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Monday,  July 22, 2024   4:33 PM
PAX Checks In with Viking’s Jordana Botting
Jordana Botting, pictured here in Budapest, is Viking's director of business development for Eastern Canada. (Supplied)

Ever since she was in high school, Jordana Botting wanted to work on board a cruise ship.

In her teenage years, long before the Internet, Botting once answered a classified ad in her local newspaper that replied to her with a list of employment opportunities at different cruise lines – companies she could send her resume to.

“Of course, nothing ever happened with those resumes,” Botting tells PAX.

But everything does happen for a reason. While Botting never landed a job on board a ship, she nonetheless wound up in the cruise industry, building a successful career in sales.

Jordana Botting, pictured here in Paris, France, has a built a successful sales career in the cruise industry. (Supplied)

Her voyage into the business began in the early aughts when Botting, at the time, was doing anything she could to make money while in university, from working as a receptionist to data entry to delivering newspapers to waitressing and bartending.

Her big break came in 2003 when family friends purchased a CruiseShipCenters store and hired her as their cruise sales manager.

“During that first week on the job, I met one of our cruise line representatives and I knew in that moment that that was what I was meant to do,” says Botting, who was based in Calgary, AB, at the time.

BORN TO CRUISE. Ever since she was a teen, Jordana Botting has wanted to work in the cruise industry. (Supplied)

Four years later, in 2007, Botting’s dream set sail. She accepted her first job as a rep with Norwegian Cruise Line, an opportunity that relocated her from Calgary to Vancouver, BC, and then later to Manhattan, New York City, in 2013.

Today, Botting, who now lives in Burlington, ON, is a director of business development for Eastern Canada at Viking Cruises – a title she has had for almost five years now.

Her job is to work with partners to bring the world of Viking – which provides river, ocean, and expedition cruises – to mutual clients through developing marketing strategies, partnering on consumer events, and providing agents with training opportunities.

Jordana poses in front of Viking Mars. (Supplied)

What does she love most about the gig?

“Inspiring people to travel and learn about the different cultures of the world,” she says. “And helping travel partners build a profitable travel business by partnering with a strong brand in the market.”

Here, PAX Checks In with Botting to discuss king crab fishing, why she’ll never get braids while on vacation and the time she spilled mustard on a Grammy Award-winning rapper. 

PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?

Jordana Botting (JB): Away luggage – After years of buying inexpensive luggage without a warranty that continuously broke, I finally invested in quality luggage with a lifetime warranty.   Not only is Away's warranty and customer service phenomenal, the luggage is lightweight, wheels easily, and is easy to pack.

Ginger Gravol – I suffer from the worst motion sickness! I'll get sick if I'm in something with wheels, flies, or floats on water. How have I’ve managed to work in the travel industry for 20 years? Being prepared by taking ginger Gravol daily if I'm nauseous or not. The key to motion sickness is prevention.

Conair Steamer – I've become a master packer and can now travel with only a carry-on for an eight-day European river cruise. My compact steamer is the key to keeping my clothes looking fresh and my pressing bills down.

Jordana snaps a selfie at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. (Supplied)

PAX: What's your favourite airport and why?

JB: Munich. Flying into Europe as often as I do, I have to fly through Frankfurt or Munich to reach my final destination. I always choose Munich because there are more than enough activities to keep me busy during layovers or if I encounter flight delays or cancellations.

You also won't go hungry: you can find plenty of cafés and bistros to choose from, or if you fancy some hearty Bavarian food and a beer, you'll want to pop into the in-terminal brewery.

Next time I’m there, I’ll enjoy a treatment at the Fit & Fly Spa – or take in a movie at the cinema. I've also heard the airport has an ice rink, flight simulator, mini golf, and a children's play area.

Jordana explores the town of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. (Supplied)

PAX: What was the first you ever took? 

JB: I was nineteen years old, and a friend and I were given our bosses' timeshare at the Villa Del Mar in Puerto Vallarta. Landing in Mexico for the first time, we hit the beach, found the first lady to braid our hair and lubed ourselves up with a tanning accelerator.   You can imagine how that ended. I was so burnt that I couldn't sit outside for days. The worst was my scalp, which was exposed because of the braids. I can still feel that burn to this day. Needless to say, I have never gotten braids on vacation since.

PAX: What's the biggest splurge you've ever made on a trip?  

JB: King crab fishing in the Arctic. This is the most expensive shore excursion I've ever booked, but it was the most memorable and thrilling. On select Viking Scandinavia and Northern Europe itineraries, we stop in Honningsvåg, Norway. Located at the top of Norway, across from the Arctic Circle, the cold waters are home to king crabs that can measure up to six feet between their claws and weigh 22 pounds. Of course, we caught smaller crabs at six to 15 pounds. But still, they were delicious.

Jordana goes king crab fishing in Honningsvåg, Norway. (Supplied)

PAX: What’s the most memorable meal you ever ate while travelling? 

JB: The Bergen Fish Market in Bergen, Norway. It’s the perfect spot for incredible seafood! Fishermen and farmers have sold their wares to the locals since the 13th century. However, the best attribute of the market is all the incredible seafood samples offered as you stroll through.

