Purchasing a cruise vacation is very simple to do, especially considering all of the different ways a booking can be made. Toll-free cruise line reservation centers, staffed by hundreds of cruise vacation planners, and a myriad of cruise line websites make researching availability and pricing quick and easy to do. Additionally, entering personal information, confirming details and making payments are standard and straightforward processes.
Ensuring that one’s cruise vacation will be successful, however, is another thing altogether. Cruise bookings are entirely different from airfare ticketing, rental car arrangements and hotel reservations, which, in most cases, require little to no professional training or experience to safeguard a pleasant and trouble-free experience. Cruise bookings require a heightened consideration of the many details, one that can surely benefit from a knowledgeable travel agent.
The following seven reasons explain how using a travel agent can help ensure a successful cruise, each and every time:
- Valuable Expertise – Experienced and professional travel agents (seek out CLIA-certified cruise agencies and counsellors) offer their clients valuable expertise to help create enjoyable and hassle-free cruise vacations. Sound advice on topics such as: the best time of year to sail in a particular region; which itineraries are best suited to a client’s interests; how certain cruise lines and ships match up with a client’s expectations; and strategic stateroom selection (vitally important to a successful cruise experience) is essential information that can be used to a client’s benefit. Other areas of travel agent expertise include organizing group cruises for clubs and organizations, catering to special interest clientele and providing unique, personal insight into ports-of-call and shore excursions.
- Exclusive Offers – Many travel agencies are affiliated with larger travel organizations–sometimes referred to as ‘consortia’–offering their clients exclusive offers and significant advantages. The massive buying power and organizational stability of these billion-dollar travel agent networks benefits their clients with attractive group rates, special amenity inclusions and 24-hour client support.
- More Insurance Options – Booking directly with a cruise line gives a person one–and only one–choice as far as travel protection (insurance) is concerned. This is another area where a travel agent can provide great value. Many travel agencies offer policies available through trusted third-party insurance companies. Representing these insurance products, travel agents can help clients compare the differences between the coverages offered by a cruise line’s insurance product and those of their third-party partners, leading a client to make an informed decision.
- Additional Loyalty Benefits – Being a loyal client to a travel agency can, in many cases, have its own benefits. While cruise lines offer branded loyalty programs with useful and valuable benefits, many travel agencies and travel agent organizations also offer their own proprietary loyalty programs. Dealing with the same travel agency, year after year, can be an opportunity to enjoy an additional layer of loyalty benefits, on top of those furnished by the cruise line, at no additional cost.
- Important Notifications – In today’s lightning-fast world of instant information, delivered by multiple platforms, oftentimes notifications get lost in a traffic jam of content. This is an area where travel agents are worth their weight in gold. Part of their responsibility to clients is to notify them of any changes to their travel arrangements, such as itinerary changes, weather advisories, labor disputes and political unrest. Cruise lines notify their travel agent partners of the latest developments affecting their mutual clients’ travel plans. The onus is on the agent to immediately contact clients to pass along vital information.
- Advocacy/Leverage – One never likes to consider the possibility that something might go wrong on his or her cruise, but things do happen from time to time. In those rare instances, a travel agent can be an effective advocate on a client’s behalf. Resolution of issues and restoring client satisfaction is something that an experienced travel agent is skilled at facilitating, whereas an individual might not know where to even start. Additionally, a travel agency represents a much greater piece of business to any cruise line than does an individual. That difference typically translates into client-beneficial leverage in resolving any matters.
- Free of charge – It is unbelievable how many people do not know that there is normally no cost associated with working with a travel agent. While some boutique, luxury and specialty travel agencies charge a fee for professional services, the overwhelming majority of agencies and agents work only on commission (which comes out of the cruise line’s pocket and does not affect client pricing). Some agencies charge service fees for cancellations, to recoup the cost of their time, but the trend is that this practice is counterproductive, so fewer agencies are assessing these types of fees.
Considering all there is to gain from building a loyal client relationship with a capable, experienced and professional travel agent, the other ways of booking a cruise seem almost nonsensical. While these seven examples represent the leading benefits and advantages of working with a travel agent, one additional benefit–dealing with an actual human being and putting a real face on your vacation investment–remains the most valuable of them all.