Mystery Shopper: Blackpool, a cruise to celebrate a landmark wedding anniversary

Location: Blackpool
Wanted: A mature couple celebrating a landmark wedding anniversary would like a week-long cruise in the Mediterranean or somewhere else warm within a short-haul flying distance They would like a ship that offers entertainment, fine dining, spa facilities, and a touch of indulgence. They’re flexible about dates and are happy to either fly or cruise from the UK.
Budget: £5,000


Both Tui and The Travel Village agents performed very well with enthusiastic, helpful service which generated cruises the customer liked. Tui’s agent edged it with her attention to detail and extras. Even though Tui’s offer was well below budget, the shopper preferred the cruises. The Hays agent would have scored higher if they had asked more about the budget as there was room for extras or upgrades.

Winning agent

Wendi Irving, travel advisor

“I have never been on a Marella cruise myself, but we do sell a lot of them as they are very popular. They are good value. With every customer, I look to offer upgrades and extras to make sure the holiday is right for them.”


9 Birley Street

Impression: The store was tidy with smart staff and a wide range of up-to-date displays.

Service: I was greeted immediately with a smile and dealt with straight away. She asked about dates, what I was celebrating, our budget, flights, itineraries, cabins, insurance and aircraft seating options. I was given lots of choice and was encouraged to book with a discount available only on that day. The agent was polite and knowledgeable, using brochures and her computer efficiently, and made the holiday booking process fun.

Quotes: Both were seven-night cruises with Tui, flying from Manchester, and both included a £100 discount for that day only, plus insurance. The Island Discovery cruise departed in June to Naples on Marella Discovery 2, visiting places such as Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. It cost £3,661. The Adriatic Affair cruise in July on Marella Celebration visited places such as Dubrovnik, Hvar and Venice. It cost £3,912. Both were in a premium all-inclusive deluxe balcony cabin, with pre-booked seats on the plane.

Overall: The agent gave me their full attention and was totally enthusiastic about getting a holiday to match my needs and secure my business today.  I was particularly impressed by the Discovery 2 cruise and the premium service package.

The Travel Village
298 Highfield Road

Impression: The branch was clean, modern and well organised with smartly presented members of staff. Advertisements in the windows looked fresh.

Service: I was acknowledged with a smile as I entered and I was invited to take a seat. The enthusiastic agent asked about different cruise lines, dates, destinations, itineraries, flight options, cabin types and budget. They described the ships and cruises well and gave me their full attention throughout my visit. I would have liked to have been offered a bit more information about excursions, special attention on board, insurance and travel to the airport.

Quotes: Both were seven-night Mediterranean cruises with P&O Cruises on Oceana, flying from Manchester to Valletta, Malta, in April. The first would have calls in Greece, including Athens, Katakolon and Kefalonia and cost £5,105. The second included stops in Italy and France, including Olbia, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Livorno and Rome, for £4,889. The agent said these were wonderful destinations and that P&O offered fantastic entertainment and food, as well as an onboard spa and a range of dining options.

Overall: The experience was very good and the cruises were suitable. The agent was very well informed about itineraries, ports of call and ships, and accessed details of the holidays quickly.

Hays Travel
Asda Store, Cherry Tree Road

Impression: The open-plan store had eight tidy desks, and lots of brochures and window offers. The agent I spoke to was very well presented.

Service: An agent spotted my arrival and stopped what they were doing to greet and serve me. They discussed several cruise lines briefly before focusing on Tui, saying it was the best and most popular for all-inclusive, luxury cruising. After asking lots of questions and looking at itineraries on their computer, the agent talked about the areas the ships would visit. I was not asked my budget so I could have afforded more luxury if this had been offered. The agent was friendly, polite and enthusiastic but did not pick up on the fact it was a special occasion.

Quotes: Both were seven-night Tui cruises, flying from Manchester in June, and sailing from Naples on Marella Discovery 2. The Mediterranean Gems cruise visited Barcelona, Spain, Toulon, France, and Livorno, Civitavecchia and Olbia in Italy. It cost £3,095. The Adriatic Splendours cruise visited Ancona, Messina and Venice in Italy and Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia. It cost £3,386. The agent said the line is very popular and itineraries were beautiful routes.

Overall: The recommendations met most of my needs, and appeared good value, but I did say it was a special occasion so was looking for the agent to offer upgrades and extras on the transfers, flights or on-board.


The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Casa de Campo Resorts & Villas.

As a member of Leading Hotels of the World, Casa de Campo Resort & Villas, in the Dominican Republic, is the most unique destination in the Caribbean.

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• Unlimited horseback riding
• Clay pigeon shooting included
• 13 Har-Tru tennis courts
• Unlimited non-motorised watersports
• Six exclusive dining venues plus two gourmet food trucks
• Extensive heath and fitness club, and a spa
• Dominican Republic’s only private, white-sand beach
• Personal golf buggy to explore the extensive grounds

With all this and much more on offer, Casa de Campo Resort and Villas is the ultimate Caribbean adventure.

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