Same or lower price, more added value and they have your back.
Not everyone knows that I started out as a cruise-oriented travel agency owner from my home in Michigan in 1992. I became a cruise junkie at age 8 but it wasn’t until a high school reunion that my friend Marci (who sold airline tickets from her home) told me that it was possible to be a home-based travel agent.
A few months later, after hanging around my neighborhood travel agency and sponging up all I could to book a cruise for clients, I opened my own agency.
Why am I telling you this? To let you know that I am well-versed in both sides of the business…from how to book your cruise direct through the cruise line, first as a consumer and then as a cruise seller.
So, to all of you Do-It-Yourselfers (that was me!), skeptics and control freaks, here’s why working with a cruise-oriented travel agent will save you money, time and even add unexpected perks and value.
Every day travel agents receive email updates from cruise lines. From health reports and new menus to refurbishments and changes in itineraries. Calling the cruise line directly to get all of this info takes time and quite often that person doesn’t know the answers.
Save time. Forget the DIY.
I know some people (true do-it-yourselfers) who hate to relinquish their vacation planning to someone else. But if time is money, if someone else can get you a better price with more value, plus offer insight into why or why not the ship you thought you’d like wouldn’t be a good match, then using a cruise-oriented travel agent is your smartest solution. You don’t need to spend hours every evening and weekend scouring the internet to book your cruise with the best deal.
Listen to what Nolan Burris, speaker-author-former travel agent has to say about this:
Travel agents have an inside track when they book your cruise.
All good travel agents have a close relationship with their salesperson (Business Development Manager) for each cruise line. I used to say that a BDM could pull a rabbit out of a hat. Just because the cruise line reservationist looks at a computer screen and says a certain type of stateroom isn’t available or the specialty restaurant is sold out, your travel agent’s savvy BDM can jump in and save the day. I have had it happen dozens of times.
Where are they?
The best way to find a really great cruise-oriented travel agent is a referral from friends or family. You can look on the website for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) to find a cruise-certified travel agent in your area. Head over to the American Society of Travel Agents and find a certified travel agent. Also check out TravelSense.org to find a travel agent that specializes in cruise vacations.
With everything done electronically, I’ve had clients from all over the world book cruises with me in years past. If your neighbor in San Diego has a terrific travel agent in Poughkeepsie, it doesn’t matter.
Whether the travel agent works in a storefront or is home-based, they all have access to the same pricing structure. Where the difference lies is how well they know their product, their cruise line representatives and their actual experience in the cruise industry.
Keep in mind that a travel agents who works in a 9-5 store front agency may not always be available should you have an emergency over the weekend. However, some of those agencies have a 24-hour support number.
You don’t save money when you book your cruise direct through the cruise line.
People still believe to book their cruise, if they do it themselves and go direct through a cruise line reservationist, they’ll save the money that would have gone to pay a travel agent. This simply isn’t true. In fact, a travel agent may have special access to lower rates, find onboard credits to redeem as cash on the ship or add a bottle of wine or Champagne. They can arrange a special celebration event, whether a birthday cake at dinner, cabin decorations or even a wedding at aboard ship or at sea.
Membership is everything.
Almost all travel agents belong to a travel consortium. Consortiums are huge travel companies that negotiate better rates, onboard perks and amenities with the cruise lines plus hotels and other travel-related venues. This can give a travel agent a huge advantage over someone who books direct with the cruise line. Just ask.
Hiccups, delays and unfortunate situations happen.
Before, during or even after your cruise, trouble can arise. If you booked with a travel agent (who also recommended travel insurance which you purchased) should something go sideways, you can contact them directly to help resolve the problem; your travel agent can intervene when you cannot.
Miss your flight and need new connections? Is your stateroom realistically unsatisfactory and the front desk won’t do anything? What about help filling out insurance forms after you return home? That’s only a fraction of what a travel agent is trained to do.
They can guide you to choose the best cruise line for you.
A good cruise travel agent has been on dozens of cruises as well as ship inspections in port. They know their ships and what the cruise experience would be like on a particular cruise line. They also have first-hand knowledge of the ports and shore excursion info gleaned from hundreds of clients and other travel agents.
Every year, travel agents meet with destination representatives at major industry events to learn what each port has to offer. Combine this knowledge with knowing what you’re looking for in your cruise vacation. It takes the guesswork out of choosing the wrong ship, cruise line or even itinerary.
Need I say more. As the expression goes, “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own.”
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath… stop for a meal and a glass of wine along the way.