I received a cruise newsletter for "industry insiders," that noted a market study on cruisers' perceptions on the best way to buy
a cruise. I was surprised at how misguided some people appear to be about this, even in this day of readily available information.
CruiseMates is an online cruise magazine, we do not sell any cruises at all. Even our group cruises are handled through an outside agency and unlike similar cruise communities, we don't care to make a profit from our readers. This means we have no stake it what we are saying other than our goal to give you the best possible advice on how to buy a cruise.
The study noted that only 78% of cruisers say they book "some" of their cruises with travel agents, down from 88% five years earlier. Most disquieting, 56% of people responded they believe they can get a better price on a cruise if they book it on their own - without the help of a travel agent.
The absolute truth is that the best prices one can find for cruises will be through the cruise specialist travel agencies - many of whom have been in the business since long before the Internet. These agencies can and will get you the same price you would get by booking directly with the cruise line every time, and in many cases they will beat the direct price or offer you additional perks the cruise line would not give you.
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In addition, when you use a travel agency you get the service the agent offers along with the cruise documents. If you have a problem or need to make special arrangements the agent can fulfill your needs, and will.
So, the question is, "what kind of misinformation or misperceptions do cruise buyers have about travel agents?" We suspect they don't understand that the cruise lines pay the full commission of the travel agent, it is not charged to the customer at all. When you book a cruise through an agent, all of your money goes directly to the cruise line and the agent is then paid a commission by the cruise line at a later date. It is not a "retail, resell" business where the agents buy wholesale and resell at a higher price.
Part of this misconception may be due to the fact that travel agents are not paid commissions on airfare. Therefore, many agents invoke a service charge for selling you an airline ticket. This even includes the big sellers of air travel on the Internet. But cruises are different, the cruise lines pay them and if a travel agent is charging you anything at all for getting you a cruise ticket then you need a new travel agent.
It is important to understand that not all travel agents are the same. We highly recommend looking at our "bargains" newsletters (sent out on Tuesdays) to find the best cruise-specialist agencies. Finding a good agent takes research, but you can find out how to pick a travel agent by reading the articles in CruiseMates' Consumer Affairs area. There isn't a single aspect of cruise sales in there we haven't covered - there may be more than you will ever need to know. But one thing is sure, you will know how to buy a cruise when you are done reading.
And by the way - when you see our ads from the cruise lines in our pages, if you see a price you like you can easily call your travel agent and say, "I see Royal caribbean is selling a 4-night cruise for $249. Can you get that for me?" and they should say "no problem." If they say they can get it but not at that price, think about getting a new travel agent.
However, if they say, "Are you sure you want that cruise? Royal Caribbean has a terrific deal on 7-night cruises as well" then that agent is doing their job in looking out for your best interests. A good cruise agent knows where the best deals are all the time. Listen to them, you'll be glad you did.
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