Is it better to book a cruise through a travel agent? We say yes
Going online to book an airline ticket or hotel stay is a familiar and fairly easy transaction. When you book a cruise, however — particularly your first cruise — you may want to reconsider the impulse to handle the transaction yourself through a cruise line website or an online advertiser with cheap prices. This DIY approach may not be the best way to find your dream vacation at sea.
In reality, it's not that simple to book a cruise. You will likely run into a lot of questions to which you have no ready answer.
That's where specialized cruise travel agents come into play. Their expertise can help you avoid mistakes, whether you are a first-timer or a repeat cruiser checking out a brand you have not tried before.
For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .
Why you should book through a cruise travel agent
You should consider booking a cruise through a travel agent because a knowledgeable agent can help you understand the nuances of a cruise purchase and help you make the best decisions for your vacation preferences.
When you book a cruise, you are making a vacation decision that goes way beyond a flight or hotel nights. Which ship you choose determines your dining and evening entertainment choices for the duration of your vacation. Which itinerary you choose impacts which destinations you'll visit and which shoreside activities will be available to you. It can be overwhelming to evaluate the options on your own if you've never cruised before.
In addition, cruise fares can be hard to understand and compare. You may, for instance, see a fare listed online without the port charges, taxes and fees, which you only see after you give your personal details.
Plus, the price of your cruise includes accommodations, meals, entertainment and activities – and in some cases drinks, tips and shore excursions, Wi-Fi and other extras. There's a lot bundled into some fares and not as much with others. A travel agent can help you determine what your cruise fare gets you. The cheapest base cruise fare does not always provide the best value or best overall vacation deal.
Related: 4 scenarios when you should use a travel agent
You aren't just booking general passage on a ship, either, as you will be asked to pick a specific cabin and when you prefer to dine. Making a mistake in these categories can ruin your cruise experience, as there are such thing as "bad" cabins and dining times (think noisy or claustrophobic cabins, dinner at 8 p.m. with cranky children, etc.).
With cruises, you typically don't pay for your whole vacation upfront but rather put down a deposit, with final payment due at a later date. A cruise travel agent can ensure you don't miss any due dates.
Remember, you may be a DIY type when booking airlines and hotels, but booking a cruise is more complex. If you enjoy doing your own research, focus on what to do and see in the ports of call. Read about different ships, cruise lines and itineraries. However, when it comes to booking the cruise, we recommend you still contact a travel agent who specializes in cruises to help you learn a few tips and avoid any rookie mistakes.
Travel agents can get better deals on cruises
If you're concerned that working with an agent will make your cruise more expensive, don't be. Cruise travel agents receive the bulk of their income via commission from the cruise lines. Their service to you is usually free, though some may charge first-time clients a minimal fee. It's worth it.
In addition to sharing their expertise, the agent may have negotiated group space at lower rates with the cruise line, which may save you money on the cruise fare. The agent may also have first access to sale prices because the cruise lines notify their agent partners and loyalty club members first before they announce a sale to the public.
Related: 6 ways to get a deal on a cruise
Some cruise travel agents even throw in booking perks , such as a complimentary bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket, awaiting your arrival in your cabin.
How to find a travel agent for a cruise
Cruise lines prefer that you use a travel agent rather than going online and booking directly. They have small in-house reservation teams, and when you have a question while making a booking, good luck in getting an expert on the phone in a timely manner.
Companies such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line provide online directories to help you find an experienced cruise travel agent near you.
You may also find experienced and certified cruise travel agents through CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association , which is the industry's main marketing group. Asking friends who have cruised to recommend a travel agent is another good idea.
Related: 5 unexpected places that sell cruises
You may get more personalized care from smaller agencies than from the huge online agencies, though websites such as icruise.com, Cruise.com and Cruise411.com also have experienced cruise agents. These larger online travel agencies can be a good option for those who prefer to make decisions and ask questions via chat. Just make sure you get the name and phone number of the representative for any follow-up questions.
