As a longtime friend of Out Adventures, and with a decade of experience in the travel industry, it only makes sense that Iris Serbanescu would cannonball right into the role of host of our very first lesbian cruise.
Read on to learn how Iris has made a splash in the travel industry before partnering with Out Adventures on our maiden voyage.
Tell us about yourself – Where are you from?
Well, my family is from Romania but I was born in Jerusalem. We arrived in Canada when I was 6 months old. I grew up in Toronto. I’ve also lived in Paris, Italy, and Prague.
A global citizen. So maybe this is a redundant question, but how and why did you get into the travel industry?
It wasn’t actually a straightforward entry into the industry.
When I was a teenager I studied ballet. And at the risk of sounding cocky, I knew I had the skills. But unfortunately I was too tall to make a real career of it (the downside of being 6 foot!). So I decided to attend Wilfred Laurier University for Business instead.
Right out of university I worked in insurance. After a year and a half of trudging along, insurance didn’t feel like the right fit so I decided to take a break and follow my true passion — travel. I went back to school to get a Tourism Management diploma, and then went backpacking. During my time in Prague I saw the local Four Seasons was hiring interns. In a moment of unusual confidence, I strode right into the hotel and asked for an application. I got the job and have been working in the travel industry ever since.
What about your new role as Out Adventures’ Croatia lesbian cruise host – How did that come about?
Well, after my stint at the Four Seasons I switched into a role at a Canadian tourism marketing agency called Bannikin. It was through Bannikin that I met Rob [Owner of Out Adventures]. We went on a number of industry trips together including Sri Lanka and the Azores, and would always gravitate towards each other at conferences like IGLTA’s annual convention.
Because of my connection to Out Adventures and my experience in the travel industry, Rob reached out to me to help launch the new line of lesbian tours.
Have you been to Croatia?
Yes! I absolutely love Croatia. The people, the food, the history… It’s a remarkable destination. My favourite parts are the coffee, the wine, the locals, and the crystal blue water that remains clear thanks to the rocky beaches!
On this lesbian cruise we’re going to be docking at some really amazing islands such as Hvar. I love hiking to the fort on Hvar and looking out over this gorgeous town with its terracotta roofs, its harbour and of course the beautiful Dalmatian Coast.
Have you ever been on a lesbian cruise?
No. I can’t say I’ve been on a lesbian cruise before, which is probably why I’m so excited.
I know it sounds a little silly but I’m really just excited to host an amazing tour of awesome women. And to show them around one of my favourite destinations in the world.
I’ve also been working closely with Out Adventures on the itinerary to make sure we highlight some awesome local lesbian enterprises. Everything from the yacht to the restaurants and even a lot of the activities all feature female entrepreneurs. We may even welcome a lesbian Croatian activist aboard for a cocktail soiree to talk about the local scene.
Any cheeky travel anecdotes?
Hm. Well, aside from app hookups on trips which I don’t think I should really talk about here, not really! [Laughs] I will say one of the best gay scenes I’ve ever experienced was in Prague of all places. I recommend you check it out!
Tel Aviv is also ripe with beautiful people (read: women) – it’s truly world class. Everyone treats you like you belong, too. I showed up to a lesbian bar alone and by the end of the night, had a crew of women showing me the ropes of the city’s gay scene.
How would you describe your personal style of travel?
Five-star across the board! [Laughs] Just kidding.
I actually enjoy all different kinds of travel, from backpacking in Europe to luxury vacations in South America. I think there’s a time and place for every style of tour. I will admit as I’ve gotten older my tastes have gotten slightly more, how can I say it, “comfortable”. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to pitch a tent and camp – I love a good dose of ‘roughing it’ to keep me honest.
What do you think makes Out Adventures’ Croatia cruise unique?
Yeah, I’ve been working closely with Rob on ensuring the itinerary is totally unique and highlights the best sites in the country. We’ll, of course, be stopping in UNESCO World Heritage cities like Dubrovnik and Stari Grad Plain on Hvar, but also getting off the beaten path with some more local experiences
I think Croatia is the perfect destination to combine a beach vacation with stunning vistas, some incredible history, culture and food and wine. We’ll enjoy daily swim stops, some truly unforgettable excursions and walking tours, and hopefully lots of laughs up on the deck under the Adriatic sun!
I also think the focus on lesbian and female enterprises is a real highlight. The fact Katarina Lines [the company that runs the yacht we’ve reserved] is a woman-owned business is awesome. The owner may even drop by to say hello, so that would be really awesome. And we’ve made reservations at some remarkable women-run restaurants.
Aside from a passion for travel, what else should people know about you?
I’m an avid cyclist and a big fan of yoga. I’ve gone on a number of biking tours around the world. I’ve done Toronto to Niagara, explored the unrelenting hills of the Tuscan countryside on two wheels, and island-hopped around the Scottish isles by bike for a week on a group tour. So yeah, I’d definitely say that’s a hobby.
Otherwise, food and wine is a big interest of mine. I love to dig into the street food at a destination and I’ve been wine tasting more than once in Chile.. I’m super into craft beer — more than just about the product, I love the culture behind it and how passionate people in the microbrew industry are about their craft (pun intended!).
There’s nothing I love more than a good pun (as you just heard). I also admire Johnny Cash and am obsessed with his music.
Anything else you think we should know about you or something you wanted to add?
I’m as ‘lipstick’ as they come, but not high-maintenance — though Rob might say otherwise. My motto is “life is too short for bad coffee”; I am a total espresso aficionado. Before embarking on this trip, I am looking forward to learning about what everyone’s hoping to get out of it.
My goal is to make sure everyone enjoys the sh*t out of their experience in Croatia with a great group of women!
*This interview has been edited for clarity.
All photos courtesy of Iris Serbanescu.
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