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How To Book A Cruise

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The most important thing to know about booking a cruise is there is much more to do than simply booking a cruise.

There are literally thousands of travel agents, and hundreds of online booking engines,  where one can book their cruise. And there is also the option of booking your cruise directly through the cruise line sale representatives.

 There are also hybrids; where travel agencies have their own online booking engines, and cruise line web sites, where you can book your cruise directly with the cruise line, without communicating with any representative.

I firmly believe the #1 mistake, even by very experienced cruisers, is to handle their own bookings, without the aid of a trained and experienced travel agent. Yes, I understand there is growing trend for people wanting to book directly through the cruise lines, either in consultation with members of the cruise line’s sales teams, or on the cruise line web sites.

The most commonly heard reason for doing so is people say they want to be in control of their own booking. And it is true that if you book with a travel agent, the cruise lines will not discuss your booking or any changes you might want made to it with your directly; any inquiries or changes must be made through your travel agent.

I have to believe this policy was put in place to encourage consumers to book directly. In this age of instant communication it would be easy enough to notify a travel agent of any changes a client is considering, and allow them to contract their client in order to discuss if those changes are actually in their best interest, and then reconfirm those wishes with the cruise line. In other words, I believe this policy was constructed as an obstacle, to discourage people from booking with travel agents.

While I highly recommend using the expertise of trained travel agents, in that regard I understand that it’s very difficult for people to decide which travel agent to use.  To assist in answering that question I offer a list of questions to ask of prospective travel agents before even considering them, and… asking for a price for the cruise would be the last question.

#1 – How many cruises have you personally been on (not including ship visits for lunch), and on how many different cruise lines?

That question simply establishes a base line to help you understand the level of personal experience the travel agent has with the product they are selling. In order to qualify for various levels of “professional accreditation” in the cruise industry, travel agents are required to complete a certain number of actual cruises, as well getting some credit for participating in ship tours – where time on board is limited to a few hours.

No one, whether travel agent or travel writer can cruise on every ship on every cruise line. But,  having an understanding of the base line of a travel agents personal experiences should help you decide if their experiences might be similar to the experience you are looking for, or at least give them enough scope to be able to talk to you about the differences between cruise lines.

#2 – How long have you been in your current position?

This is a very basic question for anyone interviewing a potential employee; and when booking a cruise, you are basically hiring this person as your employee until after you’ve satisfactorily completed your cruise. This is not to say that a travel agent new to the business can’t be a very competent representative for you, but especially for first time cruisers, experience and stability in hiring your representative is likely to make you feel more comfortable with the process.

#3 – Are you a CLIA (Cruise Line Indusry Asscociation) accredited cruise counselor, or an accredited “Master” cruise counselor?

To achieve either of these two levels of accreditation travel agents must have completed several levels of training in the the field, including a set number of cruises, and cruise visits. Once again, this is simply establishing the  travel agents level of experience in their field. The accreditations themselves certainly don’t guarantee the results, but certainly do improve your  chances for choosing the “right” agent.

#4 – Do you recommend purchasing travel insurance, and if so, where do you recommend making that purchase from?

In my opinion travel insurance is the most important thing to purchase, along with booking a cruise. Far too many travel agents brush by the question of purchasing insurance, and most often only after closing the sale of the cruise first. And too often only asking if you want to purchase insurance or not, without explaining why it is essential to ensuring a satisfactory result if an insurable event does occur before or during your cruise.

While insurance you purchase directly from the cruise line does cover some eventualities, it is my view that those policies insure the cruise lines as much as they do the cruiser. Therefore, if a travel agent happened to reply to the “insurance question” by just telling you insurance is available from the cruise line,  I would recommend walking away from any travel agent who answers in that manner, or any other cavalier form to the question.

#5 – Can you offer me a list of previous clients, with contact information, that I would be able to contact to provide references for your services?

Again, I view this standard tactic – prior to hiring an employee  – effectively translates to hiring a travel agent.  As with any consumer purchases, personal experience endorsements are one of the most effective tools for sifting through information and making an educated purchase.

These  questions alone may not make the ultimate decision for you, about who is the best travel agent to use. However, I do believe the responses will lead to other questions and discussions, which will quickly get you on a path to making an informed choice.

If readers have any other questions they use as a basis when choosing a travel agent, we’d love for you to share them.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 31, 2012 at 6:16 am

To add insult to injury, three cruise lines, NCL CARNIVAL RCI have taken measure in Europe to cut travel agents commissions from 15% to 10% for cruise bookings – thais EUROPE –

This slap in the face, cutting commissions happens every few years, and has happened in North America, and when the TA community complains, after a few months period or so, voila! the commission structure returns.Look for back stabbing the TA in the USA soon.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time November 12, 2012 at 7:33 am

Sometime ago Kuki or Paul had tips on travel insurance.

We had our travel agent go over several available policies and what was specifically covered and what the price was.

We got the exact full coverage, and includes air lifting, preesxisting conditions – the whole nine yards, for our next rip.

Travel insurance for what we specifically wanted ranged up to $850.00!!!! (we have paid as much or less in the past)

She got us exactly what we wanted, same as the $850.00 one, through Celebrity Cruises for a mere $81.00.

It pays to look around, and I am liking Celebrity more and more, truly a fine product.

Comment from sherkyn calims
Time December 10, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I was just looking about Expert Cruise Counselors and I saw your site,great post anyway . keep it up.

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