Cunard boss Peter Shanks has insisted that parent company Carnival UK will not reverse its controversial cut in commissions to 5%.

And he claimed that small agents who had not worked with the company before were now selling its cruises.

Addressing the commissions issue in Southampton as Cunard revealed a major 12-day refurbishment to flagship Queen Mary 2, president and managing director Shanks said: “We were very bold and we are sticking to that strategy. Those agents who are coming with us are doing better as a result.”

He dismissed suggestions that the commission-trimming by Carnival UK sales arm Complete Cruise Solution had led to agents deserting the company in favour of rival lines which have maintained renumeration levels.

Saying that Cunard was still working “very closely” with all the major agency players, Shanks added: “There’s quite a substantial number of small agents who didn’t work with us before who are doing so now because they can compete on a level playing field.”

The move had helped remove confusion in the market over different levels of discounting and was preventing agents from undercutting CCS brands, which include P&O Cruises.

“The big advantage has been clarity of price,” said Shanks. “If we need to come out with a strong offer we will do that but agents are no longer discounting that.”

Cunard is working on joint marketing initiatives with agents as part of its ‘wave’ peak period sales campaign.

Asked about the prospects for 2012, Shanks said: “There hasn’t been a year since 2001 that hasn’t has challenging times. Cunard has been completely transformed in that period and is a brand that speaks to people who still want the traditional experience that we offer.”

Being able to sell internationally also helped insulate Cunard from any downturns in specific markets, he added, citing the strength of sales from Germany and Australia.

He declined to be drawn on the cost of the refurbishment of QM2, other than to say that is represented a “substantial investment”.

The revamp includes all 1,310 cabins, the spa, restaurants, bars and public areas.