The Pitfalls In Cruise Booking
Written by: Kuki
Too many it may seem booking a cruise should be a simple procedure; choose a ship and sail date, pay for it, and go.
Unfortunately accepting that premise as simple can lead to a lot of dissatisfaction.
Simply jumping online, filling out booking forms, whether on the cruise lines own web sites, the web sites of large online booking agencies, or even on the web sites of smaller travel agents who have a web presence, is probably the most lethal way to book; opening up the most gaping holes leading to the possibility of problems arising, and your dissatisfaction.
Perhaps oddly, the group likely most guilty of this misstep are experienced cruisers. They think they already know the ships, the layouts of the passenger cabin decks, understand the multitude of cabin categories, understand the various dining and entertainment options, and think they are perfectly capable of handling their own booking, and possible issues, if they arise.
If all happens to go well with the pre-cruise preparations, travel, and cruise, these folks will believe their approach was correct.
And that can be said about any means of booking anyone uses.
However, it’s when problems rear their head, when the way you booked can have the most dramatic affect.
I am, and have always been, a huge proponent of booking with experienced professional cruise travel agents to help insure problems, if they develop, are handled efficiently. And I assume booking with such a person helps reduce the risks of those problems arising.
However, there are pitfalls which you can run into when trying to determine which cruise travel agent will do the best job.
Just this week I communicated with a long time travel agent (who is CLIA certified – which I always consider a prerequisite for a travel agent) , who was taken to lunch by one of the luxury cruise lines. They were shown promotional videos and served lunch at an upscale restaurant (on land). This was a very basic sales pitch to travel agents.
My warning lights began to flash when this travel agent, who had never sailed the cruise line, told me they now felt this was the best of the luxury cruise lines, and even started listing the shortcomings of the other luxury lines they had also never been on, in comparison to the one whose presentation they had attended.
In other words, with no personal experience, this travel agent, fell in - ”hook, line, and sinker” to the cruise line’s presentation; I suppose the exact purpose and desired result of these presentations.
I find it troubling and worrisome a trained agent would be so easily swayed by a sales pitch… and obviously so ready to recommend that cruise line over it’s competitors, should a client request information on a luxury cruise; at least until one of the others take them out for lunch.
Another travel agent says they only sell their clients a particular cruise line if they can’t convince them to book another line. That is a travel agent selling based on their own bias, and definitely sets the warning lights flashing as well.
But, these examples demonstrate just some of the problems in choosing “the right” travel agent. As much as I believe a travel agent is the correct way to go when booking a cruise. It is not without it’s own possible pitfalls.
So, the question becomes - how do you find or choose that “right agent”? I admit there’s no truly simple answer.
However, my recommendation is to begin with an agent you can directly communicate with. This doesn’t necessarily mean face to face. It can be via email exchanges, phone calls, Skype or whatever other means.
Begin by asking lots of questions about the agent, their credentials, and their own cruise experiences. Ask them questions about the agency their represent or own, and it’s affiliations with any agent consortium, and their own work experiences within it. Then check out the authenticity of their answers by searching for client references, and checking at their local Better Business Bureau.
You may think that doing all this “work” makes it sound easier to just book direct with a cruise line. But, if a problem ever arises, you’ll find the “work” you did finding the “right agent” will have been well worth your efforts. When you find the “right agent” you will want to be loyal to them for your travel needs into the distant futures, because you’ll have someone you can trust.
If you take the easy road, and book directly with a sales person at the cruise line, you first have to remember the only cruises they sell are for the cruise line they are working for (likely with no knowledge of any other). And secondly, if a problem arises they are employed by the cruise line, not you, and their job will be to protect their employer, not your interests.
I’ve probably made the issue sound more complicated, rather than less, but when you find that “right agent” you’ll be incredibly satisfied, and most likely very loyal to them for a long time.
That’s not to say you may not “kiss a few frogs” along the way. I wish you luck in finding your travel Prince or Princess. They exist!
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Posted: June 25th, 2013 under Kuki.