When you have a notion that you might like a cruise vacation, you have a variety of choices. You can go down the street to the village travel agent, go straight to the cruise line you’re considering, pull up the first name that comes up when you google ‘cruises,’ or turn to Expedia, Orbitz or any of the other faceless web-based discount sites. There is another option, a better option–a cruise agent.
Why a Cruise Agent is your best bet.
Cruises are not the most complicated form of travel, but there are a lot of variables. Unlike a hotel stay, this ship is going places and you should have an interest in the ports of call. Hot and sunny? Choose the Caribbean, Bahamas or Mexico. Cool and scenic? That’s Alaska. …and so on. Other variables include your cabin. Inside? Picture window? Balcony? Suite? Experienced cruisers also consider where on the ship the cabin is located and after having your head next to the anchor locker or having your fillings vibrated in the stern just once, you’ll be particular, too. You’ll also need to know how formal the ship is (varies widely), when you wish to eat dinner and with whom.
Garden variety travel agents may not know or care about these things. Certainly Orbitz doesn’t. But a person or firm that specializes in cruises knows all about the product and the similarities and differences between cruise line and ships. They can talk about children’s programs onboard, entertainment, even the quality of the ship’s wine cellar. They can tell you if you need a tux (rare these days) and who to tip. They can tell you where to park by the pier or how to get from the airport to the ship.
And this is the most important part of all, they will call you if something goes wrong–if the sailing time changes, if the cruise is delayed by weather, if your air arrangements change. You can also call your agent with questions and speak to a warm, genuine English-speaking human. Don’t expect anyone at Priceline to care that you want to add airport transfers to your booking or tie your dining arrangements to those of the Wilsons from Baltimore.
Your cruise agent will also take the time to find out if you qualify for any number of potential discounts–police, fire fighter, senior, military, past guest–even just for being a resident of a certain state.
And it doesn’t cost any more. Nothing out of pocket at all. All agents provide services for the modest commission that the cruise lines pay them. And some agents will discount their commission when they can to give you an even better rate. Is Expedia going to do that? Uh, no.
So, look in your yellow pages for cruise agents. Or google that term. Or you can call my agent, Pat Crane, www.7seascruises, at 866-424-1090. He’s a peach–and that’s toll free, of course.