Mystery shopper: St Albans, a visit to the Arctic

Mystery shopper: St Albans, a visit to the Arctic

Location: St Albans, Hertfordshire
Wanted: An affluent couple are keen to visit the Arctic but need advice on
planning their trip as they don’t know where to start.
Budget: £8,500.

Trailfinders
3 Market Place
87%
This shop had a traditional frontage that fitted its surroundings and the window displays were eye-catching, but it was eight minutes before I was served as both staff were busy. The agent said May or June was the best time to visit the Arctic, and he seemed quite knowledgeable about where to see polar bears. I was offered an eight-night G Adventures trip departing on June 20 with SAS flights from Heathrow to Oslo, from where the G Expedition ship would sail. The cruise involved wildlife-spotting excursions, including polar bears, and sailings in fjords and by glaciers. There was also a chance for Zodiac boat trips. It was slightly overbudget at £9,106 but the agent was enthusiastic and focused.

Thomas Cook
14 The Maltings
82%
Brochures were neatly ordered and employees smartly dressed in this clean shop. I was assisted as soon as I entered and we discussed several cruises. The agent suggested an 11-night Hurtigruten cruise, departing June 10 with Norwegian flights from Gatwick to Bergen, for £8,861. I was told it was the best time of year to see wildlife. But the agent took phone calls throughout the enquiry, meaning my visit took over an hour.

Kuoni
20 Christopher Place
58%
This smart shop looked more like a living room than a travel agency, with neat displays. I was greeted with a friendly smile but I wasn’t given a quote because the agent was unable to find anything near my price range. They later emailed me a quote for Silversea, sailing on Silver Explorer to Antarctica from Argentina in November, but it came in way over budget at £19,000. The agent tried, and was polite, but it didn’t match my needs.


Winning agent

James Nicol, team leader

“A trip to the Arctic is for many a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so it’s key that the cruise offered matches the client’s needs exactly. We have a dedicated polar team so we can offer first-hand knowledge of the Arctic and Antarctica.”


Verdict

Customer service levels were high across the board but Trailfinders’ agent impressed with his knowledge and guidance, while Kuoni came in way overbudget.

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