Business partners, who opened their dream cruise agency in Hoylake, told of what it was like to start a new business during the coronavirus pandemic.

After sitting on the idea six years, Jonathan Howitt and Robbie O’Grady finally turned their dreams into a reality and created The Cruise Room.

From numerous job losses to the travel market taking a hit from Covid, Jonathan and Robbie decided it was time to take the leap despite the uncertainty.

Jonathan told the Globe: “When I was let go from my previous cruise job at the TUI Liverpool store me and my colleagues were devastated because we were all so passionate about cruises.

Wirral Globe:

“We already had a customer base, so we thought why don’t we open our own store and all work in it.”

Jonathan shared his ideas with Robbie, but both agreed to delay their decision.

Robbie said: “The timing wasn’t right. We didn’t have enough experience and I was already in a full-time paid job working for the healthcare system in Ireland so there was too much risk, and we couldn’t afford it.”

Both Jonathan and Robbie said they kept the idea for five years until the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Robbie said: “When the pandemic hit it changed the way people were thinking about things.”

Jonathan, who was then working in Ireland as a cruise operator, lost his job.

Wirral Globe:

Jonathan said: “It gave me more experience in the operation side of cruises as I was essentially doing the opposite side of travel agency work.

“It gave us the push to do something with the idea we had had for so long.”

Robbie added: “Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, the right property just happened to come up and we felt cruise was going to come back in a big way.

“The market had become so disrupted and so many people were having bad experiences waiting for refunds or dealing with cancellations so we thought they’ll be a lot of people out there looking for somebody new who can offer a personal service.”

Jonathan and Robbie said they wanted to create a shop with a “community feel” where customers could speak to people face to face.

Robbie said: “People were losing money left right and centre and during the pandemic there was definitely a drive towards your local neighbourhood high streets.

“Since the pandemic travel has gotten very complicated so it’s nice for people to have a place they can come in and recognise who they are speaking to.”

Wirral Globe:

Taking the chance, Robbie and Jonathan decided to give The Cruise Room their all and spent 10 months working on the business project.

Jonathan said: “We wanted to create a shop that was very different to other travel agents and when you walk in it does feel like you’re on a cruise ship.

“We wanted to create that experience for customers so they feel how they will when they’re on the cruise.

“We always said if it worked out then amazing but if it didn’t then there’s no regrets and we wouldn’t spend our lives wondering what if?”

As well as creating a cruise experience, Robbie and Jonathan said it was important for the shop to be sustainable.

Robbie said: “The store is run on 100% green energy; with all the paper we use being recycled. We also use plant-based ink and have our monitors controlled on timers.”

Wirral Globe:

Robbie said that they have been “lucky” with how things have worked out.

He said: “Other travel agents are still struggling after 18 months of hell, trying to save jobs and recoup monies for their clients."

“Whereas we have started without that baggage. We can help people focus on their future cruises and bookings and concentrate on helping them make up memories they have missed. So we’re really lucky in that sense.”

Jonathan added: “The support from the local community has been really great.

“People were really pleased when they found out we were going to be opening a travel agency and we’ve already had lots of people come in and enquire.

“We want to support our local community and a lot of my old clients have followed us to this store which is really lovely.”