Dale with iceberg landscape

8 Questions With… Dale Woods, Senior Director of Business Development with PONANT

Most people fall into one of two categories: cruise person or not-a-cruise person. If you’re in the latter camp, maybe it’s the giant size of the ships that scares you off. Or the huge crowds. Perhaps it’s the fear of getting bored onboard. Or maybe you feel like there won’t be other like-minded travelers. Well, let us introduce you to our friend and partner, Dale Woods. For the last decade, Dale has worked with the award-winning, French luxury, small ship, expedition cruise line, PONANT. If you think you’re not a cruise person, keep reading!

CIRE: Hello, Dale! Happy almost New Year! Where are you celebrating the holidays?

DALE: I have recently moved to the oceanside town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware after living in Connecticut for over 25 years. Rehoboth Beach is a wonderful summer vacation spot located on the Atlantic Ocean. With only 1,500 full-time residents, the town explodes in the summertime due to its idyllic location near the Atlantic Ocean and state parks. There is a boardwalk with shops and arcades, and the homes are quite beautiful. Families flock to Rehoboth to stay in the number of small inns/motels and also rent the beautiful homes for the entire season. I love the boardwalk, the nature trails for hiking and biking, and the sunsets are amazing. One of my favorite things is to take the ferry from charming Lewes, Delaware to the turn-of-the-century, seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey. The temperatures remain moderate throughout the winter and the flowering trees and bushes seem to endure through the end of November.

CIRE: Sounds delightful! Will you introduce yourself to our CIRE Travel friends and fans?

DALE: Hello everyone, I am Dale Woods. I represent PONANT in the Northeast USA. I am Senior Director of Business Development and have been with PONANT for almost 10 years. I manage accounts located in 15 states in the Northeast USA from Virginia to Maine, including Ohio.

CIRE: You and CIRE COO, Amy Brueckner, just sailed together on what she describes as an “eye-opening,” “immersive,” and “incredible” experience. That’s high praise for someone who used to refer to herself as “not-a-cruise person.” What sets PONANT apart from other cruise lines?

DALE: The “PONANT Signature,” I believe, sets PONANT apart from other companies: Explore to better understand, share and protect.

With the use of some of the industry’s newest, purpose-built ships with no more than 220 guests on average, PONANT delivers meaningful, immersive experiences to guests while executing unique itineraries to the far reaches of the globe and in a most responsible way, respecting the waters we sail and the communities we visit through our commitment to sustainability. Our guests learn to become ambassadors once they have further connected with the places we sail. After all, we protect best what we know well. PONANT guests explore the world’s treasures by sea in a cocoon of luxury, but in a discreet, understated way – accessible luxury and not stuffy.

CIRE: You certainly have a new ambassador in Amy! Do you typically see this type of reaction in first time PONANT cruisers?

DALE: I love connecting people with the PONANT brand and touching base with them once they have sailed only to find out that they have booked another PONANT sailing. There is a cult-like following of guests that yearn to sail with PONANT over and over again. The loyalty is amazing. I absolutely love sharing the story of the company.

CIRE: Your passion for your job is wonderful, Dale! What’s the best PONANT expedition you’ve been on?

DALE: For adventure and an otherworldly experience, I chose to explore the polar regions, notably the geographic North Pole, where there have been more moon launches than cruises to this region. Very few can say that they have visited the geographic Norh Pole. Most appealing are the massive icebergs and the journey northward, plying through the multi-year ice with thickness of up to 12 feet. I could finally say, “YES! I have reached the ‘Top of the World!’” The journey becomes quite personal and emotional and, for many, is the pinnacle of self-actualization. For me, I sailed to explore, to understand and immerse myself in the history of expeditions to this remote spot on the globe. Sharing this moment with like-minded guests aboard was poignant – we all became children again, in awe of what we were feeling. Truly humbling. We are but a spec on this earth. Truly magical to view a polar bear mom and cub in their natural habitat and the expanse of the Polar Desert. AHHH-mazing!

CIRE: Sounds incredible! What’s your best advice for first-time expedition cruisers?

DALE: On expedition, it is important to be open-minded and to EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. No one expedition is alike and is subject to natural conditions such as sea conditions, ice conditions, temperatures, wildlife viewing, etc. The brochure itinerary is but an example of what may happen, but in reality, an entirely different itinerary could happen depending upon the opportunities presented by Mother Nature. And be prepared to be AWE-struck with what Mother Nature does deliver! That is the joy of expedition. Be outside on deck as much as you can to take in the unfolding show of natural beauty.

CIRE: Excellent advice! We can tell how much you love your job and the travel industry! How did you first fall in love with travel?

DALE: The “Travel Bug” bit me a long time ago in my teenage years and then during my college years. In my teens, I traveled to Europe through an organization called The Experiment in International Living. I was 15 and traveled for the entire summer with a group of teens from all over the USA visiting 5 countries with a focus on art and architecture. The program ended with a 3-week homestay with a family outside of Naples, Italy. In college, I had the opportunity to live with a family in northern Japan on the island of Hokkaido, in a town called Takasu, three hours east of Sapporo. I lived on a farm and in a very traditional Japanese home. These experiences, combined with my studies in hotel management and business administration, paved the way for a career in the travel/hospitality industry. Since 1981, I have had the privilege of representing some of the best travel industry brands, serving in various sales, marketing and operations positions; Caribbean Holidays, the Fontainebleau Hilton, Air France Holidays, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Rail Europe and now the leader in luxury expeditions, PONANT.

CIRE: Wow! Such an amazing journey! Last question…and it’s a favorite for our most intrepid travelers: In all your global travels, what’s the weirdest thing you ever ate?

DALE: For me, the weirdest food was reindeer meat. It was during an expedition to Siberia’s Far East.  Our group visited a reindeer camp in Chukotka and the local rancher treated us to a dinner of reindeer. I thought it too, too gamey for my palate. So, no I would not recommend.

CIRE: Dale! It was just Christmas! Too soon! LOL! Thank you for sharing these amazing stories with us. Wishing you all the best in the New year!

CIRE Travel is a full-service travel agency headquartered in New York, NY.  Our expert corporate travel planners, honeymoon travel agents, and luxury travel planners support clients across the country and around the world.

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