Cruises are immensely popular as a holiday choice for many reasons. Most tend to offer an all-inclusive experience, providing a variety of services and amenities such as food, accommodation, and entertainment. Furthermore, a cruise gives travellers the opportunity to visit multiple destinations in one trip, making it a unique and appealing way to explore new locations. Some also depart from the UK making flying unnecessary. The convenience and variety of experiences a cruise provides have contributed to their popularity.
Travel agents play a significant role in cruise bookings. They have extensive knowledge of different cruise lines, including the different cabins, the overall vibe or atmosphere on each ship, the entertainment onboard, the various itineraries and shore excursions and provide advice and recommendations to customers, helping them choose the cruise that best fits their preferences and budget. In addition, travel agents often have access to exclusive deals and discounts, making cruising more affordable. They also assist with the booking process, including handling any changes or cancellations, making the process much smoother for the customer. This kind of personalised service has helped maintain the relevance of travel agents in the digital age, particularly in the realm of cruise holidays.
So, why is it best to book a cruise through a travel agent?
Travel agent’s expertise and knowledge
Travel agents offer a wealth of knowledge about different cruise lines, ships, and itineraries. They’re often experts in the field, having either personally experienced many of these cruises or received detailed information and training from the cruise companies.
Extensive knowledge of different cruise lines, itineraries, and ships
With their insights, travel agents can advise clients on everything from the best cabins to book on a specific ship to the onboard amenities and dining options available. They advise on the differences between cabin types – inside, outside, balcony, or suite- and their benefits and guide passengers on what to expect from onboard dining – from formal meals to buffet options and specialty restaurants.
Ability to provide recommendations based on individual preferences and budgets
Travel agents can tailor their recommendations based on individual preferences and budgets. For instance, if a client prefers a quieter, more laid-back cruise experience, the agent might recommend a smaller luxury cruise line over a larger, more activity-packed mainstream line. If a customer is budget-conscious, the agent can suggest the best times to book for lower rates or steer them towards lines and ships offering the most value.
Additionally, travel agents can offer advice on whether it is best to book a cruise early or late in the season, depending on the experience the client is seeking.
Travel agent’s access to exclusive deals and discounts
Travel agents often have access to deals unavailable to the general public. This is because of their relationships with cruise lines, which may provide them with exclusive promotions and discounts. These deals can make cruising more affordable for clients and sometimes include free onboard credits, complimentary upgrades, or other amenities.
Relationships with cruise lines and access to exclusive promotions
Travel agents typically have strong working relationships with cruise lines. As a result, they’re often the first to know about special promotions or sales. They might also have access to exclusive incentives unavailable through direct booking.
Very often, when you are on a cruise, you are offered a good price to book another before you dock. The agent you booked the cruise through will still get the commission and could help organise the rest of the trip, helping you to get the best flight from a regional airport that connects with the ship in a certain port.
Potential discounts, onboard credits, or free upgrades available through travel agents
As mentioned, travel agents can often secure additional perks for their clients, such as onboard credits, which can be used for onboard purchases, free or discounted cabin upgrades, or even complimentary speciality dining or shore excursions.
Comparison of prices and value-added perks offered by different cruise lines
One of the most valuable services a travel agent provides is their ability to effectively compare and contrast the prices and offerings of different cruise lines. They can help clients understand where they’re getting the best value for their money, considering not just the base fare but also the included (and not included) amenities, the quality of the onboard experience, the itinerary, and any additional perks.
Travel agents and tailored cruise packages
Travel agents are instrumental in creating tailored cruise packages that reflect their client’s interests and preferences. They have the expertise to customise itineraries that meet specific desires, whether exploring culinary delights, engaging with local cultures, or pursuing adventurous activities.
Customised itineraries that cater to specific interests and preferences
Based on the client’s preferences, travel agents can create customised itineraries that cater to particular interests. For instance, if a client is passionate about history, they can suggest cruises with stops at historically important ports and even recommend specific tours or museums to visit while in port. Some cruises have onboard lecturers or celebrity guests that specialise in history or art or even gardening. An agent can help you find the right cruise for a specific interest.
Assistance in selecting the right cruise line, ship, and destination
With many cruise lines and destinations available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Travel agents can provide much-needed assistance here. They can help identify the cruise line that matches the client’s lifestyle and budget, the ship that offers the amenities they desire, and the destinations that intrigue them.
