How To Book A Cruise
My Blog this week talks about this topic and offers a few tips...
Great advice, Kuki!!
The only one I'm not totally in favor of is the one about CLIA certification. Having attended several of their courses, I can personally attest that the major focus of all their courses is selling. In order to obtain certain levels you do have to take so many cruises of varying lengths and do so many ship inspections, but the courses themselves, for the most part, concentrate on selling.
So while many people put a big emphasis on the CLIA certifications, in reality it only shows someone spent a great deal of time and money learning how to sell cruises.
After doing this exclusively for almost 11 years, I found that I personally learn more by taking the courses offered by each of the cruise lines and by actually going on the cruises.
In other words, it's one thing to know how to sell a product, but it's quite another to actually know the product you're selling. It's not like an accountant getting a CPA - that requires specialist accounting courses, not courses on how to sell people on the fact they need an accountant.
I equate it to an other profession, whether it be a mechanic, an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor, etc. Some of the are generalist while others specialize. A specialist will always be much more experienced and educated in their area of expertise than a generalist.
So, when looking for an agent for a cruise, it's important to find one who is a Cruise Specialist. And a CLIA certification may help, but it definitely does not qualify an agent as someone who is a Cruise Specialist. I actually know agents who have only been on a few cruises yet have high level CLIA certifications and I would definitely not consider them specialist by any stretch of the imagination.
Don't want it to look like I'm belaboring the point, but thought you'd find this interesting. I just got a notice from CLIA for some training in our area. Here are the three courses being offered;
1) How to find, sell, and market travel.
2) Clever ways to close the sale.
3) How to become the travel agent everybody wants.
As you can see, this just goes to prove what I was saying about CLIA credentials aren't really what they seem. They only prove an agent spent alot of time and money learning how to sell.
The difference in philosophy is that, in my opinion, my job is not to sell you anything. My job is to provide you as much information as you need so you can make an informed decision on what's best for you based on your requirements, budget, and lifestyle.
And this is why I always say that you should stay away from agents who are always recommending. When someone recommends something, they're trying to influence your decision and I don't see that as part of my job. The reason agents recommend something is because of these reasons;
1) It may be the only thing they know. If they've only been on one cruise line, of course they're going to recommend that one and they have nothing else to compare it to.
2) They may have loved that cruise line. But we're different people and what one person loves, another will hate. So just because they loved it does not necessarily mean that you will.
3) They get a bigger commission from that cruise line. Cruise lines pay commissions based on sales - the more sales the agent makes with that cruise line, the higher the commission rate will be. So if an agent is making a bigger commission with one cruise line, guess which one they're going to recommend?
4) They are trying to 'upsell' you. If an agent recommends a balcony cabin when all you wanted is an inside cabin, they're thinking of their commission and not what you want.
We were on a cruise once and sat down in the main dining room for lunch. We were seated with some other people and I asked the lady next to me what she did. She said she was a travel agent and had been one for 20 years. I didn't tell her I was one, but said she must have taken alot of cruises. Imagine my surprise when she told me this was her first one! I asked her how could she sell something she knew nothing about and her partner chimed in that she was very good at it. I thought to myself that she must be very good at lying to people.
So while it's very important to use an agent because their expertise can be invaluable and they'll look after you should you have any problems, it's also important to find one that is qualified and you feel comfortable with. Keep in mind that as with any profession, specialist are more highly qualified than generalist. If looking for a cruise, it's always good to find a Cruise Specialist.
As I've said in previous threads (and blogs) I'm not particularly fond of CLIA at all.
One major factor is they have no ability to regulate the travel agent industry. You can stumble on the worst, and most unscrupulous agent in the world, and CLIA has no ability (or interest) in assisting the consumer.
They are clearly a marketing association!
However, the training they do for agents to get their accreditation, does require them to have at least been on a minimal number of cruises; and more cruises are required to become a Master Cruise Counselor.... so it's at least an initial starting point. Better than talking to some agent who has never been on a cruise.
And that is why the other questions for people to ask prospective travel agent are important follow ups, after ascertaining their level of training and experience.
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