Cruise.co.uk gets new investment, plans international expansion

Online cruise website, Cruise.co.uk, has secured new investment from private equity firm, Risk Capital Partners, which will become the majority shareholder in the specialist agency.

Without disclosing the value of the investment, Cruise.co.uk said that the investment would add impetus to its plans to expand in the UK and overseas, particularly in the Irish and Australian markets. Cruise.co.uk has served 65,000 customers and generated revenue of £64 million in the last year.

The investment move is Risk Capital Partners’ first in the travel sector. Chaired by Luke Johnson, the company has previously owned the restaurant chains, Giraffe and Pizza Express.

Cruise.co.uk managing director, Seamus Conlon, said that the company had looked for an entrepreneurial VC with a proven track record of developing companies.

Conlon said: ‘We have spent some time getting to know Risk Capital Partners and are excited they have decided to invest in our business. Their acumen and results in the leisure space will be of huge value to us and we look forward to their expertise helping to shape the future of the business. We are well placed to take advantage of these shifts, and help customers and staff get together to share their experiences.’

Johnson said: ‘As more people research online, leading websites have engaged with users and harnessed social media techniques.

‘Cruise.co has a wealth of content in addition to market leading prices. There is as a great opportunity to replicate this model into international markets where cruising and online research are growing rapidly.’

The new investment represents the second private equity investment in the company after a management buyout from previous owner, Carnival Corporation, was backed by venture capitalists, Forward Group, in 2007.

Since the 2007 buyout and a change of name from Victoria Travel to Cruise.co.uk, the specialist agency has grown rapidly, with a focus on user-generated content. Cruise.co.uk has more than 200,000 reviews and opinions on its website and has more than 85,000 members on its cruise discussion forum. When it acquired the cruises.co.uk domain name, it was the most expensive URL in the UK.