A cruise blogger and his travel agent partner have launched their own high street store specialising in holidays on water.
The Cruise Room opened its doors in Hoylake on the Wirral earlier this week after being founded by couple Robbie O’Grady and Jonathan Howitt.
After the pair took their first cruise together seven years ago, O’Grady created The Cruise Room Ireland blog to offer advice to people interested in starting cruising, while Howitt has more than 40 years of experience in travel retail and working at sea for P&O Cruises.
When Howitt was made redundant from Irish tour operator Topflight last summer, O’Grady took a career break from his job in the Irish health service to launch The Cruise Room together.
“Having our own cruise agency has always been something we’ve wanted to do and we wanted to launch at what felt like the right time,” O’Grady told TTG.
“The cruise industry has gone through the suspension of the past year but it’s coming back so strongly and showing how much investment and demand is in the market - it feels like a really exciting time.
“There’s such an opportunity for agents selling cruise - just look at the summer of UK cruising we’ve got coming up - and we know cruise holidays are going to get more and more popular.”
Part of Barrhead’s Brilliant Travel and a member of Clia, the business will aim to offer traditional agency services combined with O’Grady’s social media focus and online cruise community to help generate customers and educate consumers curious about cruising.
The store has also been designed as a “ship in shop” concept to give customers the feeling of being onboard a vessel.
Despite only being open for a few days, the duo has already secured their first sales – with bookings for Cunard, Celebrity and Oceania.
O’Grady and Howitt said they hoped to be able to expand their team by recruiting two extra staff once the business was fully up and running and open further stores in future.
The shop’s launch had been slightly delayed to allow the pair to cruise onboard MSC Virtuosa last week during the second sailing from the UK since the pandemic.
“We wanted to get onboard and experience the new protocols and new way of cruising,” said O’Grady. “It felt incredibly safe and we had a great time. Being able to offer the knowledge and advice to customers is so important.
"The cruise industry has shown there really isn’t a safer way to holiday in the current climate than onboard a ship and we want to continue getting that message out there and bringing more and more people to try cruise."