The reps will greet Cruise Thomas Cook customers as they board and, like on land, cater to their needs throughout their cruise holidays by helping them, for example, to book tours.
The cruise rep concept is part of Cruise Thomas Cook's new partnership with NCL, offering comprehensive holiday packages on the line's Europe-based ships -- Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Jade. Cruise Thomas Cook will handle flights and transfers for customers who book the specially priced packages and will set up a port-side, priority check-in area. A door-to-door chauffer service is also available, and a low deposit of £50 applies to Europe and Mediterranean cruises booked by 30 June, 2009.
According to a company press release, the decision to forge the partnership was made after conducting extensive research on the wants and needs of modern cruise travellers. The release calls the move "revolutionary" -- but Cruise Thomas Cook is actually not the first company to dispatch representatives aboard cruise ships. Thomson Cruises, operated by U.K. travel seller Thomson Holidays (part of TUI Travel), introduced special reps onboard its ships 12 years ago but did away with the program in 2001 after determining the crew did a more than adequate job of looking after Thomson customers.
It remains to be seen how Cruise Thomas Cook customers will react to the reps onboard Gem, Jewel and Jade.
At this point, no other agencies have announced plans to offer similar programs. However, Virgin Holidays tells us that it does offer a pre-departure "cruise concierge" service -- customers receive calls from Virgin reps prior to their cruises to make sure they don't need any other assistance before they leave on holiday.
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor, with reporting by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor