Jorge Rodriguez, the North American Director of Australis, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fluent in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, Jorge attended Mercer University in Georgia, where he a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Mathematics, and then an MBA in Marketing and Finace at the University of Connecticut.
Jorge was employed as a Management Associate at the Otis Elevator Company before moving into the travel industry as an Account Executive for United Airlines in 1995. He later started Adventure South America before taking on Australis as his main client and he acts as their North American Director. Since then he has helped launched three new ships and directed all of the company’s marketing efforts.
In his spare time, Jorge enjoys hiking, boating, skiing, golf, and of course, traveling.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What was your motivation for transitioning into the travel industry in 1995?
Jorge Rodriguez (JR): I had the opportunity to join United Airlines in their management training program and sort of stumbled into this crazy industry.
(TRO): Tell us about your day-to-day role at Australis.
(JR): My day-to-day job is overseeing all Australis sales, marketing, and advertising for North America (including Mexico), and my sales team. Because of the nature of our destination, we have to do a lot of education on the region as a whole to bring both travel agents and potential passengers up to speed on what’s so cool about the bottom end of South America.
(TRO): Australis specializes in cruises and excursions to the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile. What about this area is so appealing for cruising?
(JR): First and foremost the scenery — a blend of glaciers and snow-capped peaks, fjords, and forests spread across hundreds of uninhabited islands. Then the wildlife, on land, in the water, and in the air: elephant and leopard seals, whales, penguins, dolphins, condors, and millions of migratory seabirds.
(TRO): Could you tell us about the Australis fleet? What makes them unique?
(JR): Our ships are specially designed for the fjords and waterways of Tierra del Fuego, with a very shallow draft that allows us to go into areas not accessible to larger cruise ships. All rooms are outside cabins with large windows that allow passengers to enjoy the ever-changing scenery. The Stella Australis, our flagship with 99 cabins is a state-of-the-art ship that was built in 2010. We are in the process of selling our older ship, the Via Australis, and will turn turn it to its new owners in late April. We are building a new ship, similar to the Stella Australis that will be launched in late 2017. We also dry dock our ships during the off season (April to September), so the ships are in incredible shape when the cruising season comes around again.
(TRO): What are some exclusive excursions passengers can experience on a cruise with Australis?
(JR): We have exclusive rights to land at Wulaia Bay, which is the most historic place in the archipelago, and we also funded the creation of the museum there. Australis is the only cruise company that puts passengers ashore at Pia Glacier and Ainsworth Bay throughout the whole season. We are your best chance of actually landing on Cape Horn rather than just seeing it from the ship. We are constantly developing new, longer, and more challenging treks as our guests are getting younger and fitter.
(TRO): How is an Australis cruise different from other cruise companies focusing on the Patagonia area?
(JR): We are a Chilean owned and operated company, based in Punta Arenas and most of our crew are from the area. These are our local waters and our home. We are proudly Fuegian. We have permission to make shore landings at several places where other ships can’t take their passengers. Australis also offers more varied itineraries in the region than anyone else. And given the fact that most of our onboard staff and shore personnel come from the region, nobody knows Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego like Australis. We really don’t have competition in this area as we are the only ones there daily throughout the season.
(TRO): What can travel agents expect when booking a cruise for their clients with Australis?
(JR): An experience they can get nowhere else in the world. Less than 5,000 people each year visit most of the places we go. The landscapes and wildlife will absolutely blow their minds. And they’ll be doing it in style and comfort with the region’s best guides, chefs, and captains. Travel agents can be assured that their clients will have an experience unmatched anywhere in the world.
(TRO): Is there a service or aspect or Australis that you wish more travel professionals were aware of?
(JR): That we visit areas that are a lot like what our planet was like before man came along — remote places virtually untouched by outside influence. It’s also a seamless way to connect Argentina and Chile. You can’t have a true Patagonian adventure without a maritime experience — as the history of the people is intertwined with the sea.
(TRO): What is on the horizon in 2016 for Australis?
(JR): On the horizon: We will be launching our newest ship at the end of 2017 and are excited to introduce a ship similar to the Stella (which is only 5 years old). One of my tasks is giving input on features for the new ship to enhance the passenger experience even more.
For more information on Jorge Rodriguez and Australis, visit them online at www.australis.com.