Cruizer; While I agree with alot of what you said, I disagree with the comments about what a travel agent recommends.
Having been involved with travel for 25 years before I became a Cruise Specialist 12 years ago, the one thing I tell people is if the agent is recommending things, run the other way.
The reason an agent will usually recommend something is because of one of three reasons: 1) It's the only thing they know; 2) It's something they enjoyed, but we're different people and what one person loves, another will hate; or 3) They get a bigger commission with that cruise line.
I don't look at my job as recommending things, because when people recommend, they are usually encouraging the client to go in that direction. That's not my job. My job is to provide as much unbiased information as possible so the client can make an informed decision about what's right for them based on their requirements, lifestyle, and budget.
It's like I always say, everything is very subjective. It's like food; you may like McDonalds, I may like Burger King. Or you could like both and I may not like either one. The only way you'll know for sure is to try them for yourself.
Plus, I always get calls from people looking for cruises and the first thing out of their mouth is something like, "Anything but Carnival." When I ask them why, they always say, "My friend said....." My next comment is, "Don't listen to your friend." Most of the time, it turns out their friend has never been on Carnival and just heard something from someone else, who's probably never been on Carnival.
Not picking on Carnival, but just using that as an example as I've heard the same thing about every cruise line.
It's important to ask alot of questions, both from the client's standpoint and from the agent's standpoint so that both can get as much information as possible. The agent needs the information to help provide options for the client and the the client needs information to help make a selection that's best suited for them.
But an agent should not recommend because, in effect, when doing so, they're trying to make the decision for the client.
When I was visiting the local AAA office, I personally witnessed an agent pushing Carnival on a client and never once mentioned any other cruise line that offered the same cruise. If she listened to anything the client was asking for, she would have told them about a couple of other cruise lines that better suited the client's needs. I felt sorry for the client and really wanted to get them away from this very inept agent. The client had never been on a cruise, so they had no idea how incompetent this agent was, so they were intently listening to the only recommendation the agent was making. I later found out Carnival was offering a $50 bonus for that itinerary.
So, I'll reiterate what I said in the beginning; listen to what an agent has to offer, but be leery when they start recommending. And this does not just apply to cruises, but also for resorts and tours.