From time to time people tell me they simply don’t use travel agents. That’s ok, I’ll tell them, I’m a cruise agent. Is there a difference, they ask? At that point, I can tell they haven’t cruised much.
It’s somewhat true that travel agents have gone the way of Betamax and tube TV’s. There are dozens of websites from Expedia.com to Kayak.com and Hotels.com to Trivago.com that can get you great deals on airfare, rental cars, and lodging (usually at the sacrifice of live customer service). But these particular aspects of travel have become commoditized: we all simply want to get from A to B for the best price. Selecting a cruise vacation is a lot more complicated, which is why I’m a cruise agent, not a travel agent.
Hey, I definitely “get” not wanting to use a travel agent. We’ve traveled all over the world the last 4 years, visited 40 countries and 40 states. Not once did we book airfare, rental cars, or lodging with a travel agent. But we’ve also taken a dozen cruises, and not once have we not booked with a cruise agent.
The reasons are that cruises aren’t commodities. They’re all-inclusive vacations with way more options than whether you fly coach or business class or whether you can score an upgrade to a full-size vehicle. Even comparing two identical itineraries from two different cruise lines can get confusing when the incentives each offers run from free airport transfers to onboard credits, not to mention, shore excursions, internet, and drink packages (just to name a few)!
Savvy cruisers always use cruise agents, and here are 9 reasons why.
Cruise Agents Have Clout
Believe it or not, most cruises today are still sold by cruise agents. The cruise industry is a $35B industry (and growing). That means cruise agents account for a lot of sales revenue and gives cruise agents plenty of clout with the cruise lines. So when cruise agents need help from a cruise line, we get concierge treatment, much better even than the average cruiser. After all, the cruise lines want happy, satisfied agents recommending and selling their product.
Cruise Agents Work For You
As an agent, we cruise agents represent you, not the cruise lines. This gives us the leeway to recommend a different cruise line if we think you’re better suited elsewhere. And it gives us the flexibility to recommend products and services that the cruise lines don’t have any interest in recommending to you. If we don’t think you’ll enjoy a cruise line, a ship, an itinerary, or a sail date, we’ll tell you.
Cruise Agents Focus On Your Cruise
Where travel agents want you to book everything with them, cruise agents focus entirely on the centerpiece–and most expensive part–of your vacation, the cruise itself. While most cruise agents can actually help you with airfare, rental car, and lodging, their focus is on the cruise. Cruise agents can also just make flight, car, or hotel recommendations and you can use your favorite booking engine to book those things yourself if you prefer.
Cruise Agents Don’t Cost More
It’s a common misperception that booking through a cruise agent will cost more than booking online or booking directly. The reality is that the online booking service you use or the cruise line agent you call both get the same commission as an independent cruise agent. And the fares you see online with the cruise lines are the same fares an agent will quote you. Cruise agents never cost more, and in fact can save you money (read on).
Cruise Agents Get Special Deals
Because of the clout that agents have with cruise lines, the cruise lines will often offer them incentives even their own call centers can’t match. Also, independent agents usually work together in cooperatives (known as host agencies) that often buy cabins in bulk on many cruises and pass those savings on to customers. We at SeaEscapes actually participate in two such cooperatives, meaning we can always get you the best cruise fare possible.
Cruise Agents Want Long Term Clients
Most online travel agents or cruise line call center agents don’t stay in those jobs very long: the good ones “go independent”. This means you usually can’t expect to build a relationship with the agent that books your cruise. Independent cruise agents, however, want to work with long-term clients. Cruise agents, therefore, keep track of your preferences and strive to deliver great service so you’ll book your next cruise with them.
Cruise Agents Do The Research For You
When you contact a cruise agent, the good ones are going to ask a lot of questions about what sort of vacations you like. It might actually feel a bit like an interview. Using the information from that conversation, your cruise agent will research all of your options. If you call a cruise line’s help desk, at best you’ll only get that cruise line’s options, and at worst you’ll get prioritized below the people ready to book that day. And obviously if you’re booking online and need help with research, you’re going to wind up calling an agent anyway.
Cruise Agents Know All The Payment Options
If you book online, you’ll only be offered one payment option: a deposit today by credit card with the balance charged at a specific date. If you call the cruise line’s call center you’ll probably get a similar option. But independent cruise agents often have access to more payment options. More flexible payment plans are one of those perks the cruise lines sometimes give exclusively to cruise agents.
Cruise Agents Are, Well, Agents. Your Agent, Actually
The word agent implies that you have a person working for and representing you. When booking online or directly with a cruise line you are investing a lot of money in an expensive vacation without independent representation. Cruise agents represent you before, during, and after your cruise, helping you understand the fine print, being on call during your vacation, and acting as your representation after the cruise should any questions or problems have arisen on your cruise. For the amount of money your cruise vacation costs, doesn’t it make sense to have an advocate on your side?
It’s for all of these reasons that we, as savvy cruisers, always use a cruise agent. A cruise vacation is simply too expensive, with too many options, to not appreciate the free assistance of an independent cruise agent. At SeaEscapes, we’re not only cruisers, we’re true travelers with a passion for exploring the world. Please consider us when booking your next cruise vacation: you’ll leave for your cruise as a client, but you’ll return as a friend.