Why should I use a Travel Agent for a cruise?

Why should I use a travel agent for a cruise



“Why should I use a travel agent for a cruise?” is a question I got asked a hundred times when working for cruise lines. It’s a totally legit one too. We have so many options these days on how we book our holidays. The world of technology has made it super easy for everyone to think they’re their own best travel agent, and many of us really enjoy the planning process, scrolling through Insta, Pinterest or Online Travel Agent’s websites for inspiration.

When we can find a cheap deal online (we know it’s cheap, we’ve compared it ourselves!) and simply hit ‘book’, why should we bother bringing a third party into the picture to slow the process down and maybe miss out on that last available cabin?

Read on for the pros and cons…you may be surprised.

Pros:

Personal knowledge

Well, firstly, if you’ve never cruised before, booking one is a whole a different ball game. Travel Agents do this every day, they know exactly what is required as part of the process, such as what dining time you would like, which cabin you’d prefer, and where you’d like it located, do you want your beds together or apart, and are Pullman beds acceptable for your family, or do you need sofa beds? You may even find an agent who has cruised many times themselves, with their families (they receive industry rates to encourage this), or on a familiarization trip, so they are giving you first-hand experience.

Didn’t realise you needed to pre-book that new Jamie Oliver specialty restaurant? Your travel agent would have done that for you. How about your airport transfers? They automatically added that into your booking.

They may also throw a cruise line into the mix which you hadn’t thought about before, or they can correct a decision based on your niece Candice who had a ball on Carnival with her school mates and told you that you have to try them, when actually, Viking is probably more your style.


Check out my post Compare Cruise Lines – Large Ships and Compare Cruise Lines – Mid-sized Ships


Travel Agent

 

It doesn’t cost more!

When people ask ‘should I use a travel agent for a cruise?’ their main concern is whether they’re paying more to do so.

So many people believe that you pay more for an agent to book for you, but unless they have a service fee, you are actually paying no more than if you went to the cruise company direct. How do they do this? Agents make commission from the cruise line for making your booking. The cost to you as a customer doesn’t change.

To be honest, the agents who are charging the service fee can usually prove that they’ve saved you more than the fee is anyway.

And whilst we’re talking money, let’s address the elephant in the room. For everyone screaming at agents and being rude and abusive over their refund – your anger is completely misdirected. The agent isn’t holding your money, the supplier is. Your agent is working their butts off to get your money back, and they are doing it in a highly professional and efficient manner – which will be far more successful than your swearing and threats would do. #dontbethatperson #rantover

Special Deals

Travel Agents are kept up to speed with every deal available by their own cruise reps. Often, there will be many specials available at the same time, which can be challenging to decipher unless you have had a rep explain them to you, as they have. You may be looking at a couple of different cruises, one with an ‘OBC’ (on board credit) offer compared with a ‘free drinks’ package for another. Maybe that saving of $500 sounds amazing, when actually the ‘free flights’ are a better deal. Your agent will be able to tell you which is actually the best saving for you – and know how to apply it to your booking (seriously, those codes are nuts to understand!).

piggy bank




Direct Contact to Suppliers

Agents can contact their reps when things go wrong. You may have given your agent the wrong passport number, or forgot that whilst you call your husband Will, his legal name is actually William. This would usually cost you around $80 to change, unless your agent is able to contact their rep and persuade them to do it for free for you! These relationships are invaluable, and depending on the agent, they really can work miracles for you when needed.

They know when a better deal is around the corner

The other advantage that this Agent-Supplier relationship has is that they may know what offer is coming next. That 2-4-1 offer on kids bookings probably isn’t great for your romantic cruise for two, but if you wait another week, that same cruise could be changed to a $200pp saving instead. This is something kept secret from Joe Public, but for key Agents, they can get this exclusive ‘heads-up’ in order to prepare their marketing materials for it…and if you have a good relationship with your agent, they’ll let you in on the deal (just don’t tell the cruise line or their reps that your agent told you!).


Not sure which to book? Check out my post Cruise vs Resort – Get the Low Down


wine on cruise

Up to date knowledge

Travel Agents are inundated with Cruise Reps wanting to give them updates – I know, I’ve been one of those reps! We would book in breakfast trainings, from around 8am, to train the agents before they opened their stores, bribed with coffee and pastries! This generally covered everything from how to choose the right cruise for a newbie, to the latest ships being built, the renovations to older ships, the destinations they sail to (including highlights of these ports) as well as covering the special offers and how to apply to them to bookings. Joe Public may be able to read reviews on Cruise Critic, but they can never get this level of knowledge across all the cruise lines on such a regular basis.

meeting

Add-ons

With travel agents being experts in all areas of travel, they can quickly and easily add on your pre-cruise hotel accommodation, or recommend a post-stay in Bergen after your Norwegian Fjords sailing. Should there be any delays, they will be on the phone to the supplier to get it fixed, instead of you trying to find that free hot spot somewhere to make the changes via email.


