With Deepest Gratitude - 40 Years On
… And, more to come!

by Vanessa Lee

l-r: Sandi Sparkes; Rick Martin; Bill Orr; Daryl McWilliams; Margo Martin; Vanessa & David Sparkes during Paramount days onboard Sovereign of the Seas inaugural, 1987

Sailing with Holland America Line in 2000 with David Giersdorf, Page Edmunds  & Linda Ehlenberger

Vanessa’s farewell party from Encore Cruises in July 2006 at Chris Lackstrom’s home

Avalon Vista Christening May 2012 – l-r: Patrice Geske; Patrick Clark; Vanessa; Avalon family member; Kim Clarke; Avalon executive’s wife & Stephanie Bishop

Vicky Lubyk; Vanessa; Sarina Bratton; Karen Scott-Caplice & Elana Karpman onboard Orion

A group of friends and travel ladies at Vanessa’s house

This December particularly resonates for me as it marks the 40th (yes 40!) anniversary of my arrival into the global travel industry. And yes, I was very young and wet behind the ears and really knew nothing back then. I had no idea that I would dive deep into this remarkable travel world and that it would become not only a career but very much an integral part of my life and more importantly, my raison d'etre.

I have only had 3 jobs since 1981: Paramount Holidays; Encore Cruises and now, Cruise Strategies. Prior to that I had initially worked at Trafalgar in Sydney, Australia and then for Insight mostly in the U.K. and Europe. Along the way I have been very fortunate to have had a few wonderful guiding lights lead me in the right direction, some very important mentors and most of all I have been the happy recipient of some remarkable, long-standing and warm relationships with some of the finest people in our industry.  You are my friends and my family.

And while at this time of year, it is important to reflect on the year about to depart and what the next one may bring, it is also exceedingly important for me to look back over many of these last 40 years and consider how I came to thrive in this marvellous industry of ours, how I was able to influence, to create and be among an enormously talented pool of people for whom I hold the deepest affection. And of course, how I might make a difference. 

I have lived a life and a career that has been completely and utterly intertwined for these 40 years. I have no idea where one part of me starts and another finishes. My career - and all of you - have been such an important factor in my growth as a woman; in my ability to embrace great loss and great success, in my never-give-up state of mind; in my burning desire to battle through anything blocking the way. And really, most importantly, in the last 10 years or so, to continually reinvent and step out of that proverbial box and to try new and challenging things. Sometimes that is the hardest thing of all but surprisingly it is one of the things about my work and my life that I adore the most.

So this is a very big THANK YOU for all your warmth, love, trust, understanding, loyalty, truthfulness and for your generosity of spirit. Where does 40 years go? It's in all the scrapbooks, photo albums, business documents, the magazines, the contracts - and the most special thing of all - it's in the collaboration, the co-operation, and the teamwork. It's the building of companies and ships from the ground up and nurturing, planting the seeds and watching people fly and soar.

And in no particular order - although I am trying to work my way through the years - these are heartfelt thanks to those whose paths have crossed with mine, to those I care greatly for, to those who have been loyal and worked with me for many a year, through thick and thin. Those who made deals work when others said it couldn't be done, who valued me and believed in me - often time and again, and recognized the significance of what matters in our world and why.

