And yet here we still are. In fact we are sending many, many more people on their holidays than we did ten years ago. So the question deserves asking: why do people still use travel agents for their cruise holidays?
Booking a cruise for the first time
At the luxury end of the market, choosing a cruise can be a complex process with many variables to consider before you can even choose a cruise line, let alone an individual ship. Buying a car is much the same; many brands, many models within brands and then many variable choices within the models. But the very big difference is that, having chosen a car, you can at least test drive it before you commit. You cannot test drive a cruise.
A cruise holiday can represent a big outlay. When you're writing that cheque, do you really want to rely on the opinions of anonymous online reviewers, whose motivations are unclear and who may have a hidden agenda? Surely it's better to solicit informed, expert and impartial advice from someone who knows the product intimately.
Indeed, at Mundy we often say that we don't really sell cruises - the real benefit we bring our clients is informed conversation. Talking through things, establishing desires, preferences and wish-lists, all to ensure that we don't just sell a cruise, but rather that we sell the right cruise. We have test driven all of the cruises so, since we know them and we also know what you are looking for, you can buy with confidence.
Doesn't it cost more to book through a travel agent?
This is very far from being true; an internet myth. A good agent can actually add significant value to your holiday, rather than cost.
And when we say value, we don't just mean money saved or spent. As an example, imagine that you travelled half way across the world to go on a cruise, only to find out when you return that there was something you could have done out there that was a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whatever price you paid, you didn't get good value, simply because you did not get the most out of that holiday.
Our job is to help ensure that you get the most out of every cruise. The main objective of any good agent is to ensure that you get the best holiday, not just the best price.
I've cruised before - why would I need to use an agent?
So why do those who are less new to cruising continue to use us? It can't, after all, just be down to our charm and good looks.
We think the answer is that (a) they know that we offer great value and (b) it's probably because experts like talking to other experts. Even to those who are well travelled we can still offer great ideas and guidance, and by taking care of all the mundane details, we can help ensure that buying a luxury holiday actually feels like a luxury experience. We can take care of anything and everything; with an agent your holiday begins when you pick up the phone.
Somewhere to turn if things go wrong
And finally - relevant to everyone, newcomer or experienced - don't forget that agents can be invaluable on those rare occasions when something goes wrong. This is why we offer all of our clients our Mayday from Mundy service - a 24 hour emergency helpline.
As an example, when Mount Eyjafjallajokull erupted in 2010 and grounded flights across Europe, none of those people you saw looking despondent in airports were Mundy clients. We worked around the clock, through the weekend, making alternative travel arrangements at no extra cost for those who chose to book through us.
If you book your own holiday you are on your own: book with an agent, and you have a whole company working on your behalf.