Recommended reading: Top 10 Cruise Destinations You Need to Visit


Cons:

Finding the right agent

Sadly, just walking into your nearest travel agent and speaking to a novice on their first day may not give you the service you’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has to start somewhere so I’m not knocking them (and some are extremely experienced cruisers), but to get a lot of the benefits mentioned above, you really do need to use someone who has built those relationships with the major cruise lines and has cruised themselves to really know what they’re talking about.

cruise

Patience

Travel agents are not at your beck and call 24/7 (although some may feel like it!) so if you find that perfect cruise with only one cabin left, at 11.30pm, I can understand the anxiety of not just booking it. You will need some patience, your agent will get back to you as soon as they can, if you let them know what it is you need.

Transfers can also be possible, so if you’re thinking of a specific cruise and are in this situation, you may be able to book it directly, then take the booking to your agent to transfer to them to manage it. There are often a ton of terms and conditions with this though, so discuss with your agent first.


Are you a Travel Agent wanting to grow your business through social media? Follow me, Red Grape Social on Instagram and TikTok for free tips and advice!





Control

If you are a control freak like me, I can understand that you may feel anxious putting your dream holiday into the hands of someone else. There is nothing wrong with doing the planning yourself, and then handing over to the agent to make the formal bookings for you, and getting them to confirm everything back once done. This means you can still feel like you did the groundwork, but they take the ultimate responsibility!

However, do listen if your agent tells you that your suggested plans don’t work – they are the experts! You may think that an hour is a long enough transfer in Chicago airport, but when they tell you that you need a minimum of three hours, trust me, you’ll appreciate it when you’re still standing in immigration after 2 hours…

waiting at airport

Wrap Up

Surprised at the lack on Cons? Well, I truly believe that everyone should use a travel agent. As we sit in lock down, watching our travel dreams completely fall apart, travel agents are still working hard getting their client’s refunds back from hotels, airlines, cruise lines etc. They’re sitting on the phones for HOURS at a time, just to get one refund back…and they do this so that you don’t have to. Also, agents are invaluable to suppliers, they will ensure that they are looked after before Joe Public is, whether you like to believe that or not. Agents will fight your case and get you a better outcome than you will on your own.

So, don’t stop doing your research, gaining inspiration and putting together your perfect itinerary…but take it to your travel agent to book for you. You’re keeping the industry alive, helping agents feed their families, giving yourself peace of mind, and probably saving yourself money at the same time – it’s a win-win surely?

Let me know your thoughts on this post. Do you use an agent? Let me know why, either way, and feel free to share this post to anyone you think may find it useful (look at the social icons at the top of this page).

Thanks for reading – see you next time!

Wendy A

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6 comments / Add your comment below

    1. It’s great peace of mind isn’t it! Thanks for the comment, hope you’re both doing well 🙂

  1. Very good article comparing Pro versus Con of agency use.

    As you mention technology, among other things, I will chime in here- it’s no longer necessary and hasn’t been for close to 20+ years that there was exclusivity with Sabre/Worldspan/Apollo, etc., or other air booking portals.

    For air alone, it is exceedingly easy for someone to book on their own. Cruises/tours are arguably easy, but definitely take more research, or ought to.

    I think what is generally not a recipient of very much publicity is the fact that agents, while invaluable for experienced travelers, are not quite as necessary when someone does want that level of choice/control- such as picking a particular seat or grabbing “airfare“ with miles as soon as the booking window opens.

    For me, the most justifiable use of an agent is, after I’ve booked what I want (Cruise only, specifically)- to turn over that cruise booking to my agent. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement quite often- to support agents and build up their volume, while getting incentives in return.

    In Feb 1996, US Air was the first American supplier to cut agency commissions. Many airlines quickly followed suit, from 10% to 8%, etc. or eliminating them alltogether. TWA was the last one to reduce from 10%, and finally was bought out by American.

    Since the late 1990s, brick and mortar agencies have steadily declined in numbers- I’m ok with supporting them in other aspects of travel, but almost always, though, is through cruising. IMO, it tends to be more suitable for the novice traveler or those who prefer not to do their own research.

    1. Yes, sadly airlines no longer offer much to TAs, which is a shame, and if only booking a direct flight, I generally do book that myself, especially if it’s a domestic flight using points.
      Transferring your booking to an agent is a great idea, where possible. As you say, you have control of seats etc (although depending on the airline, agents can usually do that for you) but the agent also benefits – and can pass their benefits on to you.
      I think people often don’t realise the extra perks of using an agent, such as that welcome bottle of bubbles in your room, or the complimentary upgrades…until they use one and experience it themselves.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment – I’m glad my emails finally got into your inbox!

  2. I’ve used the same TA for probably over 20 cruises. Priir to that I shopped around for the one that would give me the best deal. My current TA guarantees the best price/perks on any cruise. Since we exclusively use Viking Ocean now, and Viking no longer allows TAs to discount, it boils down to shipboard credit. $2,000 shipboard credit is nothing to laugh at….covers gratuities, excursions etc. She is extremely knowledgeable and tenacious. Got us extra shipboard credit when our itinerary changed. Very happy with my TA.

    1. That’s great to hear Dobie, TAs really are awesome at what they do, take the stress out of your holiday planning and will generally get you awesome perks like your credit which you probably couldn’t have gotten yourself! 🙂

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