Cruise1st to open store in Manchester shopping centre

Cruise1st to open store in Manchester shopping centre

Image result for cruise 1st

Cruise1st is preparing to open an interactive concept store in Manchester dedicated to cruising – it’s first foray into bricks and mortar retail.

The new shop at The Lowry Shopping Centre, which Cruise1st says is the first of its kind in the country, will open its doors to the public seven days a week from January 9.

New to cruise customers are being targeted and the store will feature virtual reality headsets that will allow shoppers to explore different cruise lines and take 3D tours of ships, resorts and hotels.

interactive-screen-2

interactive-screen-2

Experienced cruise experts will be working in the store to help customers make decisions and to make bookings.

The company, which makes most of its sales online, says some high-ticket product is more suited to selling via the high street.

Dan Townsley, chief executive of cruise1st.co.uk said: “Cruise is a complex product. Our research shows that while cruise brands are changing the language and trying to make the cruise concept simpler and more logical to the consumer, consumers often find researching and choosing the right cruise confusing and complicated, especially new to cruise, which is a vital market for our industry. Getting new to cruise is a difficult challenge and we feel that personal, face-to-face service is the way to do it.

“Our aim of launching the UK’s first cruise concept store is to gain new to cruise to our database and cultivate these relationships, as well as to provide the expertise and support for our growing database of customers who are looking for a more intense cruise experience – land tours around India, water falls in Venezuela, The Terrocata Army and Great Wall China tours. These are difficult to sell via the internet as consumers feel more confident booking these high ticket, extended destination cruises with the peace of mind that they can sit in front of somebody and ask any questions they may have before committing.

“The travel industry has gone towards digital, however specialists have not and customers, especially new to cruise, value specialist knowledge and the reassurance of face to face advice and support.”

Cruise1st attracts potential buyers as owner Royal Caribbean puts agency up for sale

Royal Caribbean-owned cruise agency Cruise1st has been put up for sale and is understood to have attracted at least three potential trade buyers.

It is known that at least one of the cruise specialist agencies interested in buying the business has submitted an offer for Cruise1st, which is a trading division of Sunshine Cruise Holidays and employs more than 100 staff in the UK, Australia and Singapore.

In a statement, Manchester-based Cruise1st said it was “exploring the possibility” of an external sale and also strongly considering a management buyout.

Royal Caribbean declined to comment.

A source told Travel Weekly that a deal could be struck within the next couple of weeks.

Dan Townsley, chief executive of Cruise1st, said he was eager to weigh up options for the business, adding: “We’re in a position to explore our options and make the right choice for the business that will support our ambitious growth plans.”

The agency launched in 2000 and was acquired by Island Cruises three years later. Following the merger of First Choice and Tui UK, Cruise1st became wholly owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises in 2008.

In the past four years the agency’s booking numbers are claimed to have grown by 83%, and Townsley said the business had “aggressive expansion plans”.

The cruise sector has witnessed several acquisitions in recent years, including Iglu Cruise’s purchase of Planet Cruise in 2013 and dnata taking a stake in Imagine Cruising last month.

Private equity firms have also shown interest in cruise businesses, with both Cruise.co.uk and Iglu Cruise receiving backing.

The latter received further investment last week in a deal, believed to be worth £60 million, with private equity backer LDC. This prompted Iglu founder Richard Downs to say he was looking at acquisitions.