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MargieP October 8th, 2013 11:20 AM

Booking a Cruise
 
Hi there,

It has been mentioned a lot that it is best to book a cruise through a travel agent. My question is how do I go about finding a reputable agent? What should I look for?

Thanks for your help.

Kuki October 8th, 2013 02:45 PM

I wrote this article a short while back. Hopefully it will help a bit in answering your question....
Cruisemates Blog The Pitfalls In Cruise Booking ? Kuki

storybookcruises.com October 8th, 2013 03:35 PM

Ask for recommendations.

Ask lots of questions of the agent.

Look for a 'Cruise Specialist' so you know they've been on alot of cruises and can help with all cruise lines, ships, and ports of call.

It's like trying to find a good auto mechanic, accountant, or dentist. Search for a good reputable one you feel comfortable with and can trust.

Pete

Donna October 8th, 2013 04:10 PM

I would also suggest, doing some homework and check out all the different cruiselines and ships, plus a destination, so you have an idea what kind of cruise you are interested in. Having that part nailed down, will certainly help your travel agent find the right cruise and ship for you.

MargieP October 8th, 2013 06:50 PM

Thank you Kuki. Great article and has given me an idea of what to look for.

MargieP October 8th, 2013 06:53 PM

I will Cruise Planner. Thank you!

MargieP October 8th, 2013 07:00 PM

Thank you Donna. We pretty much have decided on a short cruise to the Bahamas.

Now to find the right cruise specialist.

Cruizer November 3rd, 2013 10:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MargieP (Post 1486518)
Hi there,

It has been mentioned a lot that it is best to book a cruise through a travel agent. My question is how do I go about finding a reputable agent? What should I look for?

Thanks for your help.

Choosing a good travel agent (TA) is like hiring someone. Interview at least three TAs. Tell them what you are interested in. See what they recommend. Ask them why they are making that recommendation. Is the TA making a recommendation based on what they believe is the best fit for you, or are they making the recommendation because that cruise line offers the best commission?

Find out what experience the TA has with cruising. How many cruises have they been on? How many different ships? How many different cruise lines? The experience one will get on Carnival Cruise Line is much different than the experience one gets on Crystal. The experience one gets on Holland American Line (HAL) is much different than the experience one gets on Costa (even though both are owned by Carnival Corporation). The experience one gets on Seabourn is much different than the experience one gets on Disney. Even two ships owned by the same company will offer different experiences. So the experience one gets on the Majesty of the Seas is much different than the experience one would get on the Allure of the Seas, even though both are owned by Royal Caribbean.

What professional organizations does the TA belong to? You want to see if the TA belongs to ...

ASTA - American Society of Travel Agents
CLIA - Cruise Lines International Association
NACTA - National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents
NACOA - National Association of Cruise Oriented Agencies
Virtuoso Member - this is a by invitation only and tends toward the luxury end of travel.

There are other professional organizations that are not mentioned here.

Ask your agent about any cancellation fees and price reductions. Many agents charge a small fee if you cancel, though if you have a good enough relationship with your agent, they will likely wave the fee. Price reductions mean less commission for your agent, but can result in significant savings for you.

Does the agent offer any special deals? If the agent is rebating some of the commission back to you, what suffers? Usually what suffers is service. Will your agent be there when there is a problem? Will your agent keep abreast of things and warn you, or even rebook you (for example, the ship will arrive a day late for whatever reason - will your agent rebook your flights for you, or are you going to be standing in line with 2000 other people trying to do the same thing?).

Does your agent ask you questions? Your agent should be asking you what you are interested in. Otherwise, how does your agent know what to recommend.

Think about buying a car. Is a Corvette a good car for a family of four? Is a mini van a good car for a single person who rarely transports more than a weeks worth of groceries? Is Disney Cruise Line a good match for a retired couple looking for a quiet getaway? Is Seabourn a good match for a young active family of five? The answer to all of these questions is no, but unless the TA asks, how would the TA know.

Are you looking for beaches? Then the Caribbean is a good place to go. Are you looking for scenery? Then Alaska or Northern Europe would be good. Are you looking for history? Then Europe is good. Are you looking for a quick weekend getaway? Then Carnival or Royal Caribbean would be good. Again, the TA must ask in order to know what to recommend.

After you have interviewed a few agents, come back here and see if others agree with the recommendations. Finally, choose one you are comfortable with. Do a test drive of sorts. Book a fairly easy cruise (one week or less from a North American port) and see how things work out. Then, once you are really comfortable with your agent, you can get into the more exotic cruises (European river cruises - adventure cruises ...).

storybookcruises.com November 3rd, 2013 01:38 PM

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.

Pete

Cruizer November 3rd, 2013 06:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cruise planner (Post 1488371)
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.

Pete

You are going a little overboard. Some people have no clue and are looking for a recommendation. Suppose someone shows up claiming to be big Disney fans, are interested in cruising, doesn't have any idea where to start and doesn't know that Disney has a cruise line. Are you saying you would not recommend Disney?

Or suppose that someone is interested in a cruise for their 25th wedding anniversary. They only stay in five star resorts and they don't want to follow the crowd. Are you saying you would not mention Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea or Regent?

Or suppose you have a young family that is looking for non-stop fun. Are you saying you would not mention Carnival, NCL or Norwegian?

Suppose you have a couple that likes to gamble and has young kids. Are you saying you would not mention that the Disney ships do not have casinos.

Or how about a family that equates value with the number of ports visited. Are you saying you would not recommend a cruise out San Juan?

