What makes a great trip even better? Your Vantage Program Manager - and we've got the best! In fact, they are rated as “Excellent” by 94% of Vantage travelers. These experienced travel professionals are with you every step of the way, to provide expert service relating to every aspect of your trip. Usually natives of the area you are traveling in – and always English-speaking – they are knowledgeable, friendly, and caring guides, always there when you need them.
Vantage Program Managers are chosen to lead our Memorable Journeys based on feedback from our travelers. The higher “Excellence” rating they receive for their service and their tours, the more tours they lead. So you’re ensured a top-notch experience! Here are just a few of our top performing Program Managers worldwide:
Annelies BurgersEuropean River Cruises
Over the last 25 years, Annelies has led tours all over the world. Her major interests are history, art, and culture, and her enthusiasm and the knowledge of these subjects makes her a favorite with Vantage travelers. Although Annelies has guided tours to a variety of destinations, she finds it a real pleasure to show people the beauty of her own country. The one caveat of river cruising all the time, she tells us, is the effect of all the excellent food on board. That's why Annelies tries to exercise regularly – she's currently taking golf lessons.
"Annelies was personable, knowledgeable, and most of all delightful."
Louise TimmerEuropean River Cruises
Louise is passionate about making sure passengers return home with unforgettable memories, having experienced all that a destination has to offer. The Dutch native leads river cruises in Europe and credits moving around the world for her father's job as the reason for her passion for travel and tourism. Louise earned a college degree in Economic Linguistics and Psychology in The Netherlands and speaks five languages. After graduating, she worked in hospitality as a dive master in Sydney, and later realized she wanted to work with more deeply with her passion. "For me, this meant working with other people, traveling, and organizing events," she says.
"Louise was enthusiastic, personable, and very knowledgeable. She explained everything well and was always available for questions."
Erna HoekEuropean River Cruises
Originally from the Netherlands, Erna originally studied journalism, but began a professional career as a tour guide in the U.S. after backpacking through the country on a six-month journey. Erna believes that the key to her success as a Program Manager is her firsthand knowledge of both American and European cultures. “I can draw many comparisons between the two,” she says. “Although in many ways our ways of life may seem the same, there are huge and very interesting differences to learn about." Erna loves to travel and is an avid reader.
"Erna was very articulate, knowledgeable and pleasant. She was accessible plus ready to answer all questions, and provided a great cultural experience because she has lived in the U.S. and the Netherlands."
Werner KrenEuropean River Cruises
Werner's passion for his work is reflected in the excellent ratings he receives from Vantage river cruise passengers. "I'm from Germany," he says, "and I particularly enjoy sharing my country's beauty and history with American visitors, as well as the joys and challenges of reuniting the nation."
"Werner provided great descriptions to understand our new experiences; very good sense of humor. His stories from many years in the field were appreciated."
Michele MeyerFrench River Cruises
Michele is a native Parisian whose 25 years of traveling have taken her as far from her country as Missoula, Montana. But she doesn’t always travel in deluxe style: this opera-lover enjoys camping with her family, and they have pitched tents all around Europe and North America. With a degree in French tourism under her belt, as well as a Masters in English and a Masters in American History of the West, she brings a unique and well-informed perspective to her tours. Her joie de vivre is contagious, and she most enjoys helping Vantage travelers discover her home city for its grand beauty and remarkable history. “France is the most beautiful place on earth for me,” she says. “Before you leave my country, make sure to get yourself some soft silk from Lyon and delicate santon figurines from Provence. And of course you’ll want to bring home one or two bottles of good wine!
Manuela CunhaPortugal River Cruises
Manuela, who is from Portugal, has served as an international tour guide since she was 19 years old. Speaking six languages, Manuela holds a degree in German Literature and Culture and holds certificates in travel guidance and interpretation. Leading tours in her home country, South America, and Europe, Manuela advises her groups to fully enjoy and appreciate the food specialties of the countries they are visiting. When not leading tours, Manuela enjoys spending time with her family, hiking in the mountains, and sun-bathing at her island home.
Lydia UsikovaRussian River Cruises
Lydia's warm personality is legendary among Vantage travelers. Lydia has been introducing travelers to her native country since communist times. She is an encyclopedia of wonderful stories, and loves to share recipes. No matter what comes up, she makes everything right with kindness and a twinkle in her eye.
"Lydia's geographical, historical and political knowledge is superb. Her people skills and leadership abilities are excellent. She made the trip special."
