much success. We are also engaging with some professionals in the Caribbean and Europe to be “satellite trainers” with Aquila, so we can take our training to even more destinations and in even more languages in 2020 and beyond. I’m confident that lots of great adventures lie ahead for our expanding team! 

Our training programs also continue to evolve, based on needs and feedback from our industry. Currently, Aquila is making significant investments in online training programs, with an iteration of our online Tour Guide Excellence program, a new Culture of Respect program and other online trainings and tools. Also, following on two successful pilots in the UK, we have launched a program in partnership with DEINUK for “Building Capacity” for German-speaking tour guides in cruise destinations. This program has been very successful in Southampton and other UK ports over the past 4 years, and we tested it ourselves this year in our own ““Living Lab”” of Saint John. As a result, we  thrilled our guests with 14 German-speaking guides for TUI, Phoenix Reisen and AIDA ships, as well as providing tours in 7 different languages for MSC – Italian, Portuguese, German, English, French, Spanish and Japanese. And all of this in a small community where many felt these results would be impossible – further validation that the model works. 

 As the exclusive training partner of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), Aquila has also just developed and tested an FCCA Frontline 2.0 to follow our popular FCCA Customer Service and Frontline workshop. Other programs developed and tested in 2019 include Storytelling for Tour Guides and an ACE Attraction Designation. This adds to our signature programs of the Tour Guide Excellence International Certification and ACE Tour Operator Designation, as well as our increasingly popular workshops on product development and maximizing cruise opportunities for destinations, among others. 

 As we pause for a moment to celebrate and reflect on 2019, what strikes me the most is how grateful I am – to have found myself doing what I love, working alongside an incredible, passionate team led by two leaders-to-watch in the industry, all of whom truly care for the people we have the honour of working with, in efforts to make a difference and raise the level of excellence throughout our industry. Aquilafying the world… How can it get any better than that? 

Originally published on LinkedIn on November 7th, 2019