Mystery Shopper: Huddersfield, a Caribbean cruise for a newly retired couple

Location: Huddersfield
Wanted: A newly retired couple would like a Caribbean cruise this year, but are unsure which ship or itinerary would be most appropriate. They prefer activities and entertainment that suit older passengers or families, and like West End-style shows. They would also prefer shore excursions that explore culture and history. They are looking for a one-week cruise but are flexible about dates.
Budget: £4,000

Mystery shopper Huddersfield verdict

The Althams Travel agent scored well on all aspects of the visit and impressed the mystery shopper, although there was scope for upselling, as  the quotes were below budget. The shopper liked the cruises offered by the  agents at Tivoli Travel and Wallace Arnold, but they would have scored higher if they had asked more questions and matched the budget more closely – they were well under budget.

Winning travel agent: Kathryn Stopford

“We are getting more cruise enquiries, from all age groups. I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise a few years ago, so I could explain about the entertainment. We also have training and webinars to keep up to date. I joined Althams 33 years ago. We have lots of experienced staff here.”


Althams Travel Services, 26 Cross Church Street, 91%

Impression: The shop was well maintained, with eye-catching window posters and well-organised brochure racks. In their uniforms, the staff looked part of a team.

Service: I was served straight away and the agent asked lots of questions about what we wanted. She offered me a drink, then researched itineraries, entertainment and excursions. The options were all suitable and she tried to close the sale in a friendly manner. I was given a business card and received an email afterwards.

Quotes: Both options were for seven-night cruises in March with Royal Caribbean International, flying with British Airways from Manchester, via Heathrow. The first was on Oasis of the Seas, with a night in Miami, sailing to Sint Maarten, Puerto Rico and Haiti. The price was £3,074, which the agent said was great value for money. The second option was on Freedom of the Seas, with two nights in a hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from where the cruise would depart. The itinerary would take in Sint Maarten, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Saint Lucia and Barbados. It cost £3,570.

Overall: I was thrilled with the attentive, friendly and upbeat service from an agent who made me feel that the cruises would be great fun.

Tivoli Travel, 94 Lidget Street, 79%

Impression: The shop was tidy, with well organised displays. The staff were smartly dressed.

Service: A friendly agent dealt with my enquiry immediately. They asked a few questions but not enough to build a picture of my perfect cruise. Although the agent talked about itineraries and the weather, I wasn’t told much about what happened on the cruise or excursions. I was asked whether I would like to book, but the agent wasn’t pushy. They gave me a business card and emailed me two quotes later.

Quotes: Both were for seven-night Princess Cruises itineraries in the eastern Caribbean, flying from Manchester with British Airways. The first was a roundtrip cruise on Sky Princess from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and Sint Maarten, costing £1,388 in March. The other option was for an Empress of the Seas cruise from Miami to Haiti, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands and St Thomas. The price was £2,731 in April, including an overnight pre-cruise stay in Miami. The facilities and entertainment suited my requirements, but excursions were not mentioned.

Overall: The agent was attentive and enthusiastic, but I wished they had asked more questions to find out my exact needs, and provided more information about the onboard experience and excursions.

Wallace Arnold, 36 John William Street, 74%

Impression: The shop was tidy and looked professional, with some good offers in well-organised window displays. The staff looked smart and the brochure displays were well stocked.

Service: The staff were busy when I entered, so I was not acknowledged until I had been in the agency for four minutes, and had to wait seven  minutes until I was served. The agent was friendly and enthusiastic, but did not ask enough questions to gain a picture of my perfect cruise. They talked about itineraries but not enough about excursions, onboard activities or the cruise experience – and did not mention any additional products.

Quotes: I was offered two seven-night cruises on Marella Discovery 2, flying from Manchester with Tui Airways. The first called at Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, and cost £2,725. The second visited Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten, St Kitts, Antigua  and Guadeloupe, for £2,868. The agent suggested that the entertainment might not be very ‘West End’. They didn’t mention excursions but the itineraries were interesting and visited exciting places.

Overall: The friendly agent was engaged and enthusiastic but I would have liked to have been asked more about the cruises and excursions. They did find some suitable options, however.


The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Atelier Playa Mujeres.

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