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On 27th – 30th May 2022, our Director Damian was invited on board MSC Virtuosa for a three-night cruise as part of the Travel Village Group Conference. Here’s what he had to say about the event.
At Widgety, we spend a lot of our time talking to the people in charge at travel agencies and operators, and so each time we’re invited to an event that allows us to speak to travel agents on the ground we get a brand new perspective on what we offer.
I was invited onboard MSC Virtuosa for a three day cruise to participate in the Travel Village Group Conference, and was even asked to be a speaker at the event. To be able to sit down for a concentrated period of time and talk through our products with the homeworkers was unique; unlike a one-day conference I was able to spend real time with them to understand how they sell, the time it takes and the way they talk to customers. It was a similar experience with the cruise and tour operators; getting to meet the account managers and regional BDMs was a great experience.
As we’re looking to launch a major upgrade to our platform this year, the timing was really useful.
Before boarding, I parked in the Horizon Terminal car park, which although a little pricey at £50 for the three days, was so convenient that I definitely recommend it.
MSC Virtuosa has a double occupancy of 4,842 passengers, with the maximum capacity being significantly higher than that. The ship was not full, which meant a bit more space for everyone onboard.
I had a balcony cabin right at the back of the ship with a stunning unobstructed view. Unfortunately the IT in the cabin wasn’t working; I couldn’t get ZOE to switch on and the TV indicated that I wasn’t in there for the duration of the cruise.
However the design of the cabin was excellent, the bathroom had loads of space and a great shower with instant hot water. The balcony was spacious and the bed was incredibly comfortable.
The ship was absolutely spotless throughout, for such a large ship I was pleasantly surprised (even if it did take me a full 24 hours to confidently find my way around).
Unfortunately the dining on board was a little underwhelming. I understand that the three night mini cruise attracts a different audience to the longer cruises and perhaps less emphasis is placed on the food, but the main dining experience wasn’t what we had hoped for. We spoke to families onboard who agreed that the dining wasn’t great; hopefully this was just a one off experience and isn’t a regular occurrence.
However on the last night we ate in the speciality restaurant Butcher’s Cut, where the food was excellent. This was easily the best meal we had on board.
The other good point was that the coffee was great throughout the ship, even from the machine at breakfast.
We spoke to several families on board who were trying MSC for the first time and had been on other resort ships. 3 seperate families agreed that although the food was a bit lacking, the children’s facilities and level of qualification of the staff was the best they had ever seen. I think the layout of the kids sections were really impressive and my daughter would love it. Plus they will keep your kids until 11pm and feed them pizza!
The conference itself was an excellent event, attended by approximately 120 people. I thoroughly enjoyed the speed dating experience, chatting to homeworkers for 7 minutes meant I could give them a crash course on the Cruise Search and Brochure Rack Widgets that are available to them through Paula and the team.
Over the three days I was able to talk to everyone there, and having the opportunity to talk to homeworkers in-depth was fascinating; travel is such an inspiring industry and everyone there was so passionate about it.
We knew that it had been a difficult few years for agents, but finding out about the lengths some have had to go to to maintain their business is really admirable. Some took out loans or rely on partners and many of them are on Messenger or other apps all day and night to keep customers happy.
Social media, homeworking and the pandemic means that travel isn’t 9 – 5 any more. Customers enquire at random times and expect a response quickly, regardless of what time they get in touch.
Phil’s welcome speech on the first night was empowering and passionate, just as you’d expect from him. The conference was booked over a year ago and attendance was strong, which is a real testament to the faith that homeworkers have in Travel Village Group.
Having the time to talk to Phil, Paula, John and the management and care team from TVG at the conference was a real highlight of the weekend for me. Being able to have such lengthy conversations with them helped us to understand how Widgety fits in with their business, where they’re going in the future and how we can help. I was able to get genuine feedback from them as well as the homeworkers about what Widgety offers.
For me the best part of the cruise experience was the evening entertainment, the music and white disco on both nights were incredible and the atmosphere throughout the ship was electric. Although I’ve seen it before, I love the ceiling in the main atrium and what they show on it. From useful information like evacuation plans and cabin maps to stunning images of cities we were visiting, it’s a great use of technology on board.
Thanks so much to Phil, Paula and the team at Travel Village Group for inviting me, and to all the homeworkers on board that made the trip so much fun. I hope my talks on ‘Making the Most of Online Technology’ were useful, and as always if there’s any questions feel free to get in touch.