There are many ways to reserve a cruise but really only one good way to plan one. Seasoned cruisers have learned along the way that having someone who knows the ropes is very helpful in creating a good cruise travel experience.
Many first time cruisers mistakenly believe that using a cruise agent will cost them more due to fees being charged above and beyond the cost of the cruise. But savvy cruisers know that cruise and travel agents receive their compensation from the carrier and do not mark up the cost of the cruise.
In the current market environment, pricing is virtually standardized in terms of rates that a cruise agent, online seller or cruise line direct planner will see. Thats because the cabin rates they see all come from the cruise line themselves on a common computer feed. Cruise lines generally discourage rebating and discounting and for all practical purposes rate quotes are consistent.
One thing that a knowledgeable cruise agent does bring to the party is that they dont have a built in bias to one line over another. Sure they may have their personal favorite, but they also know that to get you as a repeat customer the important thing is that they get the cruise that is right for YOU and not for THEM. They can view multiple cruise lines, departure dates and promotions to develop the best offer available.
Cruise agents also deliver an important intangible ingredient insider tips, knowledge about pre and post cruise logistics, and personal experience. It is a good idea when selecting a cruise agent, first interview them for the job. Gauge their cruise experience, how long have they been in their business, and the reputation of their company. Remember anyone with a few dollars can have a slick web site. Dont be shy to ask for credentials and references.
Ask your cruise specialist to look for specials once you have narrowed down the choices. Theres a myriad of offers available at any given time such as Senior, Military, Regional, and Past Passenger rates as well as cruise line on board credits, upgrade programs and transportation credits. A good cruise agent will research all these programs to check if you are eligible to take advantage of any or all of them.
Next time you are going on a cruise take a friend along a good, knowledgeable cruise agent. Youll be glad you did.