Why Taking a free Kimberley cruise ended up being very embarrassing

The most embarrassing conversation I have had to had with a travel supplier in my 35 years in this industry.

In a recent blog, ‘Why Should I book my Kimberley Cruise with you” I mentioned that having experienced one of the cruise vessels I subsequently chose not to promote their ship. Eventually I took that operator off my website altogether and I have not booked it since. A few people have asked me to name that operator however it wouldn’t be right for me to say. 

I can however provide more detail about that cruise and explain why I made that decision.

Some background first. Many people assume that travel agents spend most of the year on free trips. The purpose of such a trip (called familiarisation) is to educate agents about particular products and destinations. Another word for these trips is “educational’. It is supposed to be about getting to know the product that you are going to be recommending to your customers.

I took this cruise during the peak cruise season for the Kimberley and of course the coast was amazing as always – the Kimberley coast never disappoints. However after the cruise, sitting on my flight back home, I was really troubled. When I arrived home I confessed to my husband – “I really don’t think I can promote this boat”. 

Kimberley cruises are not cheap to say the least; prices “not for the fainthearted” I often say. I’ve written another blog about why if you’d  like to read it – Why are Kimberley cruises so expensive

Now I understand why that is so when I recommended it’s got to meet my standards; sadly this one did not.

Here’s why I could not recommend this cruise

  1. To start with I was very troubled when we were out touring in the afternoon. The crew liked a nice cold beer whilst steering the smaller tenders and while they seemed very competent this was totally unprofessional and illegal behaviour. If the rest of the cruise had been faultless I’m afraid this habit alone would have been enough to stop me working with them.

2. Then the meals. Meals are important on trips like this – especially on the smaller vessels with an active itinerary. You quickly build up an appetite on the off boat excursions and timing needs to be exact. On this trip the chef joined us on nearly every excursion. Consequently we were getting lunch at 3pm and once 4 then dinner two hours later. It just didn’t work. 

Food is important on a Kimberley cruise. It doesn’t always have to be fancy but it must be tasty, plentiful and served on time!

3. One of the crew members was nicknamed ‘grumpy’ by the passengers – enough said. He certainly knew what he was doing however he really would have benefited from so customer service training. 

4. The captain refused help after an incident one night that, after I subsequently spoke to the captain of the other vessel, was told he had put the passengers in unnecessary danger (not too bad to be fair); it was very irregular to refuse assistance. 

With the second most extreme tides in the world, the Kimberley is for professionals only.

I understand, and like, that some ships are more intimate, more informal than others and that’s great. Most Australian (and New Zealand) passengers don’t want stuffy formality. But the line between informality and unprofessionalism should be clearly understood.

So after discussions with my husband I gave my honest feedback on these issues even though I felt awful doing it. Unfortunately it was not well received; as far as they were concerned I had received a free trip and I owed them an unqualified recommendation. Their refusal to acknowledge any fault was another warning signal. The subsequent e-mail and telephone exchanges were very uncomfortable to say the least!

As I said, this company is no longer on my website. We work with over a dozen other Kimberley cruise operators whose standards and professionalism I am happy to acknowledge. In the interest of fairness there are several other operators that we do not work with, but this is often for commercial reasons only.

For most people a Kimberley cruise is a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. Make sure you make the right choice.

Another operator that we were never interested in working with was Ahoy Buccaneers. Whilst I was never offered a trip on this ship their style of communication reminded me of this other operator too much and we stayed away and my suspicion about them was subsequently proven right when they went into liquidation and many people lost their money.

With over thirty years’ experience in the travel industry I take my responsibilities seriously. I have a duty of care to ensure that I take the time to learn the interests and abilities of my clients and make my recommendations for their Kimberley cruise accordingly. But more importantly I have a duty of care to ensure that I only represent safe and professional operators. For most people a Kimberley cruise is a once in a lifetime experience – there is absolutely no room for ‘she’ll be right mate’!


About Jenny

I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here  and I will call you then.

Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements.  If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here.   I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.