Location: Beverley, East Yorkshire.
Wanted: A retired couple would like a one-week river cruise in Europe in 2020, as they like the idea of sightseeing at a relaxing pace. They can’t decide where to go and while they’ve heard the Danube is popular they’re open to alternatives such as the Netherlands and Germany. They want scenery, history and culture. They can travel anytime, as they’re retired but would prefer to fly to the cruise rather than travel by coach.
Budget: £4,000.


Verdict

All the cruises offered by the agents included interesting itineraries that suited the shopper’s requirements. Oneworld Travel and Tui both offered great service, with the agents determined to find the best options, although the latter’s quotes were rather under budget and only from Tui River Cruises. The shopper felt they had to press for more information from the Hays agent and the flights offered were far from ideal.


Winning agent

Claire Jarvis, assistant manager

“We do a lot of cruises, river and ocean. We have an affluent local market and lots of customers are retired. I’ve not been on a river cruise but we have reps who come in to see us. I’ve been in travel for 20 years – and I was mystery shopped during my first week in the job.”


Rhine-river-cruise

Oneworld Travel
Saturday Market
87%

Impression: The shop was well maintained and staff looked professional in smart uniforms with name badges.

Service: I was greeted with a smile by a knowledgeable, friendly agent who asked plenty of questions, checked with operators and offered lots of options. She showed me three brochures and discussed cheaper and more expensive options. She said June and September were the most popular months and the Danube was the most popular destination. She recommended Riviera Travel and offered to order a brochure for me after checking details and flights for the Blue Danube cruise.

Quotes: The first was Riviera Travel’s seven-night Blue Danube river cruise on MS Geoffrey Chaucer in July 2020, flying from Manchester with Jet2. The price was £4,298, including flights, transfers and tours. The adviser recommended this option because the rating was 9.4 and the ship was new. The second was Titan Travel’s seven-night Majesty of the Danube cruise on MS Bellejour in June, flying from Manchester, via Amsterdam, with KLM. The price was £4,058 including transfers, flights and door-to-door VIP travel service.

Overall: I would highly recommend this agent as she built up a good rapport and showed a genuine interest and enthusiasm. She investigated several options and the choices offered met my requirements.

Tui
59 Toll Gavel
83%

Impression: The windows had neat posters and brochures offering interesting deals. Staff were well groomed, in smart uniforms with name badges.

Service: I was acknowledged immediately and an enthusiastic agent offered me options from Tui’s brochure. The agent searched thoroughly for the best options and explained cabin types, supplements and deck plans. They talked about itineraries and suggested a French balcony with floor-to-ceiling sliding windows. They said most customers prefer June, as the weather is not too hot. The agent said excursions could be booked and seat selection and in-flight meals could be added later.

Quotes: Both quotes were eight-night holidays, flying direct from Manchester. The first was in July, flying with easyJet and sailing on Tui Skyla on the Magical Danube cruise for £3,440. It included a £140 agent discount. They said the Danube was a popular choice for river cruises. The second was flying with Lufthansa in June, sailing on the Bavarian Discovery cruise on board Tui Maya along the Main for £3,250 including transfers. It included a saving of £400 per couple. Both itineraries offered interesting scenery, history and culture.

Overall: The agent showed great enthusiasm and was keen to find the best prices and flight times. The only drawback was the lack of options from other operators. I felt valued and the agent was committed to providing really good service.

Hays Travel
33 Toll Gavel
68%

Impression: The shop featured bright posters and attention-grabbing holiday offers. Staff wore smart uniforms with name badges.

Service: I was dealt with immediately and initially just offered brochures. When I asked what was available, the agent rang Titan Travel and Viking Cruises for more details. They stuck a note in the Titan brochure with prices, suggesting I return later when I had decided on a cruise. I had to ask for more details about airports and flight times. The agent urged me to book while they were on the phone to Viking as there were only four cabins left. It appeared the agent had little knowledge as they repeated the information from the people they rang. The agent was also distracted by a colleague asking for assistance with a cruise booking.

Quotes: Both were seven-night cruises, flying from Manchester in June. The first was with Titan Travel, flying with KLM via Amsterdam, for the Majesty of the Danube cruise on MS Bellejour. It cost £4,058, including door-to-door VIP travel service. The second was flying with Lufthansa for Viking Legend’s Danube Waltz cruise for £4,290 including transfers and six excursions. Flying home from Budapest via Frankfurt to Manchester would have taken more than six hours.

Overall: The cruises were fine but flight times were not suitable.


Casa-de-Campo

The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Casa de Campo Resorts & Villas

“As a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, Casa de Campo Resort & Villas is the ultimate Caribbean adventure.”

Experience the unsurpassed amenities that makes Casa de Campo Resort & Villas the most unique destination in the Dominican Republic. Offering exclusive luxury experiences this intimate paradise is filled with unmatched sports including horse riding, shooting, 13 tennis courts, kayaking down the Chavon River and a 63-hole golf course designed by Pete Dye.

Set on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, Casa de Campo resides between the glistening Caribbean sea and the winding Chavron River. The five-star luxury resort encompasses 7,000 acres of premium facilities, luxury accommodation and lush landscapes. Guests can easily navigate the resort as each room comes with a golf buggy.