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Interview : Sonia Pinto, Steward
Sonia Monteiro Pinto Kuhner
Sonia Monteiro Pinto Kuhner started her CroisiEurope career 15 years ago as a cabin attendant. She is now a steward on the MS Amalia Rodrigues. Meet a dynamic, efficient and passionate woman.
Sonia, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your career?
My name is Sonia Pinto, I’m 38, I’m originally from Porto and I’m a steward on the MS Amália Rodrigues, sailing on the Douro River. I went to catering college in Portugal and I studied languages. I’ve been working at CroisiEurope since 2004. That year, I saw the MS Infante Don Henrique moored near my home, I found it superb and I was immediately interested. I thought that an experience onboard a boat would be the perfect way of combining my professional training with my love of travel and human contact. I applied and I was successful. I started my career as a cabin attendant on the MS Infante Don Henrique and did that for one year. Then I was a barmaid for two years, then five years as a host and now I’ve been a steward for seven years.
What are the main qualities you need to be a good steward?
It’s a role with a lot of responsibility and I really like that. The steward deals with the whole hotel/catering area, logistics, excursions, supplies for the boat, etc. They manage their team and must also ensure that the passengers are as comfortable as possible and always be available for them. So a steward has a lot to manage and deals with many different situations, from small everyday issues to any problems that may arise. This means that you need a sense of responsibility and to be able to listen, you need to be dynamic, conscientious and responsive. And you need to be demanding and committed. You should also be people-focused, like people and enjoy human contact. And, of course, be enthusiastic and passionate. That’s certainly true in my case – I love my job !
Tell us about the Douro and the MS Amália Rodrigues.
I sailed on many rivers, mainly the Rhine and the Danube, before returning to the Douro. I really like this river. Here, the navigable part is shorter and the boats stay in the docks at night, which means that the passengers can go out. The stops and the landscape are magnificent. Just like the boat. At 80 metres and with capacity of 132 passengers, the MS Amália Rodrigues is even more on a human scale. It’s a beautiful vessel, which makes you feel good as soon as you set foot onboard. It is modern and traditional, comfortable and welcoming, stylish, cosy and relaxing. Care has been taken with the decoration and the cabins are spacious. And it also has a name that is symbolic for me since I’m Portuguese, that of one of our great artists, who is world-famous.It’s also a nod to my musician father, who played fado music. I’m very proud to work on this boat.
What is your best souvenir?
Oh, there are so many! I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things, but even more than the rivers, the countries or the cities, I would say that, generally, my best memories, my favourites, are the passengers. I’ve met some wonderful people, very likeable people of all nationalities, cultures and ages. Some of them I will never forget. And some who I stay in touch with or who come back regularly. For some, the boat becomes a second home during the cruise and the crew become a sort of second family, sometimes even more so for people who are lonely. This can create very rich, emotional, genuine relationships. I admit that sometimes I struggle to hold back the tears at the end of a trip when it’s time to say goodbye. A river cruise is also a wonderful human adventure.
You have climbed the ladder during your CroisiEurope career. Promoting talent is very important to the company…
Yes. It is noticeable at CroisiEurope, where there is a real family spirit. Giving great importance to the human aspect, rewarding hard work, promotions, offering development opportunities: it’s very encouraging and motivating for employees. I always say to my teams: you need to work hard to succeed and deserve it, always believe in yourself and in your dreams. And when the company gives you the chance to make them come true, it's fantastic !