However, Giles Hawke, sales director of Carnival UK, the parent of P&O Cruises and Cunard, defended the move saying the £3 million a year the company saved was better spent on onboard facilities.
Agents said despite the move towards e-ticketing, they were still having to print documents for their clients, with one agent estimating his printing costs had rocketed as much as sixfold.
Tom Britton, managing director of Marble City Travel, said premium and older customers still preferred to receive something tangible.
“You give them their tickets and it’s like you’ve just handed them the Bible; they are absolutely over the moon,” he said.
Britton said most younger guests did not mind not being sent an actual ticket and accepted that cruise was going the same way as airlines.
But he said some people do not have printers at home and shore excursion details can run to 60 pages and more.
Jason Peters, director of Creative Cruises, read out an email from Silversea clients thanking him for the leather ticket wallet they had just received and saying how they thought this bode well for the cruise itself.
Peters said: “I admit that innovation has to come, but I think there is a very large amount of the top cabins across all cruise lines where the customer deserves more. They deserve a proper presentation of their cruise holiday.”
Hawke, however, said there was no need for any cruise passenger to turn up to check in with a physical ticket. He said agents could decide whether to offer this option if their customers wanted it and that that could be a point of differentiation.
“We looked at our model and we were spending £3 million a year sending tickets to travel agents to send on to customers – but actually they don’t need to turn up for their cruise with a piece of paper. Wouldn’t they prefer we spent that £3 million on the onboard product?”
Hawke cited the service on Queen Mary 2, where a butler offers suite guests their choice of newspaper on an iPad, as an example of how innovation and traditional service can work together.
- More from the Travel Convention at travelweekly.co.uk/tc2010