Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been researching topics that I am unfamiliar with. Last week, it was travel insurance, and this week it is travel agents.
As I started my research, I was confused about why people used travel agents. Why have someone else do something that you can do yourself? Something that I did not know before going into my research is that most travel agents provide their services at no additional cost to the consumer – and most provide added value that you can’t get by booking directly with the cruise line. So, based on those facts alone, why wouldn’t you use a travel agent? When I wrote about travel insurance, it was a bit harder for me to tell people that they should make the purchase, because they would have to pay for something that they may not use. With travel agents, you’re paying for something that you will use – and benefit from.
On this week’s episode of Avid Travel With Britton Frost, I interviewed Bridget Quinn from Cruise Specialists, a travel agency that focuses solely on cruising. Quinn worked with Holland America Line for several years, and has done sailings on various cruise lines during her time at Cruise Specialists
I asked her about why people should consider using travel agents. Her answer? She books cruises all day long. She is familiar with multiple cruise companies, and may possibly be able to tell you what you want before you even know what you want. Travel agents like Quinn gather information from you to help find a cruise that is going to suit your needs. I asked how specific clients could get with the information they provided to her, and she said the more specific the better. This includes information such as budget, desired destination, accessibility needs, length of sailing, etc.
Travel agents are able to assist you at different steps in your booking or decision-making process. There are certain people who say, “This is the ship I want, this is the day that I want.” But there are others looking for guidance. It is okay to go to a travel agent and to say that you don’t know what to do. You may only know which time of year you want to travel or what your budget is, or there may be certain cruise companies at which you are looking.
Although travel agents are able to help at any step in the booking process, the best way to use them is in conjunction with your own research. For example, use a site like ours to look at comparisons between companies, and try to narrow it down to a few that you like. Better yet, use our Get My Recommendations tool to get a personalized response based on where you want to travel, budget, etc.
After you’ve done that, go to an agent to get a second opinion. They will be able to give you different insights than we may. They can also help you look at deals that cruise companies are currently running in order to help you save money. In using this two-step process, you are still in control of your cruise and itinerary, but you are allowing someone else to step in and do the heavy lifting. Your travel agent will book your cruise, look for deals, help you make informed decisions, and more. Because Cruise Specialists is a member of Virtuoso, a luxury travel network, you will typically receive extras that the cruise companies do not provide those who book direct. These extras can include on-board credits, specials events ashore and more.
When booking a cruise, it is not necessary to find an agency that specializes in cruising, but it is helpful. Quinn does note, however, that is important to find an agency that doesn’t have allegiance to certain companies so that the agent can find the best fit for you. When agencies have ties to certain cruise companies, they may put those company’s interests ahead of their guest’s interests.
The main takeaway? You have nothing to lose when using a travel agent – and a lot to gain.
If you have had experience booking cruises through travel agents or cruise consultants, I would love to hear your stories below. And if you haven’t, is it something that you would consider in the future?
Elsa Nystrom says
Have used Michelle Shirley at AAA for 5 years. She is also a cruise specialist who books hundreds of cruises and great to work with. You forgot to mention the best reason to work with a travel agent. They are there to fight for you when things go wrong. They have more contacts and know who to call.