More than half of cruise customers feel it is vital to book through a travel agent, a survey by Cruise Thomas Cook has revealed.
The Holidays At Sea survey, Thomas Cook’s first annual cruise report, polled the views of 5,000 consumers in September. It found that most customers (52%) believe “it is important to book cruises through an agent who has cruise expertise”.
Those who booked their last cruise holiday face-to-face in a travel agency are also less likely to shop around than cruisers who booked online or over the phone.
The survey also found that price is the most important factor when choosing a cruise, followed by destination, and then the ship.
The top incentive to booking a cruise is a cabin upgrade, with 64% saying that was most likely to make them take the plunge. One in five said a discount would lure them in and 16% said they would be attracted by extra free nights on board.
There has been a significant shift in consumers’ perception of cruising since 2000, according to the survey. Two thirds of consumers said cruising is less formal than it was in the 1990s, while 57% believe there is no more to do on board. More than a third said cruising is more affordable and attracts younger passengers.
However, more than half said their experience could be improved if smoking is banned on cruise ships. Two thirds of those aged 75 or more called for a complete ban.
Seven out of ten consumers said they would like to see full length musicals on board and over a third would like to see a rock concert.
Respondents would like to have access to high street shopping on board ship. Some 44% said they would like a Marks and Spencer, while others would like a Boots, Waterstones and Next. Men would prefer gadget shops such as Currys or Dixons while women asked for a floating brach of lingerie shop La Senza.
The survey consisted of a questionnaire distributed online, in Thomas Cook shops and in the September edition of the company’s Cruise magazine.