Cosmos tour director, Marie Owen, 36


Marie, a tour director with nine seasons behind her, is an obsessive traveller who wants to carry on accompanying holiday tours until she drops.


A graduate in German from the University of Kent, she speaks six languages. This gives her the flexibility to operate a wide variety of European tours for Cosmos, and she prefers the holidays that involve a lot of countries.


“One of my favourites is doing Europe in 12 days. It’s down to Rome and back, taking in seven countries on the way. I tell the passengers ‘don’t blink and keep following me’. It’s marvellous.”


The non-stop schedule means she is up at 6am every morning – making sure 50 travellers get their wake-up call, hand their keys in, have their breakfast, remember their luggage, and actually get on the coach.


On most nights, she is up until midnight taking care of customers and organising dinners and entertainment. Sometimes she gratefully manages to get to bed by 10pm.


“Most groups get on just fine – or they avoid a conflict,” she said. “If a conflict starts, you need to be on top of it. If it gets out of control you are lost.”


Most disputes are about trivial things like the seat rotation system, seat reclining and luggage space. “It’s about territory,” Marie observes. “Occasionally you get a rebel, but I like that because it’s a challenge.”


Being a tour director means you are never short of a challenge. For instance, Marie frequently has to free people from locked loos. Once her driver and two male passengers got themselves locked in the toilet at a restaurant in the Slovak Republic. When all other attempts to get them out failed, she had to kick the loo door down.


She had a trainee tour director along with her on that trip.”I said to her that’s another reason why you should never wear high heels when you’re on a tour’,” said Marie.


But she doesn’t always come off looking like superwoman.


Once she was trying to encourage some nervous holidaymakers to take a camel ride, and decided to show them how it was done.


“I ran over to the camel, which was down on its haunches, and vaulted on. It took fright and threw me off.”


And what was the stupidest question Marie had ever been asked by a passenger? “What is the name of the unknown soldier? And I’ve been asked that more than once,” she laughed.