Location: York
Wanted: A couple in their 30s fancy a ‘funky’ cruise in 2020 to mark their engagement. They don’t want a cruise ship that caters for the more mature traveller, but they don’t know what would suit them. They have heard that many cruise ships nowadays have much younger passengers, with facilities and entertainment that would suit travellers in their 30s who want fun onboard and interesting shore excursions. They don’t mind where they go, as long as it’s warm and good value for money.
Budget: £4,000

Hays Travel
14 Low Ousegate
89%
The windows and displays looked tidy, and staff were well presented in their uniforms. As soon as I entered, I was greeted and then seated to discuss my requirements. The agent was very friendly and enthusiastic, and seemed genuinely keen to help me find a holiday that I would love.

She gave me the basic details of six options, ranging from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and beyond. I picked my favourites which she followed up with quotes and more details. She was focused on the task, and seemed knowledgeable about the destinations, climate, onboard activities and excursions. She said she would send more details of shore excursions later and also offered to book pre- and post-cruise stays.

The first quote was a seven-night Mexican Riviera cruise on Norwegian Joy in April 2020, flying from Manchester, with a one-night pre-cruise stay in Los Angeles. The total cost was £4,215 and an upgrade to an exterior cabin would cost an extra £290 per person.

The second was a seven-night Mexico cruise on Royal Princess, flying from Manchester in April 2020, for £3,868. Both ships cater for young adults with activities onboard and entertainment such as comedy shows.

Tui
34 Parliament Street
88%
The agents were presentable in their well-kept uniforms, and the in-store displays were the best out of the three shops. I was greeted immediately and passed to a colleague who was knowledgeable about cruises. The agent asked what destinations we wished to visit, flights, airports and time of travel. I was only offered Tui’s Marella Cruises, but they did match my criteria.

I was later sent quotations, one the following day and one the next weekend. Both quotes were with Tui in April 2020, as I was told their ships are perfect for younger cruisers, with plenty of activities, entertainment and restaurants.

The first was for nine nights, flying from either Birmingham or Gatwick, for the Red Sea Experience 1 cruise on Marella Discovery. It was £2,871 for an inside cabin; £3,039 for an outside cabin; or £3,384 for a balcony cabin. Excursions included visits to Petra, Jordan, and Mount Etna, Sicily.

The second quote was for seven nights, flying from Manchester, for the Exotic Explorer Caribbean itinerary for £2,979. It would be £3,082 for an outside cabin or £3,430 with a balcony. Activities included cave tubing in Belize, and there were optional excursions to Mexico and Jamaica. A seven-night hotel stay in Jamaica could have been added for an additional cost.

Wallace Arnold Travel
12-13 Colliergate
85%
Both employees were in neat uniforms but the brochure display was not very eye-catching.

I was greeted and given time to browse the displays before an agent came to assist me. They asked what type of cruise I had in mind: destinations, time of year, activities and flights. The agent was very knowledgeable and gave me lots of examples without having to look up the information.

I was given lots of options to take home and consider, and was asked to get in touch again for quotes. The agent replied two days later with some quotes, both with flights from Manchester in April 2020. The agent was fairly enthusiastic, but not as much as staff at the other locations I visited, and seemed reluctant to give a quote for their recommendations.

The first was a seven-night holiday with Royal Caribbean, for a western and eastern Caribbean cruise on Adventure of the Seas. It would cost £3,536, including one night in a hotel in Miami. Upgrades to an ocean-view cabin would be an extra £131 per person.

The second quote was an eight-night holiday with Norwegian Cruise Line, in the western Caribbean on Norwegian Epic, including a one-night hotel stay. It would cost £3,624.


Winning agent

Emma Gargan, senior sales consultant

“We’re not a specialist but we do get cruise inquiries, and our system let’s us input details about the customer’s needs and cruise lines and destinations that would suit them. Cruises for younger people are becoming more popular, and the Mexican Riviera offers options for cruise-and-stay holidays, for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.”


Verdict

Hays Travel and Tui both offered interesting, good value options that the mystery shopper would have liked to book.

Hays edged it slightly on service and the range of options discussed.

Tui could only offer Marella cruises but options that were offered were ideal, as they featured excursions in the Red Sea, Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.

Wallace Arnold’s options were fine but the agent was slightly less enthusiastic.