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We visited the Cruise show at the NEC yesterday, and we had a good time. There were about 50 stands for about 75 exhibitors. A number of stands covered multiple exhibitors, e.g. Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery, Hebridean Cruises and Discover Egypt were all on a small stand that actually bore the name ‘All Leisure Cruises’. Actually, in some cases even the bigger stands covered multiple brands – there was a big Royal Caribbean stand was marketing Celebrity and Azamara Club cruises as well as RC itself.

The show certainly wasn’t crowded. That said, we went in the afternoon and we did see quite a few people leaving as we arrived, so perhaps it was busier in the morning. The absence of crush was helpful, of course, in that we had no problem being able to talk to representatives. I have to say that we found the degree of knowledge about the products very high – we felt that we came away with good information.

I think there were deals available at the show for cruises in 2012, certainly from the larger lines such as the RC trio and P&O, but having already booked our cruises for next year we were really looking for information. We had a particular focus on river cruises, and we were pleased to find stands not only for the companies we already knew about (e.g. Viking) but also for companies in that market that we’d never heard of, e.g. AMA. There were also some really small, specialist river cruising companies there, e.g. Tauck who are an American company selling decidedly up-market river cruise packages principally to Americans.

We came away laden with brochures from a range of companies that we were interested in, and we thought it was useful to get round so many competing companies in the same sub-sector of the market at the same time, when we’d got the questions we wanted to ask fresh in our minds. We had an enjoyable and interesting afternoon.

Finally I ought to say ‘Thank You’ to Fred Olsen who provided the free ticket that we used to get into the show. We did in fact drop into their stand (quite a large one) to do just that in person, and we were delighted by the model of Boudicca that they’d brought to the show.

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