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Your Stories: Sefton Monk spotted a gap in the market for a cruise booking app – so he created one

Avid cruiser Sefton Monk has created phone app, My Kind of Cruise, through which passengers could book. He tells Harry Kemble about filling a ‘gap in the market’.

Q. How did you come up with My Kind of Cruise?
A. It was just after the pandemic had started. I’d had the idea for a long time because I’d cruised all my life with family and friends. I found it strange that we had these multimillion-pound ships, but trying to book one was always an odd process. Researching a cruise is pretty much stuck in the dark ages. There is no cruise equivalent to Airbnb. I looked for an app, such as Expedia or Booking.com, to book a cruise but couldn’t find one. An app where you can research a cruise, book a cruise and get customer service does not exist.

Cruise lines and OTAs told us 90% of all cruise bookings are done over the phone. These days you wouldn’t dream of ordering a pizza over the phone, but 10 years ago that was the norm. There’s an app for everything and we think cruising can be the same. This time next year, I believe we’ll be saying we cannot believe we didn’t have an app for this.

“I found it strange that we had these multimillion-pound ships, but trying to book one was always an odd process. Researching a cruise is pretty much stuck in the dark ages. There is no cruise equivalent to Airbnb.”

Q. Is running My Kind of Cruise a full-time role?
A. I’m a tech consultant but not a full-time employee at a company. I’ve always worked as a tech consultant. My Kind of Cruise will hopefully be a full-time thing for me.

Q. How did you start developing the app?
A. I tasked two friends – [co-founders] Duncan Millar and Craig Smith – with booking a cruise. I basically convinced them to book a cruise online and they came back a week or so later and said they couldn’t do it. They had no idea where to start. They said: “What’s an inside cabin?” I didn’t want to start a travel business built by travel people. It was important to me to find people outside the industry; I thought it would be good to look at the business from another point of view.

Last year, I spoke to travel tech companies and people like John and Irene Hays. We worked alone pretty much for those first six months as I built the app. We came to a bit of a sticking point at the end of last year and it came to the point where we needed a cruise expert on board to guide us with terms. After David Rowlinson had left his role at Cruise1st, he was recommended by a few people in the industry. We recruited David as head of commercial.

“We came to a bit of a sticking point at the end of last year and it came to the point where we needed a cruise expert on board to guide us with terms. After David Rowlinson had left his role at Cruise1st, he was recommended by a few people in the industry.”

Q. How does My Kind of Cruise differ from other cruise apps?
A. Everything, including customer service, is done through the app – it’s all in one place. We make our money through commission on sales and are a member of the Travel Trust Association.

Q. How far away are you from launching?
A. We’re testing at the moment. We sent the app to a few select individuals last week and we want to send it to a wider group. We want to launch by the end of September, or the first week of October. But in cruising there are a lot of moving pieces. We’ve got to bring these pieces together and make the experience seamless. The app is my baby, and I’m always going to nit-pick, but people are genuinely blown away by it.

“In the future, we’ll be offering packages with flights with lines such as Celebrity Cruises, but it’s just cabins for now. A lot of people want to shop around for their flight offers and search for the best deal.”

Q. How many lines have signed up?
A. We have 12, with Virgin Voyages coming on later in the year. We have lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Seabourn and Royal Caribbean International. We don’t want to open it up to every cruise line just yet.

Q. Will you be speaking with river and expedition lines in the future?
A. We’ll 100% be putting more cruise lines on the app, but I want to do it right. At the start, I want to do the mainstream sector, then I’ll venture out. In the future, we’ll be offering packages with flights with lines such as Celebrity Cruises, but it’s just cabins for now. A lot of people want to shop around for their flight offers and search for the best deal. We did market research with about 50 people. Everyone said they would book a cruise with us and go elsewhere for flights.


My Kind of Cruise app

How does the app guide new-to-cruise customers through the booking process?

The app will offer the best cruise for you. Every time you book a cruise through the app, it will learn more about you. The app will know what your favourite cruises are. Occasionally we’ll ask the customer more questions through the app. But it will not be a laborious process.

Blogs will be shared on the app so customers can see what’s good. There’s a lot of information for people.

“We’ve given the app to people who understand cruising back to front and they can book a cabin in about 60 seconds. It was hard to make an app for both new-to-cruise customers and seasoned cruisers.”

We want to make it a good experience, that’s why we’ve built articles into the app and there is a live chat [function] where users can get advice. There will be a human being behind the scenes.

However, we believe the app is good enough and has enough information so users don’t need to use the live chat. We’ve given the app to people who understand cruising back to front and they can book a cabin in about 60 seconds. It was hard to make an app for both new-to-cruise customers and seasoned cruisers, but I think we’ve accomplished that goal.

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