Fjellskaal Seafood Restaurant offered us a seafood tower with the market's fresh catch – Norwegian salmon, giant king crab and snow crab, shrimps of all kinds, cods, sardines, octopus and fresh lobster. I tried everything. Paired, of course, with champagne and fresh bread and butter.

Jordana enjoys a seafood feast at Fjellskaal Seafood Restaurant in Bergen, Norway. (Supplied)

PAX: What's your biggest travel pet peeve?

JB: People who are not prepared when going through TSA!

PAX: What’s your funniest travel anecdote? 

JB: The time I got mustard on Grammy Award-winning rapper Lil Jon's white Nike Air Force 1 [shoes]. It happened at Miami airport, late at night, just as my flight was boarding to LAX. Starving, I quickly picked up a sandwich and snacks at a store beside my gate. When the airline made its final boarding call, I strategically loaded my purchases, boarding pass, and passport into my arms and ran to the gate. 

A VIP cart pulled up as I arrived with Lil Jon and other famous singers aboard. It just so happened that the Grammys were that weekend in LA and business class was filled with stars.

Lil Jon walked up behind me as I was juggling the items in my full arms to get access to my boarding pass. Being a gentleman, he went to help, and as he pulled out my boarding pass from the stack, the sandwich that was placed on top of the pile in my arms tumbled off and landed open-faced – right on Lil Jon's running shoes. When he pulled the sandwich off, his white shoe, including his laces, was covered in mustard.

I apologized profusely, but he smiled sweetly and told me not to worry. During the flight, he sent me back a meal so I wouldn't go hungry.

Jordana, pictured here in Puerto Vallarta, once (accidentally) dropped mustard on rapper Lil Jon. (Supplied)

PAX: Would you travel for a month in luxury…or travel for a year on a budget? 

JB: Since I've travelled for a year on a budget and earned that badge, I don't need to experience it again. I’d take a month of ultimate luxury in Africa, from road-tripping through Namibia to gorilla trekking in Uganda, breakfast at Giraffes Manor, glamping in the Sahara desert, to cruising along the Okavango Delta in Botswana. I'm adding to my Africa bucket list daily.

PAX: What do you consider your greatest achievement in recent years? 

JB: Creating and implementing Viking's social media and FAM program. When we returned to service, we offered travel partners FAMs so they could learn the complexities of travel during COVID. Additionally, to share their experiences with their clients, we implemented a social media training program paired with challenges throughout the voyage, offering agents a chance to win daily cash prizes. However, the most significant return has been the bookings the agents received from the engagement with their clients while on board. Agents can contact me about qualifying for a future FAM!

Jordana hangs with Canadian travel advisors in Strasbourg, France. (Supplied)

PAX: What is your motto?  

JB: All we have is now!

PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness?  

JB: Sitting on a beach with a margarita in my hand, snacking on chips and fresh guac.

PAX: What is your biggest fear?  

JB: Like most people, I fear drowning or being caught in a fire. But my everyday fear is not being able to do my motion sickness ritual before I get into a situation that will affect my motion sickness.

Jordana cycles the Wachau Valley in Austria. (Supplied)

PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band?  

JB: These days, Florence and the Machine is back into my top rotation.

PAX: What are your hidden talents?

JB: I can drink caffeine at any time of day and still have no issues with sleeping.

Jordana makes a friend in Strasbourg, France. (Supplied)

PAX: How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life? 

JB: I'm more conscious of approaching my life and work with gratitude. We've all faced challenges over the past few years. Proactively practicing gratitude has changed my overall outlook on life. A grateful mindset has significantly increased my positive feelings and appreciation. As a result, I've been experiencing more significant growth, happiness, positivity, and joy while experiencing less stress and negativity.

It's proven that gratitude enhances your alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy, allowing you to focus on your goals fully. As you go throughout your day, make it a point to notice and be grateful for the little things.

PAX: What is the biggest challenge facing the travel industry right now?  

JB: Setting new travel expectations for your clients. The world has changed – inflation, high energy prices and labour shortages at airports, hotels, restaurants and every other industry. We all need to have more patience and flexibility.

PAX: What is this year's top travel trend? 

JB: Small ships, longer cruise days, booking multiple trips at once and Europe. Viking is the perfect partner because we offer them all!

"All we have is now" is Jordana's motto. (Supplied)

PAX: What should travel advisors be aware of right now in regards to Viking? 

JB: Viking is the first and only cruise line to always offer no NCFs. We believe in rewarding our travel partners every time they make a booking with us by offering some of the highest commissions in the industry. We pay commission on every aspect of the booking. This includes taxes, NCFs, airfare, shore excursions, drink packages and even shipboard gifts for clients. 

Also, a new Viking Training Academy is launching April 1, 2023. We want to ensure agents have all the information they need to sell Viking successfully, so we've redesigned our academy to with various trainings, interactive webinars, and customized learning plans on Viking River, Ocean, and Expedition. Make sure you're signed up on our travel partner portal here to a receive notification when it launches.

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