Is it absolutely necessary that you use a travel agent for a cruise? The answer to that really depends on a few factors. And there are regular cruisers on both sides of this issue.
It’s usually free to use a travel agent for all your cruise booking needs. And some people refuse to book any cruise without using their agent of choice.
So, are travel agents a must for every cruise?
Photo credit: Cruise Fever
We ran a recent poll on our Cruise Fever group on Facebook to find out how many people use travel agents.
Almost half of respondents said they never use a travel agent, and only 32% said they always used an agent for a cruise vacation. These were the results:
Yes, always – 32%
Sometimes – 22%
No, never – 45%
No but maybe I should – 1%
I was surprised at how many said they never use a travel agent at all. But with the points below in mind it makes perfect sense.
The average cruise traveler probably should use a travel agent for booking most cruises. They simplify the process, find the best deals, and take care of the little details that are easy to forget.
But there are a few circumstances in which a cruiser would be better off handling all of the cruise booking and planning themselves.
Let’s dig into 5 reasons you don’t need a travel agent as I prepare to receive negative feedback for daring to even question this topic.
The results from our recent poll. This is a private cruise group, but feel free to join here if you’d like
1. You love to do your own research as an independent traveler
Do you like to study deck plans when booking your cruise cabin? Do you spend countless hours watching cruise ship tour videos on Youtube? Do you keep up with the latest cruise news and consider yourself a cruise ship savant?
If so, you might actually enjoy being your own travel agent rather than being frustrated with one that doesn’t listen to your every whim and fancy.
I actually know several people who became travel agents just so they could book their own travels with a few perks.
Cruise lines make it very easy for anyone to book their own cruise on their websites. But there are a lot of little decisions you will have to make along the way. So, you should know what to look for and what things to avoid.
If you like to choose your exact cabin, pick what time you will have dinner, add your own excursions and extra amenities, you could easily do all of this yourself. Just know it will take a little more time and effort.
For some people, this time and effort is part of the adventure. I know, crazy as it sounds. Personally, as a cruise junkie, I enjoy the process, and I learn more about the little details by doing it myself.
Read more: Cheapest weeks of the year to book a cruise
2. You love to comparison shop
There are so many free tools at your disposal as a cruise traveler today. You can easily compare prices across cruise lines, cruise ships, and cruise itineraries.
I like to use tools like Cruisewatch.com, icruise.com, and Cruiseline.com to find cruises based on time of year, destination and departure ports.
CruisePlum has recently been on my radar as well, and so far it’s a wonderful tool for checking out cruises.
If you’re the kind of traveler that enjoys scouring the internet for good cruise deals on a daily basis, you might not need a travel agent. But you also should use cruise price alert tools like CruiseWatch offers, so you don’t have to spend every waking minute looking for price drops.
And contrary to common belief, the cruise fare price should be the same no matter where you book. Some cruise lines offer difference prices based on regions, but cruise lines set and distribute prices to travel agents and booking platforms alike.
The only caveat to that is group discount rates that some travel agents can access.
Also, some people like to comparison shop and then book through their travel agent, so there’s room for all types of travel planners.
3. You’re booking a dirt cheap cruise
I’m not saying a travel agent can’t help you with that very affordable cruise. It’s just that a $149 cruise doesn’t leave much room for commission. Most travel agents – while they will gladly book it for you without complaints – aren’t that motivated with helping you book a lower cost cruise.
Commission margins are very thin for cruises that sell for $40 and $50 per night. In other words, it’s a lot of work for very little reward.
Also, if you selected that deep-discount cruise because you want to spend as little as possible, you might also forgo any extra excursions, spa treatments, or other extra frills. This will make the planning process even easier.
And if you don’t care about your cabin’s location, but just want to be on the ship and enjoy some time away from land, it’s really not going to be that complicated.
I’ve booked cruises so cheap I didn’t even bother with travel insurance as it was a minimal risk if something came up. (More on sudden changes in travel plans later)
Read more: 10 biggest things that can ruin your cruise
4. You watch price drops and don’t mind being on hold
One of the biggest advantages of a travel agent is that a good one will set a price alert and get a cheaper price if there is a significant drop in the cruise fare.
Not everyone cares to keep up with something tedious like this, but there are many cruise price alert tools that will make this very simple and easy to setup. As mentioned above, you can simply get an email or notification when a price changes and act accordingly.
But there are many cases in which you will have to contact the cruise line via email or phone. And if you don’t want to spend time being on hold with a cruise line representative as you try to change something with your booking you might want a travel agent after all.
But hey, maybe you enjoy the dulcet tones of that “being on hold music” as you eagerly await a representative to talk to.
5. You’re fine with sudden changes in plans
This is the one that gets most people. If something happens on your end or the cruise line’s end and you have to address these changes, a travel agent can be a life-saver.
A travel agent for your cruise acts as a dedicated concierge and problem-solver, especially when unexpected changes pop up. They handle logistics and negotiate on your behalf. Imagine them tackling storm-induced route changes, sudden medical emergencies, or missed ports, all while keeping you informed and stress-free.
If you’re totally fine with sudden changes that may come up and want to tackle that all yourself, then you can act as your own travel agent if you choose.
For a lot of cruisers, this point alone is their main reason for having a travel agent.
A big reason you should use a travel agent for your cruise
If all of the above sounds like a lot of work, go ahead and get a travel agent.
Especially if you’ve never gone on a cruise before, all of the choices and planning can be overwhelming.
What I have found is that people who use travel agents for their cruises wouldn’t have it any other way.
While you can’t get deep discounts on cruises by using a travel agent, sometimes they will have special group discounts. On that note, if you do plan on going on a cruise with a group of people and want to stay together, you should definitely use a travel agent to handle it.
The logistics of getting cabins close together or reserving a large table in the dining room can be daunting.
Not only will travel agents take care of the itinerary planning and logistics, but they can also give you recommendations based on their expertise. That’s why I prefer only travel agents who specialize in cruising and actually know the ships.
How to find one?
There are lots of ways to go about finding a travel agent for your cruise, including checking review sites like Cruise Critic, asking family and friends, or getting recommendations from online booking sites.
CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) can help with finding a certified agent through their online tool here. This is one of the best ways to make sure you find an agent who really understands the cruise industry.
What to look for in a travel agent
Choosing the right cruise line and ship can make or break your vacation. That’s where a knowledgeable travel agent steps in. But how do you know they’re truly cruise savvy? Here are some key questions to uncover their expertise:
Frequent cruiser? How often do they personally set sail? Experienced cruisers bring insider knowledge you can’t find online.
Been there, sailed that? Have they cruised on your chosen line or ship? If not, have they helped clients with similar voyages who raved about it?
Destination guru? Do they have firsthand knowledge of your cruise destinations and itinerary? This goes beyond brochure basics.
Special connections? Do they have preferred relationships with specific lines that unlock VIP perks for you?
Big or boutique? Do they work with all lines or specialize in certain options, like luxury cruises? Know their niche and why it might benefit you.
Pushy salesperson or partner in planning? If they seem to pressure you away from your initial idea, explore why. A good agent guides, not steers.
24/7 support lifeline: Do they offer round-the-clock assistance if things go awry before or during your trip? Peace of mind is priceless.
Two-way street: Do they ask questions about your dream vacation? A good agent tailors recommendations to YOUR desires, not just sells generic packages.
Remember, the perfect cruise agent is your partner in planning, not just a booking service. Ask these questions and find someone who genuinely wants to create your ideal cruise vacation.
Bonus tip: Experienced agents might even score you a cabin upgrade.
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