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All aboard with Expedia CruiseShipCenters

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Photos courtesy Cynthia Joaquin

By Mike and Cynthia Joaquin
When I suggested going on a cruise for our honeymoon, my bride-to-be Cynthia wasn’t entirely keen on the idea. Although our compromise was to spend a week on a ship followed by another at a resort, Cynthia pretty much regretted the decision once we were on dry land. With so many activities onboard, we’d had the time of our lives on the cruise, so much so that when the opportunity arose to open an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise in Woodbridge, Ont., we went full steam ahead.

Cynthia:
When you hear the name Expedia, people automatically think of booking a trip online—no dealing with a travel agent or the back and forth of picking the preferred connecting flight, for instance. And while it is possible to book a cruise online, the countless choices available can make for a complicated process. Having been on many cruises in my life, I know what it was like to be presented with so much information. I also remember how thankful I was to have a cruise consultant manoeuvre those waters with me, so to speak. This is the kind of feedback Mike and I like to get from our clients, now that we’re on the other side of the desk.

Growing up in north Toronto, my upbringing was pretty normal. My brother and sister and I did the usual kids’ stuff, which included sports. In addition to baseball and volleyball, I took ice skating lessons, although I didn’t much enjoy it. In fact, I usually complained my ankles hurt after a few minutes on the ice. I much preferred enjoying hot chocolate with my father. I am pretty close to my dad and would even go to work with him once in a while when I was a child. He designed consumer packaging; I remember spending Saturdays layering colours on plastic slides to make pictures. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to study market research when I graduated from high school in 1996. I wanted to know how decisions behind the scenes about a package’s design, for instance, influenced consumer choices.

I was a good student, but wasn’t drawn to studying. I guess I just wanted to finish up as quickly as possible and start working. As a kid, I would help my uncle, who had an office cleaning service. I started work as soon as I was old enough to have a job, and I never had just one. As a teenager, I worked at BiWay, Pizza Hut, Garage Clothing and Research House, a data collection firm in Toronto. Most days and weekends, you could find me with clipboard in hand conducting surveys at Woodbine Shopping Centre in the northwest end of Toronto. The job was close to home and also school, as by then, I had enrolled in Humber College’s marketing program. Work was really important to me, which is why I took mostly night classes. I enjoyed having the responsibility of a job, not to mention the money I was making. Although my parents gave my siblings and me everything we needed, I liked not having to rely on them for pocket money.

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Having already been on many cruises ourselves, we were familiar with the booking process and all the options available by way of ports and activities.

I really enjoyed working in market research and my goal back then was to be the person who wrote the questionnaires. However, I quickly realized the marketing program at Humber College wasn’t quite what I had in mind. In fact, only one course was devoted to market research, and although I did really well in that class, it didn’t give me exactly what I was looking for. These days, market research comprises whole programs.

With marketing diploma in hand, I started looking for a job at a bigger market research company, albeit on the analysis side of things. Things didn’t work out exactly as I had hoped, as jobs in this field were scarce at the time and I ended up in an office manager position. About a year later, however, I landed a job in my field at CF Group in downtown Toronto. As the company’s field controller, I organized the survey offices in malls and collected their findings for analysis. When new surveys came in, I made sure employees understood the questions being asked and I co-ordinated with on-site managers. I was working in my chosen field, but at an entry-level position.

Less than a year later, I got a job at Millward Brown working in market research analysis. My days consisted of looking at data collected from surveys and writing reports for the client, which was usually a car manufacturer or insurance company. We analyzed everything from the effectiveness of advertising campaigns to client satisfaction. Unfortunately, the job was a tad on the boring side, as the data rarely changed and I was preparing a monthly report that basically said the same thing as the last one. I’m not good with being bored—it makes for a very long day. In fact, I realized after a few months that I didn’t enjoy doing market research analysis, which is why I took a job in 2002 with SurveySite Market Research. I much preferred this job, as it allowed me to design surveys in a team environment for clients, rather than just analyze the information we collected.

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