Location: Sunderland
Wanted: A couple in their early 30s want to book a 10-day cruise to see the northern lights anywhere from Greenland to Iceland, the Arctic, or Scandinavia/Baltic Sea.
Budget: £3,600

Thomas Cook
The Bridges Shopping Centre
96%
The shop was set out well, with the staff in uniform. I was acknowledged immediately and the agent made contact afterwards to follow up my inquiry. She had good knowledge about the cruises and two quotes were given for 12-night Princess Cruises itineraries to see the northern lights in Norway, round-trip from Southampton. The first, departing October 19, was £2,596. The second one departed on November 3, costing £2,698. Both holidays matched my requirements. The agent told me how amazing the cruises were and what was on board. She was enthusiastic, friendly and made me feel welcome. She was genuinely interested in my query and found exactly what I was looking for.

Dawson & Sanderson
The Bridges Shopping Centre
68%
When I arrived, one agent was playing on their phone while another was on a work call and his mobile. I stood waiting before being offered a seat. The agent said it would be hard to find what I wanted as they would need to call the cruise lines for quotes. Both quotes were eight-night northern lights cruises from Southampton in February. The first was with Fred Olsen, for £3,998. The second was with P&O Cruises, for £3,148.

Tui
The Bridges Shopping Centre
45%
The shop was immaculate and employees wore a uniform. I only got quotes for summer, as they said there weren’t winter cruises because it was dark for most of the day – yet I was told I couldn’t see the northern lights in summer as it is too light. Both quotes were for 14-night cruises sailing from Newcastle in July with Marella Cruises. The Baltic Explorer cost £3,520 and Legends of Fire & Ice cost £3,520.


Winning agent

Nicola Nicholson, travel and foreign exchange consultant

“I have been in travel for nearly 13 years so I have a lot of experience. I always treat customers how I would like to be treated. I like talking to people, I’m very chatty.”


Verdict

The Thomas Cook agent was enthusiastic and her quotes fitted the requirements. She also offered great customer service. Dawson & Sanderson’s quote for Fred Olsen would not have suited travellers in their 30s and the agents weren’t enthusiastic. The Tui agent failed to find any northern lights cruises.


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