CHOOSING A TRAVEL AGENT..or...WHY DO YOU EVEN NEED ONE?

OK...you're a newbie...mebbe you've cruised once, or never...everybody starts someplace..you can get advice from lots of sources...sometimes from people who don't know what they're doing either. Cruiseline websites and deckplans can be daunting...until you get used to them. T/A's can speak in tongues..sometimes you have a ton of questions and they don't have a ton of time..NEXT!!...you bump into people who claim to get all kinds of "stuff", either from the cruiseline or their T/A..and you got what? Sometimes you meet folks with a better cabin or packages that you didn't know existed.... Lets all remember what it was like in the beginning...your best advice?

20 Answers

Excellent post JOHNG...and kind of "old school" if I may say. Personal contact is usually the best..and kind of a lost art.

Nope. First we find the ship and itinerary. Then we find our cabin location. Then we contact the agent.

Nice thing about cruising is, you can plan it all yourself, plan most of it, or let a TA do the heavy lifting. Either way, you get to cruise!

You are lucky to have found someone like this. The last time I talked with a TA, they were appalled we were interested in cruising Carnival. This was years ago and I almost reached out to the Mother of a dear friend, until he said she wouldn't even consider booking us on Carnival. Moral to the story, if you are lucky enough to be able to meet someone that you can work with...do it.

We started with a TA because I won the first cruise and a TA was part of the package. She was in Florida and we are in Colorado. She left that business and her replacement wasn't interested in helping me. She did call from her new place, but it just wasn't working long distance. We found working directly with the cruise line works for us (no I don't get some of the gifts, but I'm OK with that). If I ever NEED a TA, there is one on this forum I would reach out to, unless I meet someone local that I really click with.

Agree - we do the same thing - 2 TAs. We think a TA can be most helpful with group prep when you're trying to get a number of rooms in a particular area. I've also booked directly with the line - but then turned over to a TA and received a little more OBC from their side. We have been finding it increasingly difficult to get satisfactory service with the cruise lines directly on the phone - long holds - drops - not understanding our request. That's probably the primary reason we use the TA - they can stay on hold with the cruise line instead of me.

I have used a TA the last 10 years for my cruises. We do a Thanksgiving cruise every year and our TA is amazing getting it all set. We are a large group (25-35) so using the TA is great. He gets all the bookings made and coordinates Thanksgiving dinner at one of the specialty restaurants. I have also used if when just sailing with immediate family. I much prefer to contact him when I have questions about the cruise rather that the cruise line. I have however booked a few short (3-4) day cruises on my own.


Because my TA always comps me a specialty restaurant voucher, and depending on length of cruise, an extra $50-$300 OBC, over above what OBC and perks I receive from the cruise line. Sometimes a better price as well.

Wow, lotta thoughts going on in this topic. I’ll try to add a few things.

~ Pricing: the cruise lines endeavor to create a level playing field, so you should never find a better deal direct than what an agent can get. Agents will often have in-house promotions or will have held cabins months (or years) in advance that will give them a price advantage over booking direct.

~ Promotions: different agencies will have different promotions at different times, it should all even out in the long run. However, agents will often have access to cruise line promotions a day or two before the general public, giving a leg up and better cabin availability over booking direct.

~ Price changes: a good agent will have a computer program that will monitor any price changes. If it’s just a price drop before final payment, they should adjust it and notify you. However, lower prices often mean giving up perks that were included at the price you paid; maybe a better deal, maybe not. The agent should let you know the details so you can decide. Occasionally price drops are for new bookings only and there’s nothing you can do. That said, any time you see a deal on a cruise you have booked, you should reach out to your agent and ask about it. A good agent will happily check any promotion you find and let you know if it applies to your booking.

~ Extras: travel agents will often provide a small gift for booking with them, usually in the form of treats in your cabin or an on board credit, but it’s best not to expect this. If you got a smokin’ deal, they may not be able to afford to give you anything. A short Bahamas cruise may not get an extra, but a luxury world cruise probably will.

~ Finding an agent: that’s the best question here, and there’s no simple answer. A recommendation from a friend or an online referral is a great place to start, but even if that connects you with a great agent, they may not be the right agent for you. You need to be comfortable with your agent and they need to connect with you. If you need to meet face-to-face, you limit yourself to local agents. In this age of the internet your perfect agent may be several time zones away, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the travel specialist who will make your vacation dreams come true.

~ Choosing an agent: conventional wisdom says you should ask a lot of questions, but in reality, if you start out vague when talking to a new agent, it’s the questions they ask you that will build that all-important relationship. Don’t be alarmed when they ask for legal names and birthdates. This is just so they can hold no-obligation options when a good deal pops up – sometimes it really is the last room. Other questions a good agent will ask you: Where have you traveled in the past? What did you like most? What didn’t you like? Questions such as, What hotels do you stay at? or, What restaurants do you like? will help determine what cruise line may fit you best. Hobbies, interests, and who you’ll be traveling with are all relevant questions. Some cruise lines are more conducive to traveling with groups than others.

~ Product compatibility: I am horrified when I hear someone was told by a travel agent that they refuse to sell a particular product. That agent is a fraud, plain and simple. Every product is the right fit for the right client. The travel agent’s job is to make that match.

~ Agent communication: your travel agent should be willing to communicate with you in whatever way is most comfortable to you. Telephone, email, text message, Facebook messenger, whatever – they should be willing to respond. Sometimes the agent will need something in writing (email, for now) and sometimes it may be easier to work things through by talking (telephone) but it is the agent’s obligation to communicate with you how you wish.

~ Issues while traveling: a good agent will have a network of support for their clients when appropriate. If the agent is not available themselves, they should have associates, insurance providers, suppliers and host agencies ready to step in and support their clients as needed.

After all this typing, I’m thinking this post will become a blog in the near future, so, as always, all questions and comments are absolutely welcome!

WECRUISETOO: absolutely spectacular post. ought to be required reading...anyone who even THINKS about a cruise should read it. TWICE!!!...don't want to scoff at folks who think they're getting "stuff" from TA's..mebbe they do...more likely they would've got it anyway..and, as far as Im concerned, unless your brother-in-law is in the bizness, I'll just keep doing it my way. again..GREAT POST!!!

Thanks WCT. That was all excellent info. That stuff would make a great article for Cruiseline.com

WeCruiseToo, this is why when I need a TA, I know who to contact. This is a great "blog" article. Thanks for posting. I was hoping you would chime in on the discussion.Love

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