Have you ever asked, “Should I use a cruise travel agent to book my cruise?” Or maybe, “Why should I use a travel agent to book a cruise when I can simply do it myself?”
There is a common misconception going around that travel agents have gone the way of the dinosaur and are not needed to book a cruise. After all, we have the internet and anyone can book that dream vacation themselves online.
Just yesterday when I posted online about using a travel agent to save both time and money and someone said to me, “Do travel agents still exist?”. Yes, travel agents still exist and are actually as important as ever when booking a cruise vacation. Here are 5 reasons why you should consider using a travel agent to book your next cruise.
The most important reason for using a travel agent is the one on one personal customer service that you will not get when using a discount travel site or online booking engine. A good cruise travel agent will be able to answer all of your questions and guide you through important steps such as choosing the right travel insurance that meets your specific needs.
Most travel agents today can be quickly reached through a phone call, email, or text message. If you are looking for great customer service, using an agent is the only way to go.
Knowledge of Travel Agents
When using a travel agent, you get free access to years of knowledge and experience that can help you pick the right cruise and cabin. Travel agents also keep up on any rule changes that cruise lines make (smoking on balconies, gratuity costs, dinner and drink packages etc) so you won’t have any surprises when you embark on your cruise.
Travel agents also are able to take ship inspections on cruise ships giving them valuable insight to a variety of ships. You can use the knowledge they have to make sure you book the right cruise. I know a couple who booked a cruise themselves and had a miserable time saying they will never take another cruise.
If they had used a travel agent, they would have known that the cruise they chose had much more a party atmosphere than the quiet, relaxing trip they were expecting. Travel agents will steer you towards the cruise that fits your expectations.
The Cost of a Cruise Travel Agent is NOT What you Think
A common myth is that using a travel agent will cost you more than booking it yourself. In reality, the opposite is actually true. Travel agents from large agencies will have hundreds of groups on various cruises. They can book you into these groups giving you the group rate that is not available to the general public. Added amenities are also commonly given to groups like onboard credit, free photos, bottle of wine, and complimentary dinners at specialty restaurants.
Travel agents receive emails daily from the cruise lines informing them of special promotions that they are offering. By using an agent, you can take advantage of the best deal using these promotions that you may have otherwise never have known about.
There is no surcharge when using an agent. This is something many ask when wanting to know a cruise travel agent’s rates. The agent will receive a portion of the cruise fare as their commission, but that comes out of the cruise line’s pocket and not yours.
Save Time with the Right Agent
Using a travel agent can save you a lot of research and time that you may not have. Tell your agent exactly what you are looking for and let them get back to you with several different options. They will use your interests, hobbies, and expectations to find the best fit for you. A travel agent may also interest you in a cruise that you may not have even known about. It’s easy to watch a commercial on TV and get so caught up in that cruise line being the best fit for you that you overlook a cruise line you never even heard of that offers exactly what you want in a cruise vacation, and at a cheaper cost.
Some Cruise Travel Agents Can Offer Free Upgrades
While cruise lines do not give any details about which guarantee cabins they choose to get free upgrades, my years of experience in the cruise industry have led me to believe that bookings through large agencies tend to get more upgrades. Again, I don’t have any insider information about this but I have seen a larger percentage of free upgrades from those who book through a travel agent than those who book online themselves.
Then again, maybe I have the luckiest friends and family in the world. Never book a guarantee cabin with the expectations of getting an upgrade from an inside to an ocean view or from an ocean view to a balcony. Always book a cabin you are happy with and if a free upgrade comes your way, enjoy it!
So How Do I Really Feel About Using a Cruise Travel Agent?
Travel agents are not going the way of the payphone, beeper, and CRT TVs. They are as important as ever and come at no additional cost to you. Don’t pass up the opportunity to lean on someone with years of experience and knowledge for your next cruise.
It is important to note that you should use an experienced and well-traveled agent. Don’t be afraid to ask an agent how many cruises they have been on and which cruise lines. If a travel agent has never been on a cruise, they will likely be of little help to you.
How to Choose the Best Cruise Travel Agent?
The variety of travel agents for cruises is greater than the varieties of ketchup made by Heinz. Here are some important qualities to look for before you book a cruise with an agent. This list might also bring up some questions you can ask a potential travel agent.
- First hand knowledge of the cruising industry or even the cruise ship that you are interested in sailing on.
- Make sure the agent is a member of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association). This is sort of a governing body of the cruise industry and if a particular agent is receiving a lot of complaint’s, CLIA can remove them from membership.
- Training from multiple cruise lines. It’s one thing if you are only interested in one cruise line, but if your agent is only knowledgeable about one cruise line, guess what? All of their recommendations will be with that line, even if another line is a better fit for you. Cruise lines offer training to travel agents that can be completed several times a year to stay up to date.
- Taking the time to get to know you. Any cruise travel agent can ask a series of questions and book you on a 7-nighter out of PortMiami. Find an agent who asks about your family, your interests, hobbies etc. Every cruise line has a certain specialty, and a travel agent who takes the time to get to know you will find that perfect vacation. You want your cruise travel agent to feel like a friend, not someone who just wants to make a business transaction.
Get Started Finding a Cruise Travel Agent Today?
If you are on this page because you are currently in search for a good cruise travel agency, you can use the tool below provided by CLIA to begin your search. While there are several other resources for finding a travel agent for your cruise, this one comes highly recommended.
Simply follow this link, input put your zip code, and enter the mile radius of your search. If you live in Miami your results may look something like this.
As you scroll down you will see a list of travel agents who are certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association). Next to the name of each travel agent you will then see a badge showing their certification level.
The below image is a screenshot taken at a given time, so make sure you do your own search as agents must maintain their certification in order to remain certified CLIA agents.
No matter the certification level of a cruise travel agent, the most important factor is still that the agent takes the time to listen and get to know you and your situation.
It should feel like you are talking to a friend — a friend that can save you a lot of time and money. The ease of making a simple phone call and allowing a cruise expert to take care of most of your vacation plans better than you could have done it? Well, that’s a win-win in my book.
When You Should Book a Cruise on Your Own
Are you a Do-It-Yourself-er who hates the thought of someone else doing what you could potentially do? Do you have plenty of time to do hours of research on pricing, ships, itineraries, price drops, etc? Do you love to plan? Are you a regular reader of Cruise Fever and feel like you’re unstoppable?
Then going it alone may be for you!
While travel agents have access to perks that the average cruiser does not have, some still prefer to book directly through the cruise lines and do all the planning on their own.
Just don’t be one of those travelers who complains about everything that happened on their cruise because they didn’t know what to expect. A direct-cruise-line-booking cruiser is someone who loves to hunt down a great deal, formats a plans to execute the perfect vacation, but learns to roll with the tide when it comes to changes and hiccups.
There are many benefits of using a cruise travel agent, but don’t let us stop you from going it alone if your sense of adventure is unquenchable.
Let us know if you’ve ever booked a cruise through an agent and what advice you might have for someone else looking to do the same. Scroll down to comment.