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 vacation. Here are 5 reasons why you should consider using a travel agent to book your next cruise.
Customer Service – 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 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 – 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.
Price – 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. 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 – 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.
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 oceanview or from an oceanview to a balcony. Always book a cabin you are happy with and if a free upgrade comes your way, enjoy it!
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.
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