Carnival brands P&O and Cunard have pledged to be “the most supportive cruise lines” in the sector this year.

Head of sales Jeremy McKenna admitted it was a “bold statement to make”, but insisted that the lines would give agents “more support than any of our competitors”.

His comments came as the line announced new elements to its Agent Matters initiative, which was introduced 18 months ago to improve relationships with the trade after commission cuts led to a testing couple of years.

“We want to work with agents and we want to continue to build stronger ties with the trade,” said McKenna. “We consistently asked agents, through a survey, what we are doing well, but also what we can improve on in the future to support them better. We are running that survey again.

“We will also be speaking to agents face to face at roadshows. We will be heavily engaging with agents this summer.”

McKenna said the two brands would double the number of agents invited on ship visits to 6,000 this year and will introduce a new fam trip programme later this month.

“We have run ad hoc fam trips, but this will change the way we do fam trips, so there is more consistency,” he said.

To support agents further, Carnival UK encouraged all members of staff to adopt a travel agent at the end of last year, and more than 180 people have signed up for the scheme.

McKenna said: “We had a great uptake and those involved are from a range of departments, from operations to HR and the contact centre team. It’s great to have that extra form of contact with the trade.”

Agents are also being asked to complete a survey and give feedback on the Carnival brands. Those who complete the survey by May 24 will be entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a case of champagne.