A FORCE FOR GOOD hub | Lynne Clarke’s Inspiring Story, Bringing MSC Cruises to Australia
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Lynne Clarke’s Inspiring Story, Bringing MSC Cruises to Australia

Lynne Clarke – Managing Director – MSC Cruises

You can’t connect the dots going forward but you see the connection when looking back say MSC Cruises Managing Director Lynne Clarke.

She remembers a significant moment early in life when she was only about 12 years old, standing on a balcony looking out to the ocean and thinking about her future.

“I could hear the ocean calling,” she says. She didn’t know what that meant at the time. She certainly had not dreamt that she would be running a cruise line or any kind of business in the future.

But now Lynne is most certainly an entrepreneur who sees opportunity and then seizes it. Notably, she brought MSC to Australia when it was just a small cruise line of 3 ships purely targeted to Italian passengers known as Med Shipping Company. Lynne started MSC Cruises Australia Pty Ltd.


Lynne grew up Durban, South Africa. After matriculating she postponed university and chose a business and financial course in order to grain traction and experience in the commercial world as quickly as possible.  I wanted to experience the real world, with real hands on knowledge and experiences as quickly as possible.  I thrived on learning new things and helping find solutions, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to grow a business.  The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity. Having always had an interest in numbers, entered the banking industry but whilst interesting she quickly realised the path didn’t suit her personality nor would fulfil a passion… Instead, she toyed with the idea of becoming an accountant, but again the reality was that her free spirit was always drawn to the tourism industry.

Lynne began to build her career in travel from the ground up, joining the largest and most prestigious corporate travel agency in Johannesburg as a domestic consultant.

“It’s these early years that give you grounding and helps build a foundation for the future,” Lynne tells Jito. You started at the bottom and had to work your way to the top through hard work, dedication and a zero tolerance for errors. “You had to be good to handle the top corporate clients.”

At the time, South Africa had an industry initiative to vote one person to be Travel Queen and represent the industry. It was voted by the industry and run along the same lines as a Miss South Africa Competition, Lynne recalls.

At the age of 21, Lynne was voted Queen and became an ambassador for industry for a year. “It was a very prestigious opportunity and opened a lot of doors,” she says.

After close to 4 years as an international consultant she was lured into sales and thrived in the role which also encompassed marketing as she worked for a GSA representing a number of hotels in Southern Africa. “In a small business, you are more involved and you learn a lot that helps you understand the complete running of a business. It was there I learnt to juggle the myriad of tasks and demands of different clients.”

Doing what you LOVE is where HAPPINESS  LIVES

It was important to be different and create unique advertising and marketing ideas. she says. You have to take responsibility and a number of risks.

During her time in this role, Lynne noticed a large hotel company was selling direct to consumers but not to the industry. Identifying this as a gap in the market, she chased the company for six months and tried to convince them they needed to appoint her to sell their product to the industry.

Her persistence paid off and she succeed in winning a role with the company that had never existed before. Dealing with international markets, she gained “invaluable” knowledge.

After a number of years, during which stage she had always had a fascination about Australia she left the company to travel here for 3 months.  Whilst still travelling in Australia she received a phone call requesting her to re-join the company when she returned She duly did so, and when she and her husband moved to London she remained with the company who had decided to set up a new office.

AMBITION is the path to SUCCESS, PERSISTENCE is the vehicle you arrive in

She had never forgotten her experiences in Australia, and as her then husband was raised in Australia they decided to migrate from London to Australia, which was important to them to raise children in a southern hemisphere climate. He researched starting a shipping company, and that was when they approached MSC Cargo in Geneva to start a shipping company.

Shortly after the set-up of the cargo office they received a call from the owner of MSC regarding a ship that had been chartered by an Australian company.  The ship was the Achille Lauro.

We were asked to review the operation and sales.  She seized the moment and took over the running of the sales and operations for two seasons.

It all happened so quickly – exciting times.  I was right at home and loved every moment, no matter how challenging. Upon the ships final departure to Europe, they started a corporate travel agency.


BELIEVE you can and you are HALF WAY there

It was while on a business trip to Europe in 1998/9 that Lynne saw a Mediterranean Shipping Cruises brochure, merely targeted to a small sector of the southern European market sailing the Mediterranean on short cruises. She asked the owner of MSC if she could start promoting the ship in Australia. At the time the owner thought it would never go anywhere – why would any Australian want to fly all the way to the Mediterranean to sail on a ship they never heard of, with a company they had never heard of?

But, believing in herself, Lynne saw a great opportunity to offer something different.

It wasn’t easy to get a country, the consumer or the industry to get behind her idea but again her persistence paid off. 4 years later MSC committed to the cruise market and built its first cruise ship in 2003. The rest is history as there are now 14 ships which will grow to 23 ships by 2026.  MSC during this period has become the largest privately-owned cruise line in the world and the number one cruise line in Europe.

The company operates from stunning offices in Darling Harbour led by Lynne who still has just as much passion as the day she first started. She had never doubted that Australian consumers would want to enjoy the MSC product.

When Lynne and her husband separated, Lynne carried on with the cruise business and her husband in the shipping company. In 2010, she became Managing Director for MSC Cruise.

What was a small family business has now grown to 45 MSC offices around the world with Lynne leading the way in Australasia. It has been an incredible voyage.

Lynne Clarke

Here is Lynne’s advice for others looking to grow their career:
  • Motivation comes from within so connect to your passion.
  • Never hesitate – don’t wait to get your ducks in row for perfection. You learn along the way.
  • If you have a great idea, be brave enough to take first step – you will always find solutions to everything.
  • Be resilient when everything is going against you tomorrow is a new day.
  • Have confidence when others are against you and trust your own instincts.
  • Sometimes you have to stand alone and be strong.


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