People don't seek a travel agent only to be told to do some research and call me in the morning with your choice.

storybookcruises.com November 3rd, 2013 08:04 PM

You're not paying attention; I said an agent should provide information based on the client's requirements, lifestyle, and budget.

If they want a 5-star cruise, then an agent should provide them all the information they need on all the 5-star cruises so they can make a decision on which one is best suited for them. An agent should not just say, "Oh, you have to go on Crystal," and not provide information on the other wonderful luxury cruise lines. That is providing a disservice to the client.

And if someone says they want to gamble or are against gambling, again, it would be a disservice to the client for the agent not to present options accordingly.

If a client has no clue on what they want or has certain demands for a cruise, then that's when an agent should spend alot of time talking with the client and ask alot of questions so they can begin to narrow down all the options for the client.

I'm not saying it's wrong to make certain recommendations in certain situations. For example, I always recommend travel insurance. But if an agent is constantly recommending choices, that's when people need to be leery as it's usually not in their best interest.

I've heard agents too many times recommend things when they had no idea what they are talking about. I once met an agent at lunch while on an RCCL cruise. I didn't tell her I was one, but asked how long she had been selling cruises and she said, "20 years." I asked her which cruise line she liked the most and she said, "Royal Caribbean - I always recommend them." I then asked her how many cruises she had been on during her 20 years and imagine my complete shock when she said this was her first cruise! I asked her how could she recommend and sell something she knew nothing about and her partner chimed in, "She's very good at it." I thought to myself, "Yeah, she's very good at lying to people." Later in the conversation, she asked me what type of cabin we were in and I said we had a junior suite on the concierge level. I almost laughed out loud when she asked me what a concierge was! Imagine a travel agent with 20 years experience and having no idea who a concierge is and what they do!!

Bottom line is that it is not for the agent to decide what the client wants; it's up to the client to decide what they want with help from the agent based on a fruitful exchange of information.

Pete

Cruizer November 4th, 2013 01:02 PM

When I said recommendation I was not limiting it to only one line. You seem to have taken it that way and that seems to be the reason we don't agree on "recommendations".

MargieP November 5th, 2013 08:10 PM

Thanks everyone for their advice.

We ended up booking a cruise to the Bahamas. Although it will only be 4 nights, we are thrilled and looking forward to it. April cannot come soon enough. :-)

We did go to two different agents. One was pushing a cruise line and when we asked about others, he kept going back to the line that he mentioned. We did not book with him.

storybookcruises.com November 6th, 2013 01:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MargieP (Post 1488544)
Thanks everyone for their advice.

We ended up booking a cruise to the Bahamas. Although it will only be 4 nights, we are thrilled and looking forward to it. April cannot come soon enough. :-)

We did go to two different agents. One was pushing a cruise line and when we asked about others, he kept going back to the line that he mentioned. We did not book with him.

Good choice!! Never go with an agent who is only pushing one cruise line. It may be better for them, but not for you!!

But keep in mind with the shorter cruises to the Bahamas, they (whoever it may be - but usually Carnival, RCCL, or NCL), will normally use only smaller older ships. So don't compare that particular type of cruise with the longer (7-days) cruises where they'll use the newer bigger ships with all the latest amenities, which will obviously be much nicer.

So, if you like this cruise, you'll love some of the others available to you.

And lastly, they will always offer you the opportunity to purchase a future cruise while on this cruise. If you think you might want to try another cruise with the same cruise line, it's always a great deal to take advantage of the future cruise deals. It'll be less deposit and provide onboard credit. Plus, your current agent can service the reservation for you. So it's always a good idea to take advantage of this offer.

Pete

Donna November 6th, 2013 07:59 AM

Congrats Margie,
So, what ship did you book on?? Please feel free to ask any questions you may have...

ThomasOrtiz November 6th, 2013 09:43 AM

Our desire to go on cruises started when friends told us about their great trips. When we decided to make the leap and go on a cruise, we called them and asked whom they used. I am guessing you have a few friends that have gone on cruises, too. Ask your friends for suggestions on cruise specialists in the area.

We researched the cruises on the cruise line sites and made a list of cruises we were interested in first, before contacting the cruise agent our friends suggested. We showed her the list and she subtracted and added items explaining why. We used the same agent to book all three of our cruises and she is working on the fourth one now. Your friends probably have a very good idea if their agents were good or just selling tickets.

MargieP November 7th, 2013 08:19 PM

Thanks Pete. That is good advice.

MargieP November 7th, 2013 08:23 PM

Hi Donna, we are on NCL - the Norwegian Sky. We are looking forward to it.

We are thinking about flying into Miami early the day before to start off our vacation. Or, we might extend it a day after. We keep bouncing it back and forth. :-)

MargieP November 7th, 2013 08:24 PM

Thanks Thomas!

Donna November 7th, 2013 09:47 PM

Hi Margie,
When ever possible, it is always nice to get into port a day early, relax and start your cruise all rested and ready to go...

Truck Cruiser November 8th, 2013 02:54 AM

A great cruise research tool is the "vacations to go" website. This website shows cruises for all cruise lines and pricing. I would still suggest that you use a T/A to book your cruises before booking on a site like I mentioned above, at least until you are comfortable with cruising and knowledgeable enough yourself to know what you are looking for in a cruise!

MargieP November 8th, 2013 09:50 PM

Hi Donna - I think we are going to go early and have a fun beach day in Miami the day before we board.

MargieP November 8th, 2013 09:51 PM

Thanks for the advise Truck Cruiser. I will do that for our next one!


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