How to Get Paid to Cruise the Mediterranean

Tom Vercillo is paid to know the best places to wine, dine, and sightsee in scores of cities in the countries lining the Mediterranean. Regularly sampling the region’s finest offerings is just one of many perks in a career that sees him cruising around the Med’s warm waters seven months a year, stopping at exotic new locations almost every day.

Tom’s work furnishes him with enough cash to skip work for the remaining five months of the year.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t glamorous—it is glamorous,” he says. “I open my curtains one morning and there’s Monaco…another day it’s Mount Vesuvius in Naples. There are certain views that I still get a thrill out of. It’s my home away from home and it’s incredible.”

The 64-year-old American is an on-board passenger location guide for the cruise ship company Holland America Line. “My job is basically to know everything there is to know about the ports of call,” explains Tom.

He’d fallen into cruise liner work back in the 1970s after landing a job as an on-board hairdresser. You see, there are lots of services required on cruise ships from entertainment to electrics and beauty to childcare.

But he had been out of the business for 15 years when he received a call from Holland America Line. By then Tom was 56 and, having long since hung up his sailing shoes, worried that the industry had moved on.

“When you get a little older you stop to think, whereas when you’re younger you just go for it and do it,” he says. “But I figured even if I lasted a season I would have had a great time in the Mediterranean, a little holiday so to speak.”

That was nine years ago and Tom is still cruising. These days he spends only five months a year in his two-bedroom condominium in Tacoma, Washington before locking up and heading to his “floating condo” in Europe.

While many on-board tour guides work almost year round, with only a month or two off each year, Tom has chosen a slower pace and works only one summer season on the Mediterranean. His lifestyle is similar to a semi-retiree, and Tom says it’s so good he plans to continue working like this for another five years at least.

“You never get an entire day off,” he says. “You get hours off here and there. So you learn how to take naps or relax during that time to get you through because you’re off and on all day. You have to have a high level of energy, and you have to be in good health because you’d be totally wiped otherwise.”

But Tom says he’s never been a 9-to-5 kind of worker and, as a people person, busy life on a ship suits him to a tee, allowing him to combine his passion for traveling with his love of history and archeology.

“Every day is different. It’s never boring. No matter how many times I’ve been out there, there’s still something new to see. I haven’t seen it all, and I never will,” he says.

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