Planning a cruise vacation is much like planning any other type of travel. Find it, book it, pay for it then go and have a good time. First-timer or seasoned cruisers, most of us fit into one of several categories. Each group goes about the planning process differently. Because they do, advice for how to get the most out of their preferred booking method varies. Here, we identify each group and detail advice for each.
Those who choose to do it all on their own– These are people that commonly book their own airfare and consider online buying their number one source for any purchase, not just travel. These people may have had good luck planning in the past with online booking so they see no reason to contact either the cruise lines directly or a travel agent.
Good advice for this group of travelers is to use multiple online sources, not just one. Websites know when we visit multiple times, what we are looking for and often adjust pricing accordingly. A best bet: search in an ‘incognito’ mode and never, ever sign up for newsletters or special offers. All that really does is give that service provider notice: I’m a serious buyer.
Those who choose to let a travel agent handle everything for them– These people probably have the best time of all on a vacation because they don’t get involved in any of the planning details and fully relax. They don’t bring cell phones or computers along, never think about work or land-based concerns and generally have a great time and are willing to pay more for that luxury. There are times when I am jealous of these people.
Good advice here begins with finding a ‘good’ travel agent. But how to find one? Asking a friend who has developed a long term relationship with an agent is a good idea. Plan on doing that yourself too. This might take some trial and error. Still, there are a lot of steps between “I think I want to go on a cruise” and paying the deposit. If the feeling is not good, move along to another agent.
Those who choose to share the responsibility with a travel agent– First time cruise travelers probably fall into this group one way or another. They may have started out choosing to do planning on their own then quickly realized going that way was not for them. They may have learned from experience that there are advantages to using an agent vs. directly with the cruise lines.
They might be just savvy enough to know that having an advocate on their side to handle and watch over bookings is a good idea.
A bit different than the traveler who lets the agent handle everything, the responsibility for planning is shared. Going the shared responsibility route, this traveler has an idea of what they want to do in mind before contacting the agent. They then pick that agent’s brain, mining for information and/or running their thoughts by this travel professional to see if there are any red flags in the general plan.
Those who will never sail- To some travelers the idea of travel via any cruise ship on any of the cruise lines is just a distasteful way to go. They fail to see the distinct advantages that cruise travel offers over many other ways to go. They are commonly younger, more mobile, and enjoy traveling by themselves. Camping, hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, and other activities not possible via cruise ship are common interests.
Interestingly, this group was formerly made up of millennials and adventure travelers who looked down on travel by ship as ‘not really traveling’. My how that has changed as this same bunch has realized the superior value offered by cruise travel compared to visiting the same places without the ship. Regardless of how they went about traveling before, cruising almost always proves to be the more efficient travel option.
Chris Owen shares frank, inside information about cruise vacations on ChrisCruises.com.