Paolo PosedelAdriatic Escorted Tours
Paolo Posedel grew up in Pula, Croatia on the stunning Adriatic Coast, and this is the region he enjoys bringing Vantage travelers most. “Because I know these small stone towns that are so typical of Croatia,” he says, “I can help visitors really connect with local people.” Paolo knew he wanted to lead tours from the moment he was introduced to it after graduating from the University of Languages in Trieste, Italy. A global traveler himself – he’s been to far-flung locales as varied as Norway, Cuba, China, and the United Arab Emirates – he knows the keys to connecting with local cultures, and often finds that the most rewarding qualities of a destination are also its simplest: gorgeous scenery, good food, and the laid-back and friendly attitude of the locals.
Vilim BugarinAdriatic Escorted Tours
Vilim Bugarin has a unique connection to America’s heartland: he graduated from Derby High School in Kansas. Despite a travel resume that includes Tunisia, Sri Lanka, and Germany, he prefers sticking close to his home country of Croatia, where he can sail and snorkel the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea. Knowing the region so well, he can take Vantage travelers off the beaten path to browse colorful local markets, visit schools, and even help harvest Croatia’s bountiful olives, grapes, and tomatoes if they so desire. “My goal,” he says, “is to create a happy, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere for my travelers … with a nice blend of local history, culture, food, and yes … good local wine!”
Igor RibicAdriatic Escorted Tours
The epitome of Croatian friendliness, Igor Ribic takes great pride in being a tour ambassador for his country. Igor strongly believes that personal attention is the key to an outstanding travel experience; his love of travel is only equaled by his enthusiasm to share his knowledge of Croatia with others. What he enjoys most is welcoming visitors to his country and presenting Croatia’s turbulent history, delicious food and laid-back everyday life to his guests.
"Igor was a very valuable Program Manager to us. He enhanced our trip experience with his passion to inform us about every detail of what we saw and experienced in this town. His attitude and joy to serve us was remarkable."
Fredrik KaseNorwegian Small Ship Cruises
A world traveler with nearly 40 years experience as a professional tour guide, Fredrik has led tours from Norway to Antarctica, and even visited 46 of the 50 Unites States. His past vocations are quite varied; he is a former school teacher and Norwegian Intelligence officer. When not leading tours Fredrik enjoys hiking, skiing, and continuing his own worldwide travels. What's the one souvenir Fredrik recommends travelers purchase before they leave Norway? "A real Norwegian troll to remember me by."
Karin JansNorwegian Small Ship Cruises
Karin is a lifelong learner, interested in music, art, Scandinavian architecture, and the Italian language. Though she has traveled extensively in the Far East, South America, the United States, and Europe, Karin – a self-described people-person – loves passing along her knowledge of Scandinavia. Educated in Sweden, Karin graduated from the Teacher's college in Malmö and completed training with Scandinavian Airlines to be a flight attendant. She became a licensed tour guide after graduating from Roskilde University in Denmark.
"Karin was professional, personable and very well informed. She went above and beyond her duties to us and we all agree that she is a gem – we would come back just to see her again."
Keith MartynAfrican Safaris
Keith's credits his love of the African countryside and its wildlife to his father, a former forest ranger who often took Keith into the bush with him when he was a young child. After graduating from high school, Keith learned more about the land as a cartographer, served in the military and worked in manufacturing. Later, when he decided to start his own business and move to Johannesburg, his love of the African veldt brought him into the tour guide business and, lucky for us, to Vantage. Keith's passions include hiking, fitness and reading, but his greatest passion is surfing, which he calls "a truly amazing way of relaxing with Table Mountain as the backdrop as you sit on the surfboard in the ocean waiting for the next wave."
Hoti FortunasAfrican Safaris
A native of Kenya and Tanzania, Hoti greatly enjoyed growing up in these peaceful countries, where he took advantage of the opportunity to earn a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy. A former secondary school teacher, Hoti has spent many years both traveling abroad and leading tours in his native region. When speaking of the beauty of his homelands, he advises his travelers to "bring enough memory cards for their digital cameras, since you can never have too many!
"Hoti was amazing – very knowledgeable and willing to share his culture and country in a very personal, down to earth style. His every day was spent making sure all of us were happy, comfortable, and satisfied. His warm personality and humor were infectious."
South & Central America / Antarctica
Ignacio "Nacho" EirasSouth America Escorted Tours
This native of Argentina, known to one and all as Nacho, receives high praise from Vantage travelers for his outgoing personality and for his extensive knowledge of the history and customs of all of South America. He particularly enjoys introducing travelers to the local people.
"Nacho was a very patient, kind, and thorough program manager. He brings his wealth of travel experience and love of South America to visitors. More than being merely a guide, he genuinely wanted us to feel his continent – he provided a unique treat when he showed us local details."
Asia & South Pacific
Ray WangChina Small Ship Cruises
Ray came to Beijing from the far-flung reaches of Inner Mongolia. Once in China, he studied English and tourism and got right to work as a tour guide in his adopted city. He has since done quite a bit of traveling himself in Asia, Australia, and Europe, but Tibet remains his favorite place. As a Buddhist, he feels at home there amidst its rich culture and wonderful people. “I see Tibet with a different perspective,” he says. “And I want to share that with my travelers.” Ever the student – of English, of Buddhism – he loves learning about Western culture from Vantage travelers. More than this, he loves teaching them about China’s history and introducing them to local people and their culture.
Kelly WeiChina Small Ship Cruises
Kelly, who leads our popular tours to China and the Yangtze River, gets extremely high marks from Vantage travelers for her cheerful, easygoing personality and for her extensive knowledge of the history, culture, and local customs of all regions in China. When she's not leading tours, Kelly enjoys mountain climbing.
"Kelly was well organized. She watched after everyone’s physical comfort and safety. She made herself very available to everyone and was attentive to their personal needs. She had very good communication skills, kept us on time, has a good personality, and is very responsible and mature."
Jonathan GengChina Small Ship Cruises
Jonathan has been guiding fascinated travelers through China for more than ten years. But he started his professional life on a different track. After receiving his graduate degree, he taught English at the Beijing University of Technology. However, this didn’t give him a chance to share his love for his country. So he returned to school to become a tour guide. After rigorous training in the English language and Chinese history, he now combines his love of teaching and learning every day. “I strive to create a journey for Vantage travelers that will be the most rewarding, interesting, and fun experience of their lives,” he says. One way he does this is by knowing when to close those history books he studied. He tells travelers stories that aren’t written in books, and ensures they’ll have ample opportunity to mingle and chat with his fellow Chinese.
Long Le NyugenSoutheast Asia Small Ship Cruises
A native of Hanoi, Vietnam, Long earned a degree in Tourism Management at the Hanoi Teacher Training University and hasn't left his hometown since (except to travel, of course – to far-flung places like Egypt, China, Malaysia, and the United States.) For over a decade, he has led groups of travelers into the cities and towns of his region to witness the natural beauty and to experience the daily lives of local people. Among his favorite experiences to share with American travelers, Long cites Luang Prabang's morning alms-giving ceremony and a visit to a fishing village on Tonle Sap Lake. He has met many new friends as a Program Manager; on a 2005 trip to the United States, one couple even flew from Atlanta to Boston just to take Long out for dinner.
"You have a real gem in Long. He is so very bright. He excels in efficiency and courtesy. His sense of humor puts everyone at ease and keeps our learning fun. He helped us pass the time on the bus trips with his knowledge."
Varapat (Boyd) VeeravantanondSoutheast Asia Small Ship Cruises
Boyd may have been born in Chicago, but he’s Thai through and through. His parents lived in the U.S. while his father pursued his studies, then they returned to Thailand when Boyd was a young boy. After earning a degree in tourism in 1997, he worked with a travel-agent friend leading tours, and has been doing it ever since. Boyd is a connoisseur of Thai culture, and shares it with Vantage travelers with aplomb. “The people, traditions, and Buddhism of my culture still fascinate me, and I hope they fascinate our visitors.” His favorite spot to take travelers is the Grand Palace in Bangkok, a complex of gilded temples and revered Buddha statues. For Boyd, those temples aren’t the only thing that glitters. “Any traveler to Thailand should return home with our local gem stones and handcrafted jewelry.”
Dinesh KanyalIndia Escorted Tours
Dinesh got his initial glimpses of incredible India as a child with his father, who was posted in every region of the country with the Indian army. Today, Dinesh knows the country like the back of his hand, but specializes in Northern India, including Agra, Jaipur and Rajasthan, South of India, the beaches of Goa, and Nepal. He has become an expert in the country's different cultures, religions, faiths, languages, and customs. Dinesh, who has now worked in the travel industry for more than 20 years, holds degrees in English literature, history and economics. He lives in Gurgaon in the national capital region of New Delhi – The Millennium City – with his wife and two children.
"Dinesh Kanyal was exceptional. We have traveled with Tauck and Abercrombie before and Dinesh far exceeds their guides. He was kind, fatherly, knowledge and adapted to our needs completely."
Tracey ManateSouth Pacific Small Ship Cruises
For Tracey, the best thing about leading tours in the South Pacific is "touching people's hearts and making friends in a part of the world where so many people's lifetime dreams come true." Born in Ely, England, Tracey traveled the world – living in world-class cities like London, Barcelona, Paris, and New York – before marrying a Polynesian man and settling in tropical Papeete, Tahiti, where she currently lives. In addition to its natural beauty, Tracey relishes sharing the generosity of Polynesia's people and the richness of its culture. Moorea – featured on every Vantage cruise in the South Pacific -- is Tracey's favorite port. And she says it surpasses visitors' expectations, too, with its beauty.
