Former Thomas Cook agent Samantha Scrafton described the Travel Weekly Cover Star experience as a dream come true and beyond anything she had ever experienced.

Q: What were the key highlights of your Cover Stars trip?
A: I will never ever forget the shopping in Miami Sawgrass Mill, it was incredible and the best shopping I have done in my life. I loved it; there were so many outlet stores. I got two Michael Kors bags, even though I only planned to get one, and presents for my boyfriend and family.

Q: How was the flight with Virgin Atlantic?
It was the first time I had flown with Virgin, but I had always loved all the uniforms and image of the brand. The flight was amazing and the seats were very comfortable. After the flight home we were allowed into the cockpit and we got a picture with the pilot.

Q: Were you wowed by the Eden Roc hotel?
It was out of this world. The views from the rooms were stunning, the full ocean view made you feel like you were standing at the front of a cruise ship.

Q: What is your best memory of Miami?
Miami was just amazing, it shouldn’t be overlooked as a city break destination as the beach is stunning. The walk along the beach after the shopping was amazing, just taking in the surroundings and people enjoying themselves.

Q: How was the photoshoot experience?
I don’t normally like having my photo taken when it is just me but I was made to feel so special with the photoshoot. They took me to an exclusive part of the NCL ship called The Haven, which made me feel very relaxed and at ease.

Q: How was the shopping experience at Simon Shopping malls?
A few weeks ago I went to outlet stores in York and it really hit me all over again how amazing it was, but nothing compares to the Miami malls. I’ve been recommending the Simon Shopping discount booklet to customers and have had some great feedback too.

Q: How did Norwegian differ from other cruises you’ve experienced?
I had only ever been on ships for visits so I was blown away by the full cruise experience on NCL. There are so many different aspects to being on board, with all the entertainment, restaurants and bars. I don’t think we saw the whole ship, but we did try.

Q: How was the trip to the Bahamas?
Going from Miami to the Bahamas added a whole other level of luxury. It was amazing to sail around the islands and we travelled to the blue lagoon on a smaller boat and, with music playing, it was the most relaxing experience.

Q: How has going on the trip helped you sell the destinations?
As my first experience of cruising, shopping in Miami and the Bahamas I have been championing these destinations and have had great feedback from several clients.

Q: What made you enter the Cover Stars competition in the first place?
I had always read Travel Weekly and seen the Cover Stars trips each year. I couldn’t believe I won the first year I entered, I was so overwhelmed. The whole trip was something you only dream about and I definitely came back with lifelong friends.



Samantha’s sales tips

Miami is perfect for a shopping and beach holiday, so it’s the best of both worlds

Stay at the Eden Roc – it is has easy access to Ocean Drive, all the clubs, bars and restaurants

Suggest a cruise to your client if they’re travelling to Miami or other parts of America



Samantha’s outfit

Samantha’s on trend with this winter’s catwalk mania for velvet. She looks breathtaking in this floor-length deep green velvet gown from Forever 21 at Sawgrass Mills, a Simon property, with hair and make up styling by the Norwegian Escape’s Mandara Spa team. Sawgrass Mills and The Colonnade Outlets is 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale airport and 30 minutes from Miami and offers a fantastic collection of designer boutiques, high street fashion favourites and outlet stores offering up to 70% off every day.



Samantha was amazed by cruise

First-time cruiser Samantha was in awe of the cruise experience and couldn’t believe the quality and quantity of entertainment, activities and food on Norwegian Escape.

The agent, who now works for Dawson & Sanderson, but during the trip worked for Thomas Cook, said she has been championing cruises to her clients since she returned from Miami.

“The entertainment was amazing, we saw the Brat Pack shows, which I would absolutely recommend. The slide was one of the most exciting parts of the cruise, too. I couldn’t wait to see the amazing views from the transparent part.”

Samantha also enjoyed the food and said she would definitely go on another cruise. “It was just really fun and there were much younger people than I expected and also Americans onboard who made you feel so welcome.

“The sail-away party was one of my favourite moments.”