15 years ago, there were 2 ways of booking a cruise, going through a travel agency or booking directly through the cruise line. Now there are dozens of travel websites (Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire etc) that offer the ability to book a cruise in 10 minutes from the comfort of your home.
There are many think that travel agents are no longer needed, but there are some great benefits with using one.
One reason for using a travel agent is for customer service on a first name basis. This is one area where the large travel sites are lacking. If you call them with a question, you are just another caller. They are also not as knowledgeable about specific cruise lines as an agent will be. Agents have the ability to do ship inspections and cruise lines many times will give them steep discounts to travel on their ships. They take advantage of these opportunities to learn the ins and outs of cruising and pass that information on to you. The workers in the call centers at the online travel sites are not offered this. For all you know, you could be speaking to a call center in India where the person has never even seen a cruise ship except in the pictures on their computer screen in front of them.
Whether you check the price of a cruise on the cruise lines website or on an online travel site, the price will likely be the same. The same is true with a travel agent’s price. All booking sites will generally match in price, similar to how prices for flights match across the web. Cruise lines set the prices for cruises and most do not allow anyone to discount them. However, travel agents who work at large agencies have groups on many cruises. They can often offer you the group rate which can save you money on booking and also give you added amenities like room credit.
For those that love the convenience of booking online but want the benefits of a travel agent, you can use an agency like KHM Travel. You get the ease of booking from your computer at any hour of the day and you will have a personal agent who will assist you with any help that you need. Even if you have already booked directly with your cruise line, you can have it switched over to your favorite agent as long as you have not already passed final payment. If you do go through a travel agent, you can not call the cruise line with questions or to make changes, you will have to go through your agent.
A good travel agent will also monitor the price of your cruise after you booked it with them. If the price drops, they will then be able to get you the lower price saving you money, or getting you the difference in stateroom credit. Not all cruise fares are eligible for these price drops, but most are.
Customer service and pricing are two great benefits of using a travel agent. Honestly, aren’t those the 2 most important?