John Peckham . Nick Tarsh . Ken Bates . Stanley Tollman . David Sparkes (big special kudos to David) . Daryl McWilliams . Bill Orr . John Milne . Dieter Ganzel . Marilyn Barker . Clive Farmer . Rick Sasso . Dino Schibuola . Rod MacLeod . Gaye Stewart Loudis .  Jim Henwood . Brian Walker . Joanne Gellatly . Paul Foster . Janet Johnson . Ruthie Bodner . Linda Wright . Ron Roberts . Lisa Connell . Mary Anne McKeown Lachance . Mary MacPhail . Colin Hunter . Paul Jervis . Michelle Lebel . Mike Hannah . Lawrence MacDonald . David Snutch . Randy Raphael . Doug Patterson . Ruth Peters . Jim Applebaum .  Heather Qually . Cy Hopkins . Lauren Crerar Linton . Adam Goldstein . Christine Thurlow . Wendy Davis . Doug Seagle . Conor Walsh . Mark Linton . Aideen Hennessy . Chris Lackstrom . Marilyn Conroy . Diane Keefe . David Morris . Bill Smith . Steve Tucker . Dan Pedelaborde . Cathy Varrecchia . Susan Webb . David Lee . Pam Conover . Nicole deWilde . Scott Koepf . Susan Lethbridge. Rick Meadows . Mitch Schlesinger . Page Edmunds . Ken Brooks . Mark Kammerer . Peter Boyle . Paul Allen . John Eckert . Susan Bowman . Mark Conroy . Vicki Borenstein .  Andy Stuart . Geraldine Ree . Joe Jiffo . Paul Dorgan .  Helene Poirier . Gordon Weir . Roy Grimsland . Susan Lethbridge . Debbie Nathanson . Susan Edwards . Michael Drever . John Felice . Karen  Scott Caplice . Vicky Lubyk . Jen Savedra . Jeremy Harrington . Tracy McSorley Anderson . Frank Orlando . Matthew Eichhorst . Navin Sawhney . Dwain Wall . Lesley Paull . Gloria Pelchovitz . Suzanne Christie . Gerry Kinasz . Hans Rood . Patrick Clark . TIN Thomas . Kristin Karst . Michelle Pinard . Nina Slawek . Rudi Schreiner . Michelle Palma . Guy Young . Ian Patterson . Jackie McCarten . Stephanie Bishop . Kim Clarke . Patrice Geske . Stephanie Anevich . Brian Robertson . Jacqueline Coulson . Francine Prud’homme . Nadia Giudice . Renata Grant . Rob Mackie . Timothy Edgecombe . Koreen Mcnutt . Lisa Bauer . Dondra Ritzenthaler . Paul Goosney . Art Sbarsky . Nathalie Tanious . Amr Younes . Karen Irvine . Doreen Lynch . Patrice Willoughby . Gretchen Bell . Steve Simao . Dan Bobbie . Noreen Cartwright .  Van Anderson . Lynn Elmhirst . Ryan McElroy . Doug Prothero . Mike Dawson .
- and  my current, wonderful team - Mary Muzzin Muir . Olga Sebestova . Elana Karpman . Margarita Bell Peloso . Liz Fleming . Linda Crawley

There is no doubt that my biggest accomplishment was being the co-founder of Encore Cruises  and running the company for a little more than 15 years. It was the most remarkable and successful business, populated by the best people in every way. It was a family in every sense and if you were someone who worked alongside me there you know exactly what I mean. A big heartfelt thank you to the Encore family of people for making us the best.  And my greatest honour - the invitation to be the Godmother of the Avalon Vista - a remarkable pinnacle in my career and one that I am always thankful for and will treasure always.

I celebrate the past 40 years and also all of you who have touched me in so many ways - even if I haven't mentioned you here, know you are in my heart. I now look forward to the next decade; to the book I plan to write; to the deals still to be done; more magazines to publish; the ships to be sailed and written about and for new mountains and adventures to come my way. And to leave a legacy if I am fortunate enough. And yes I plan on making it to the half-century mark if you'll have me!

I wish you all the best of the festive season and the brightest of New Years! May we all continue to strive for global understanding and acceptance and peace for all men, women and children - and be kind to animals too please.

Vanessa with a group of travel folks onboard Paul Gauguin in 2011
including Brian Robertson; Stephanie Anevich; Lesley Paull;
Nina Slawek; Chris Lackstrom & Reuben Green;
Mike & Jill Drever, Ross & Trish McTavish, Lesley & Peter Keyter
... among others!

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