"From the moment Tracey met us at the airport we knew we were in for a special vacation. She was available to us 24/7 with her caring attitude, professionalism, knowledge of the islands and her beautiful smile."
Michael MatthewsAustralia & New Zealand Escorted Tours
Michael knows a thing or two about what travelers expect during their journeys, having traveled to more then 35 countries himself! A native Englander, he now holds two passports, a dual citizen of Great Britain and Australia. He is proud to have been working in the travel industry for more than 40 years, currently leading Vantage travelers through Australia and New Zealand. “I love to see the look of delight on travelers’ faces when they see our sparkling cities and beautiful parks and gardens,” he says. “And they’re pleasantly surprised by the easy friendliness of Aussies and Kiwis, whether in restaurants or even just walking down the street.” Michael most enjoys showing off Australia’s red-hued Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef, and New Zealand’s Milford Sound. “The natural beauty is just amazing here.” And if you care to take some of the region home with you, he recommends opal jewelry or blue pearls. And if you bring home a boomerang, he says you’re sure to fly back one day!
Bill MillerNational Parks Escorted Tours
A specialist on the American West, Bill lives in Boulder, Colorado, and previously lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As a historian, student, and all-around enthusiast of the wide-open spaces and natural splendor of the American West, Bill says, "It's an enormous privilege to introduce my fellow citizens to our country's bounty. I love to put people in touch with our nation on all levels, from history to legends and from geology to geography." Bill is a published historian and considers himself a lifelong student. When not leading tours, Bill guest lectures, writes, and pursues research projects.
"Bill was knowledgeable, detailed, and thorough. You could tell he cared about what he was doing. We would rate Bill the best guide we have ever had. He helped to make this a great trip!"
Cheryl KobayashiNational Parks Escorted Tours
About leading Vantage's National Parks tour, Cheryl says, "My job is to help my Vantage guests appreciate the beauty spread before them by giving them an understanding of the culture, geology, trees, flowers, plants, and the amazing wildlife." It's no wonder she has earned 100% "excellent" ratings from the folks that travel with her!
"Cheryl is beyond excellent. She is supremely organized, left nothing to chance, had all bases covered and a lot of fun. She is one of the best Program Managers I've ever experienced."
Annick-Sabrina RollingCanada Escorted Tours
Annick-Sabrina was born in Strasbourg, France and grew up in the beautiful region of L'Alsace. After several years as a successful tour guide in France, she moved to Montreal, Canada and opened up her own bed and breakfast. She could not stay in one place for long however, and returned to her great passion for travel. "Touring with Vantage gives me the chance to meet very interesting American travelers who often have amazing lives," she says. "Besides, it is such a privilege to share my knowledge of Canada with such passionate travelers!" When not traveling, she enjoys reading, cooking, and everything outdoors.
"Annick did everything and more to make this a most memorable trip. She is the greatest. She is very knowledgeable and a real joy."
Cathy LasouskiCanada Escorted Tours
A true world-traveler, Cathy has conducted tours in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, Egypt, India, Tanzania, Kenya, China, England, South America and Mexico. She finds the most rewarding part of her job is "meeting the people, sharing their excitement. We have fun together... we all have a laugh and a joke and embrace the adventure!" She enjoys camping, hiking, and visiting family in her spare time.
"Cathy was a gem to everyone. She made everyone feel good and happy with her pleasant attitude. I only wish I could have her on all my trips with Vantage. Keep her, she is outstanding! She planned well and was truly knowledgeable."
Hazem BazidEgypt Small Ship Cruises
The son of a diplomat, Hazem feels himself lucky to have lived in Italy for six years , Syria for four years, Lebanon for four years, and Kenya. "Living in these countries throughout my childhood opened my eyes at an early age to different cultures and widened my horizon." Possessing a degree in Egyptology, Hazem has found that travel "provides a way for people to meet halfway and makes this world become one." Hazem enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters when not touring.
"Hazem's concern for everyone's safety, comfort, and enjoyment and his willingness to share himself and his culture made this a most memorable journey."
Eli MatzriIsrael Escorted Tours
Born in Egypt but raised in Israel, Eli lives in a small, quiet village where has is an active member of his community. Eli speaks five languages and obtained a B.A. in both Psychology and Literature; he is continuing his education to this day, pursuing his Masters. Eli believes that the key to the success of his tours is the "personal contact, my knowledge, and the way I present the reality of my country." Eli is an avid reader and writer in his "off" hours.
"Eli was very knowledgeable, a true educator, and very proud of Israel. H was always available and helpful."