As a cruise specialist, one of the questions I hear most is “why should I book with a travel agent, when I can simply book directly on the web with the cruise line?” Great question. Purchasing a cruise or any vacation should be a personal experience, creating lifetime memories tailored to your desires. Hotels, air lines and resort destinations have unique personalities. Here is the short list of reasons to use a travel consultant that pertains to all types of vacation travel.
• We have answers to questions you don’t even know to ask
• We worry for you
• We make travel human again
• Expert advice, tailored for you
• We’ve got your back
• Consider us your personal trip insurance policy
• Keep calm and let your travel agent handle it
• Try calling the internet when your flight is cancelled
• We are here for you, even after the trip
• You don’t know what you don’t know — we do!
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 consultant 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.
All cruises vary, with the best cruise experience being one where the cruise ship and itinerary are matched to the client with his or her personality and interests in mind. While booking directly on the cruise line’s website may appear to be an easy process, do you really have all the facts to make an informed decision to book that cruise? Following are ten compelling reasons why you should book a cruise with an experienced travel consultant – specifically one that specializes in cruise travel.
1. You’re a first-time cruiser. You have always wanted to take a cruise, but simply don’t know where to begin. You’re befuddled by the all the choices: small ship, big ship, inside cabin, outside cabin, early dining, late dining, anytime dining and all the other variables that make up a cruise vacation. No wonder you’re in knots. An agent will help you sort through a sea of options and find the best ones that work for you.
2. Your time is precious. Who wants to spend hours sorting through the hundreds of cruise ship and itinerary options? An experienced agent will be happy to do the work for you — it’s what cruise counselors do. 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.
3. Complete door-to-door service. Do you need a ride to or from the ship? Air transportation? A hotel the night before or after your cruise? A shore tour? The cruise line will be more than happy to book these as part of a complete package, but your choices will be quite limited to whomever the cruise line contracts with. A cruise agent, on the other hand, has connections to many taxi companies, local tour guides, discount hotels and other resources that can save you money or provide service in line with your particular style.
4. Reliable Pricing. Have you ever logged on to a web-only cruise site to research pricing on a particular cruise? You’ll see one price listed, one for each cabin category. You say to yourself, great – I think I’ll book. However, in many cases that’s not the only price; there may be other promotion codes, as well, allowing for different rates for the same cabin. Travel agents receive emails daily from the cruise lines informing them of special promotions that they are offering. A knowledgeable agent will let you know whether any price discounting is available resulting from any special promotions, group pricing, or whether you might qualify for a past passenger rate, a military rate or other discount and/or added amenity. By using an agent, you can take advantage of the best deal using these promotions that you may have otherwise never have known about.
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 (or who book through a Host Agency) 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 shipboard credit, free photos, bottle of wine, and complimentary dinners at specialty restaurants.
5. Unbiased information. An independent agent is working for you, not a particular travel supplier or cruise line. While you are welcome to take advantage of all the services the cruise line will offer as part of a cruise package, the travel agent will help you find other alternatives if the cruise choices are not to your liking or you simply want to find ways to save money on your vacation.
6. Added amenities and reduced group pricing. Cruise agencies or in our case, Getaway Dreams Come True Travel’s Host Agency — Cruises and Tours Unlimited, will typically reserve groups of cabins and sell them to their clients at a reduced group-only rate and include other amenities such as on-board credit, a bottle of wine, free excursion, or any number of other gifts.
7. Personalized Service. Have you ever been frustrated with the 800-number large web-based agencies, waiting on hold, unreturned phone calls, or misinformation? In some cases, the representative you are dealing with has never stepped foot on a cruise ship and is just relating information from the cruise line’s website. A good, reliable agent will never leave you hanging, always return calls and e-mails promptly, and pass along information from both the cruise line and the agent’s own personal experience. A good agent knows what you are looking for in a cruise vacation and will make it happen in a friendly and professional way. 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.
8. Free Upgrades – While cruise lines do not give any details about which guarantee cabins they choose to get free upgrades, our years of experience in the cruise industry have led us to believe that bookings through large agencies tend to get more upgrades. Again, we don’t have any insider information about this but we 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!
9. Support Small Local Businesses. With thousands of agencies out there beckoning for your business – brick & mortar and on-line agencies alike – competition is fierce. Small, independent agencies – in business for years, with a loyal clientele – need to work hard to retain their place in the world of cruise selling. These mom & pop agents have access to the same resources as the big web agencies as well as personal experience and unmatched service you won’t find anywhere else. The next time you call 1-800 Big Cruise Company, keep in mind that you may be taking business away from the guy around the corner trying to feed a family. Generally, 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.
10. Transfer your direct-with-cruise-line booking to a travel agent. Did you know that if you find an agent you really like but have already booked direct with the cruise line, that you can transfer that booking to the agent? Simply let the agent know, and he or she will take care of the whole process. Your cruise stays exactly the same, you will receive great service, the agent will get a commission, and everyone wins!
Although the reasons shown above pertain mostly to cruises, you can be sure that any type of travel benefits from a consultant’s experience, ideas and suggestions. An agent always has your back. If any problems should arise before or during your vacation, a good agent will advocate on your behalf. See the list following this blog of additional blogs relative to cruising.
A recent study by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) showed that nearly 60% of millennials who used a consultant felt their vacation was better because they had a professional to guide them, with 53% of generation X and 58% of baby boomers agreeing. When asked why they chose to use a travel agent, three out of four people surveyed said they liked the convenience of having an expert do the planning, and they believe that travel agents have a better knowledge of destinations. It goes to show that clients of any age can appreciate the value of our expertise.
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. Agents are always updating their knowledge by online training with the individual cruise lines and they 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. Travel agents will steer you towards the cruise that fits your expectations, so that if you don’t want a party atmosphere, but expect a quiet, relaxing trip that is what they will book for you.
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.
We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Agency pride ourselves in taking care of our clients’ complete needs; that includes contacting us for any changes up until departure and also for questions or issues en route. Please contact us at 724.752.2655 or go to Getaway Dreams Come True and leave your contact information. You will be glad you trusted us with this important decision!
Our owner has sailed on more than 25 cruises and has obtained the designation of Certified Cruise Counselor from CLIA, the cruise industry’s regulatory agency. She has also been awarded the Certified Travel Associate designation by The Travel Institute.
Please see our blog post Introduction of Myself and Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Agency.
Mimi Auchter, Owner, Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Agency
See additional blogs relating to cruising: