In our series on Choosing The Right Cruise Line, we talked about common elements among cruise line, what we called the Core Experience as well as some important factors to consider up front that normally get looked at down the road.
Right about here is when the topic of Travel Agents comes up.
Your Travel Agent can help with finding the best ship and sailing for you. By asking questions similar to what we are talking about here, they’ll know what you are looking for and be able to match you with a cruise line that has the best odds of being a good fit. If you don’t have a travel agent, look for one that sails a lot. They will have first-hand, current information on what is being offered on board cruise lines right now, not what a certain cruise lines reputation is. That’s important because when it comes to on-board experience, reputation can be misleading.
Beware of reputations- Carnival, for example, is known as the “party ships” made for a younger crowd of care-free happy-go-lucky guests on the high side to a “floating frat house” on the low side…for some, for others reverse that. In reality, a cruise can be either of those or none of those, a lot depends on who is sailing at any given time. Still, some generalities apply and Carnival has marketed itself as the “Fun Ships” for decades with a clear message that is more than just a slogan; they really do know how to have fun on Carnival…for everyone. The did not become the most popular cruise line in the world on the backs of (just) drunken frat parties.
Want to know more about a cruise line? Look at them from an investors point of view. Strip away all the hoopla, advertising and public relations information and look at the cold hard facts.
Want to know more about a potential travel agent? Ask some questions that will either have them running for the hills or firing back some honest answers:
- If the price goes down later and I qualify for that lower price, will I get it? This is one of the biggest benefits of using a travel agent vs going it on your own. A good agent watches pricing, has no problem passing along 100% of any savings that come along and has a clear, easy-to-understand policy. In some cases, a lower price offered in the future may not be applicable like sale with restrictions, or a Senior rate and you’re 35. In other cases, the cruise line may have rules that prohibit fare changes, much like airlines do. But you should get a good feeling about the answer to this question from a potential travel agent. You may have received some benefits from booking with a certain agent that have value. If the price of your cruise goes down more than the value of your benefits, expect those to be renegotiated. Travel agents often give up part of the commission paid them by the cruise line, when possible, in the form of onboard credit or other perks. If, for example, an agent gives you $100 onboard credit then the price of your cruise goes down $400, you may be in a situation where you have to make the no-brainer decision to take the $400 price reduction or the $100 onboard credit but not both. Thats only fair and your good agent will advise you appropriately
- What should I expect from you after the booking is made? Internet Cruise Brokers will say “A bill?” Your good travel agent will say things like “You will deal with me exclusively”, “We have lots of information for you”, “We’ll be there every step of the way with you” or if you’re really lucky “We think our job begins with the booking and continues for life” There are a lot of agents out there that you won’t hear again after the booking is made until it’s time for final payment. You want to avoid them if possible. You want someone or some agency that is obviously looking to build an honest, long-term relationship with you that will indeed last a lifetime. Ask your friends who have cruised. They may have an agent who is just wonderful and will appreciate your business. Stay far far away from agents who use the word “cheapest” at all. Hang up on them and find one that instead focuses on “value” which is what its all about on cruise vacations from beginning to end.
A good travel agent not only costs you nothing, they can reap huge rewards in dollars and cents as well as make for a fabulous vacation experience. Next time we’ll get into who has that best experience for you.
- Cruise Travel Agent vs. Internet Cruise Broker (chriscruises.net)
- 6 cruise vacation myths exposed, just in time for Christmas shopping (chriscruises.net)
- Galveston Island gets ready for Carnival Magic…and friends (chriscruises.net)
- Hit any icebergs lately? Frank talk about cruise vacations (chriscruises.net)