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The mystery shopper visited two travel agencies in Grimsby and requested a 9-12 night Caribbean cruise and Miami hotel stay in March 2016 for a mother and daughter, with a maximum budget of £3,000.


They then made two Google.co.uk searches using the term ‘cruise and stay Miami’

The winner

The winner

Virgin Holidays Cruises



Score: 86%


Mystery Shopper said: ­The website was the first non-sponsored link in Google, and the “cruise-and-stay” description gave me confidence. A non-premium rate phone number was clear. There was an easy-to-use, intuitive search bar. A “Help us improve” pop-up annoyed me as it covered up part of the search results. The website delivered a good match, and offered free car hire in Miami, but I was unable to book online. I selected an option to email a quote, and a reply asking further questions ended up in my spam filter.


I called and spoke to a different consultant, who was enthusiastic, offered personal recommendations, and made me feel involved in the process. I was given two options to compare, both just over budget. A package with Carnival Cruises Lines came in at £3,185 for an outside cabin.


Email quotes were provided within 15 minutes. The whole interaction made me feel truly excited about the holiday.

Meet the consultant

Meet the consultant

Yasmin McKechnie

retail sales manager

Virgin Holidays


How many years with Virgin Holidays?

Six years – it’s my first job in travel.


Do you have a favourite cruise line?

Royal Caribbean, I could take any member of my family onboard and I know they’d be happy.


How do you sell western and eastern Caribbean itineraries?

The western Caribbean is better for those who like to do more activities, such as zip lining. If you want a more relaxing itinerary, go for the eastern Caribbean.


Where is on your bucket list?

Alaska with Celebrity Cruises. You don’t know how much somewhere wild like that will change in the next 20 years so I want to do it sooner rather than later.


What’s on your Christmas list?

I’m trying to get fit so I want stuff to wear in the gym!

React Surveys explainer / disclaimer

TTG has teamed up with React Surveys to simulate a realistic booking process each week – that means a mystery shopper looking for the best deal from agents and operators on the high street, online, on TV or in newspapers. The Mystery Shopper research is carried out on behalf of TTG by React Surveys,and no further details or information can be disclosed. Researchers take into consideration first impression, sales process, product and budget match and extras offered before giving an unbiased opinion of which channel/company they would have booked with on that occasion. We do not claim that the winner is the best in an area or specialist sector, as we may report on competing travel firms in the future. Please note that the aim of Mystery Shopper is not to criticise individual agents or companies, but to promote good sales technique for the benefit of all in the travel trade.

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