An older couple are looking to treat themselves to a Mediterranean cruise. They want a traditional ship, with cultural excursions, particularly in Italy. They also want to enjoy some formal dinners. The budget is £4,000.

Those agents who knew the cruise sector were able to deal with this enquiry, although their recommendations weren’t quite spot on: was Brilliance of the Seas really the best match for an older couple looking for a cultural holiday?

The Thomas Cook agent’s product knowledge was very poor. She could have sold Spirit of Adventure, which is exclusive to the agency.

  • Location: Bognor Regis
  • Wanted: A four star Mediterranean cruise

Thomas Cook, 2 London Road, Bognor RegisThomas Cook

2 London Road

A consultant offered to help and guided me to the brochure section. I told her I was looking for something more traditional to suit seniors, but she said that these days all cruises are for everyone.

She did too little research into my individual needs, and only provided general information. No holiday recommendations were forthcoming and I was advised that all the information I needed could be found in the brochures. She recommended the Fred Olsen Cruises Worldwide 2010 / 2011 brochure and P&O Cruises 2010 with a DVD.

The consultant was fairly pleasant, but not overly enthusiastic and seemed to be going through a routine. The whole conversation took place at the brochure rack, and I was not invited to her desk for a more thorough consultation.

The Co-operative Travel, 48 London Road, Bognor RegisThe Co-operative Travel

48 London Road

The consultant here had a very friendly, easy and confident manner. After greeting me and listening to my request, she told me that Cunard is more traditional and would suit me best.

The cruise she recommended covered a good part of the Mediterranean, particularly Italy. The best cabin was out of our price range, but I was told the extra cost would be worth it. She advised departing from Southampton rather than flying, arguing that it is more convenient.

The cruise was the Cunard Mediterranean Explorer V009, departing in June for 17 days, in a standard inside cabin on the Queen Victoria. The cost was £4,558.

She gave me brochures including Cunard Voyages, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises to look at in more detail, as well as a Co-operative membership form to start collecting points. She also tried to sell insurance and said she could arrange excursions.

Thomson, 37 London Road, Bognor Regis Thomson

37 London Road

The service and attention at Thomson was very good and I was made to feel like a valued customer.

She was well versed in cruise holidays and the product she recommended covered Italy well. An outside cabin put the cost over budget, but she plugged the on-board facilities and said all cabins would be good, regardless of view.

The recommendation was a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas in the Worldwide Cruises 2nd edition brochure, costing £3,548 for a Deck 3 cabin and £4,212 for a cabin with a balcony.

The consultant also selected two options for meeting the ship at Barcelona: a flight, or a two-day ferry trip from Southampton. The visit was an enjoyable experience.

Woods Holidays, 43 Aldwick Road, Bognor Regis Woods Holidays

43 Aldwick Road

The outside of this shop was well presented, with bright clear windows. Inside was also attractive and organised. The consultant who dealt with me was sincere and patient, with a thoughtful and considerate manner.

She worked quickly, going through itineraries and cabin types with me. She worked out the best one for my budget and requirements. The cost was £3,660 through Sussex Cruise Club for a ‘B’ grade cabin on Fred Olsen’s Balmarol Mediterranean Magic itinerary, including a door-to-door taxi service.

She also suggested an alternative cruise, and asked a colleague who had been on it to talk it through with me. Her colleague talked about dining options, how the cabins were cleaned and managed and what extras I would need to pay for such as certain drinks and gifts.

The whole experience was relaxed, informative and enjoyable, with professional and competent staff.


  1. The agents recommended departing from the UK, saying it was less hassle than flying. However, it can take at least two full sea days to reach the Mediterranean, and the same on the journey back, so clients will be spending a lot of their holiday on the ship rather than exploring the destinations.
  2. Once in the Mediterranean, it could take a day to reach Italy and a day and a half to reach destinations on the east side of the country, such as Venice.
  3. Cruise lines which would have suited this customer include Swan Hellenic, Voyages to Antiquity, Spirit of Adventure and Cunard. Swan Hellenic, for example, has guest speakers and lecturers on board.
  4. Always check what’s included in the price. Some cruise lines will include excursions, others won’t.
  5. For more information on cruise lines, go to