Guidance in choosing shore excursions and additional activities
Travel agents can also guide clients in selecting shore excursions and extra activities that align with their interests. This might include everything from guided tours of local attractions, adventure activities like zip-lining or scuba diving, or more leisurely options like wine tasting or spa visits.
Assistance and support provided by travel agents
Travel agents provide comprehensive assistance and support throughout the booking process and going on a cruise, easing the logistics and offering a safety net in case of unexpected issues.
Handling of booking logistics, including flights, transfers, and travel insurance
Travel agents handle all the booking details, so clients don’t have to. This includes booking the cruise and arranging flights, transfers, and travel insurance. They ensure everything is coordinated and timed correctly, which can be especially important when dealing with complex itineraries.
Availability for questions and concerns before, during, and after the cruise
Travel agents are also available to answer any questions or address concerns before, during, and after the cruise. This can include anything from questions about what to pack, to queries about onboard amenities, to concerns about travel documentation. Their continuous support gives clients peace of mind and helps them feel more prepared for their trip.
Advocacy and assistance in case of unexpected changes or issues during the trip
One of the most valuable services a travel agent provides is their advocacy and assistance in case of unexpected trip-related issues. If a flight is delayed or cancelled, or if there are any issues with the cruise itself – such as itinerary changes due to weather conditions, the travel agent can help resolve the situation. They can work on the client’s behalf to arrange alternative flights or accommodations, negotiate compensation, or address any other issues.
Time and convenience
One of the significant benefits of using a travel agent for booking a cruise holiday is the considerable amount of time and effort it can save for the client.
Saving time by letting the travel agent handle research, bookings, and arrangements
Cruise holidays involve researching various cruise lines, ships, itineraries, and shore excursions and then booking the cruise, flights, transfers, and pre- or post-cruise hotels. Travel agents have the knowledge and experience to navigate these options and make the most appropriate choices based on client preferences. They handle the bookings and arrangements, saving the client a significant amount of time.
Consolidating all travel-related components into one package, simplifying the planning process
Travel agents can also consolidate all travel-related components into one package. This simplifies the planning process and makes the actual travel experience smoother. Instead of juggling multiple confirmations, contact points, and potential issues, the client can enjoy a seamless experience with a single point of contact – their travel agent.
There’s a common misconception that using a travel agent adds extra costs to a holiday. However, this is rarely the case, especially when booking cruises.
Addressing the misconception that using a travel agent adds extra costs
Most travel agents earn their commission from the cruise lines, hotels, or other suppliers they book with, not from the client. This means that the cost to the client usually stays the same when they book through an agent versus booking directly. Travel agents might sometimes charge a service fee, particularly for complex itineraries, but this is typically disclosed upfront.
The potential cost savings, discounts, and added value obtained through travel agents
Using a travel agent can often result in significant cost savings. Travel agents can access exclusive deals and discounts unavailable to the general public. They can also advise clients on when to book to get the best prices, for example, during peak season when many cruise lines offer major discounts, and they can monitor prices after booking and apply any subsequent discounts or promotions to the client’s booking.
Beyond direct cost savings, travel agents can often provide added value to a cruise booking. They may be able to secure onboard credits, complimentary upgrades, free or discounted shore excursions, or other perks that enhance the cruise experience. These benefits can add considerable value to the holiday, often without additional cost to the client.
If you book direct with a cruise line, they may not be able to organise your flights and transfers, they will only give you the option of their excursions, whereas travel agents may suggest excursions offered by alternative providers in a particular city which may be more suitable.
So, is it best to book a cruise through a travel agent? Yes!
Consulting a travel agent for cruise bookings has a multitude of benefits. They offer extensive industry knowledge, personalised cruise packages tailored to individual preferences, comprehensive logistics handling, continuous support throughout the trip, and potential access to cost-saving deals and added value. This can result in a more streamlined, enjoyable, and economical cruise experience.
Some agencies such as Not Just Travel have specialist cruise agents which get training and advice from experts in its Cruise Division. It’s a great place to look for advice if you are thinking about going on a cruise for the first time.
If you are really passionate about cruising, you could train to become a cruise agent with its franchise arm, The Travel Franchise. You do not need former experience in travel as you will be trained by its team of travel experts.