Mystery shopper: Sunderland, first-time Caribbean cruise

Mystery shopper: Sunderland, first-time Caribbean cruise

Location: Sunderland 
Wanted: A couple saw TV’s Cruising with Jane McDonald and want to go on their first cruise, perhaps in the Caribbean. They want advice on ships, suites and what extras are included.
Budget: £5,000

Hays Travel
25 Vine Place

75%
The shop was neat. I was offered two cruises. The first was on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, flying indirect from Newcastle to depart Fort Lauderdale on February 26 for 11 nights and calling at Antigua, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Curacao and Aruba. It was £3,962 for two. The agent said this included $100 credit for drinks. The second was on P&O’s Britannia, flying direct from Manchester and departing Barbados for nine islands, including Bonaire, Aruba, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Antigua, priced  £3,198 for two. The agent didn’t explain that flights could not be confirmed until closer to departure, which a first-time cruiser wouldn’t know.

Co-operative Travel
1 Woodland Rise, Doxford Retail

70%
A nice agent offered two options. One was flying Virgin Atlantic from Manchester to Orlando, staying six nights at Park Inn by Radisson before seven nights on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, for £1,346 per person. The second option, described by the agent as a “more reserved” cruise, was on P&O’s Britannia from Barbados, priced £3,098 for two. The agent seemed knowledgeable but didn’t ask many questions.

Village Travel
36A Front Street

40%
The outside was neat but the inside untidy. The agent did not give me recommendations or a quote. They asked my budget and dates. The agent said they’d need time to go through the options and that they’d get back to me. I was invited to take away brochures for Cunard, Silversea, Royal Caribbean, Princess, P&O and Seabourn. I had to press for information and the agent didn’t seem interested in closing the sale.


Winning agent

Christine Macdonald, travel consultant

“Selling cruise is not too different to selling land-based holidays. You need to find out their interests so you can narrow it down and choose the right ship.”


Verdict

No agent excelled in explaining the intricacies of cruise to a first-timer. Hays could have done better on details, while Co-op’s cruise-and-stay option wasn’t part of the request.


Elite resorts caribbean

Top-scoring agent each month will win use of a car for 10 days.

The winning agent must be at least 25, for insurance reasons. Winners under 25 will win a week’s all-inclusive holiday at an Elite Islands Resorts property. The prize is non-transferable and the car must be driven only by the winning agent. The winner must not have any serious driving convictions. Elite Island Resorts will endeavour to supply the car to the agency but reserves the right to request the winning agent to collect and return the car from Essex or a central location

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