A COLCHESTER cruise firm is sailing smoothly through the recession and is now planning further expansion, after moving to plush new offices.

Reader Offers Ltd’s turnover has risen from £50million to £120million in the past 30 months.

It has now invested some of its profits in a £600,000 refit of Lexden House, in London Road, Lexden, where it has relocated from its old HQ on East Hill.

The number of staff on the payroll has grown from 34 to 104 since 2007 and it is looking to take on even more workers to help keep up with orders.

Mel Childs, the company’s head of finance, said: “Cruises are most popular with retired people with guaranteed pension income, so the economic decline has failed to make a dent in growth.

“We now represent 50 per cent of the cruise advertising in the national media.

“We are probably one of Colchester’s best-kept secrets.”

The company books thousands of berths with cruise firms such as Fred Olsen and Cunard and both lines were represented at yesterday’s official opening of Lexden House by Colchester mayor Henry Spyvee.

Most of its business comes in via full-page adverts in national newspapers and through direct marketing to previous customers.

Managing director Peter Beadles believes good service is the key. The new office’s call centres are even equipped with giant screens which flash red, if a caller is waiting more than two minutes.

Lexden House, a former manor house has previously been used by the NHS and as a council office. It has now been brightly decorated with pictures of cruise destinations and old photos of film stars aboard ocean liners. It even has a croquet lawn out front.

Mr Childs said the future for the company looked rosy.

He added: “As well as older people, cruises are more popular with families now, perhaps because they are usually all-inclusive.

“You pay your money and everything is thrown in.”

The firm is keeping one of its two former offices on East Hill as a back-up centre.