Sister cruise lines P&O Cruises and Cunard have revealed details of their most generous trade sales incentive since controversially cutting commission to 5% in 2011.

The Carnival UK brands are offering agents as much as 13.5% as well as the chance to win prizes including five ‘Golden Suitcases’ each containing a £5,000 gift to be drawn at a special event in Southampton in September.

Also up for grabs are 300 cabins for an agent plus a friend on a two-night celebration sailing on P&O Cruises’ new ship Britannia (pictured) next March ahead of its first cruise with paying guests.

The promotion, running until the end of August for P&O Cruises and in July for Cunard, covers “thousands” of cruises departing from September 2014 to June 2015.

Bonus commission of 6% is being offered on P&O Cruises Select Price and Cunard Fare holidays and 3% on ‘early saver’ holidays for both brands. Last year Cunard and P&O Cruises increased base commission to 7.5% and introduced tactical bonus payments.

Sales and distribution support director Chris Truscott told Travel Weekly the latest incentive is the most generous in the 18 months he has been in the role. 

He described it as a “massive investment” coming on the back of a strong ‘wave’ early year sales period and new programme launch in March.

“The whole concept behind this is that we help support longer lead times and give agents the opportunity to earn more money and win prizes to reward them for driving results,” he said.

“We have good strength and brand resonance in the marketplace, so it’s about how we make sure we continue to drive that and reward agents.

“This is a big incentive, not just in terms of commission. I have been clear since day one of the value I place on travel agents. I have consulted, listened to feedback and acted on it.

“This is the biggest investment I have done in the 18 months since I joined the business. It’s not just about commission, I don’t think we have ever given 300 cabins away before.”

The trade push will be supported by a media campaign in print and on radio, including Heart and LBC, which will encourage customers to book with their travel agent.

Truscott said he was confident the summer incentive would not distract agents from selling the remaining cabins on cruises departing this summer.

As part of the campaign Cunard is offering five transatlantic voyages for an agent plus a companion on Queen Mary 2, including a two-night stay in a five-star hotel in New York.

Consumer benefits include free additional onboard spending money and free flights on exotic and world sector cruises this winter.

Discounted early saver fares are being released for sailings starting from September 1 for P&O Cruises and from September 5 for Cunard, up to the end of June 2015.

Truscott added: “Gaining a sneak preview of Britannia is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for agents to experience the ship before its official launch and naming ceremony.

“A transatlantic voyage with Cunard is one of life’s must-do experiences, particularly when combined with a luxury hotel in New York. Agents have asked for more opportunities to see our ships and these prizes fit the bill with money-can’t-buy experiences.”