1. Expert Advice
Whether you're planning your first cruise or your 100th, a good travel agent can help you find a cruise line, ship and specific sailing that fit your exact travel style, budget and schedule. Are you an active, beach-loving family traveler who has a limited budget and a small, one-week vacation window? A wealthy, retired single cruiser with a flexible schedule and a desire to do nothing but read between spa treatments?
A travel agent will keep all of these specifications in mind to match you with a voyage and cabin type that are just right. Plus they can give you pointers for activities, restaurants or even shore excursions to try, based on your interests.
Most cruise lines pay travel agents a commission for every booking they make. While agents generally aren't allowed to funnel that money directly to their clients, they can offer other incentives, extras and small gifts. They might include bottles of wine, prepaid gratuities, onboard credit or free dinners in specialty restaurants, some of which can add up to hundreds of dollars in overall savings.
Additionally, travel advisors can often negotiate group discounts from cruise lines if they're handling a large number of bookings across several clients. In cases like that, a good advisor will pass those savings along to you when they reserve your cabin.
3. Reminders and Alerts
If you're forgetful, or simply want to book a trip and enjoy the anticipation without fretting over deadlines, it helps to have someone to remind you of when they are. Enter your travel agent, who will nudge you when final payments are due and advise you on when to make reservations for things like specialty dining, spa treatments and shore excursions.
Your travel advisor can also monitor your cruise fare for price drops and alert you if your cruise line cancels the sailing, adds or removes ports, offers you a cabin upgrade or makes other changes to your booking or itinerary.
4. Peace of Mind
In the event the line does make changes to your booking or the sailing itself, your travel agent will be your advocate. This is a particularly valuable asset if changes happen when you're already onboard and don't have the time or cell phone service to deal with making tons of phone calls to adjust travel arrangements. Communicate only with your agent, and he or she will pass the details on to you, ask how you'd like to proceed and work with the cruise line to implement whichever options you choose.
In the event you decide to cancel, change your sailing date or purchase add-ons like flights or hotel reservations pre-cruise, your agent will handle all of the minutia -- including the processing of any payments, cruise credits or refunds -- leaving you with nothing to do but relax, pack your bags and show up on embarkation day.
If you plan to cruise often, it can be helpful to build a relationship with a travel agent who will tell you about the latest promotions, such as single supplement waivers, kids sail free, fares with complimentary beverage or Wi-Fi packages. Access is also key if you're hoping to book a cabin on coveted or hard-to-find sailings, such as new ship christenings, themed voyages or holiday cruises. Ultimately, booking through a travel agent allows you to take a "set it and forget it" approach to cruise arrangements and provides access to an expert who will steer you in the right direction for your next voyage.
To find a reputable travel advisor, ask your travel-loving friends for recommendations, seek out a local brick-and-mortar travel agency for a face-to-face meeting, or head to your favorite cruise line's website for travel agent locator resources.