Questions to ask a cruise travel agent
In choosing a cruise travel agent, you will want to tap into the person's specific expertise about the cruise line and ship on which you are considering sailing. Anyone can read a ship deck plan outlining ship spaces (which you can find online), but you are looking for people who really know their stuff.
Look for travel agencies that are cruise-only or a home-based agent who specializes in cruises. If you are using a full-service travel agency, ask for the cruise desk.
Here are some questions to ask a travel agent to determine their expertise:
- How often do you cruise?
- Have you cruised on the line I am considering?
- Have you cruised on the ship that I am considering, or do you have clients who have cruised that ship and provided a review of their vacation?
- Do you have firsthand knowledge about the cruise destination? The itinerary?
You will also want to ask the travel agent if they have a preferred relationship or negotiated agreement with any specific lines that could lead to special perks for you.
Be aware that not all agents work with all cruise lines; some may represent a few preferred suppliers or specialize in higher-end cruises. They get bigger commissions from their preferred lines.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but be aware if the agent seems to be putting you off the line you were originally considering, as this may be the reason. On the plus side, an agent who is a preferred supplier may have negotiated rates with the cruise line and be able to call in favors, such as that bottle of Champagne or asking for a cabin upgrade .
You should also ask if the travel agency offers 24/7 assistance (usually an 800 number) in case you have last-minute questions or something goes wrong before or during your trip.
The cruise travel agent should have questions for you as well, to better understand your dream vacation desires. If you are calling a cruise agency for the first time, the agent should be interviewing you as much as you are interviewing him or her. The agent should be focused on helping you choose the cruise line , ship and cabin that is right for you. Making the correct choices is very important to your overall cruise experience.
Booking a cruise is a complex enterprise. A cruise travel agent will guide you through choosing your cabin and dining times, deposits and final payment, and options for shore excursions and specialty dining. If you need to cancel the trip, the agent will also help you through the refund process. You'll have a lot less stress before and during your vacation if you book with an experienced agent.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Should I use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line?
One of the most common questions I find myself passionately answering both in person and on online communities (I’m looking at you Reddit), is about how to actually book a cruise. Should you use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line? I’ll tell you right out the gate that whether you’re looking into your first cruise or well on your way to the highest levels of a cruise line’s loyalty program, I highly recommend using a good travel agent, but let’s talk about why by addressing some common questions and misconceptions.
Do people still use travel agents?
More travelers than ever leverage the expertise and assistance of travel agents for their vacations. Let’s look at some quick facts: In fact, according to ASTA (the American Society of Travel Advisors),
- In 2021, 27% of travelers always or often used a travel advisor before the pandemic, and at 44%, nearly half of respondents overall said they are more likely to use a travel advisor once the pandemic has passed
- In 2016 year 22% of leisure travelers from households earning at least $50,000 used a travel agent – up from 14% just three before.
- ‘Millennials’ seem the biggest fans of using travel agents, with over 30% having used an agent in the last year.
- They seem satisfied: in 2016, 59% of millennials indicated that their trips planned with agents were better than trips planned without agents. This compares to 53% and 58% for gen x-ers and baby boomers, respectively.
So yes, more people use travel agents each year, and the majority feel their trips were enhanced by using a travel agent. We cruise many times a year, and we get great service and often, better deals. You can get a free consultation from the same great folks that help us !
How is a travel agent paid, doesn’t it cost me money to use an agent?
In short, it generally doesn’t cost you money to use a travel agent, and in fact, the agent can very often help you save money on your trip (more on that in that below). When an agent books a hotel room, cruise, tour, etc, this means the provider doesn’t have to sell, market, or service the booking – the agent takes care of all of that. As such, a travel agent may get a commission from the cruise line you’re sailing with.
Many agents don’t charge fees for their services, though some do, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These fees could be for value-added services (such as keeping track of price changes) or for booking airfare, something that agents generally only do as part of trip with a cruise, hotel stay, etc. Much of the time if an agent does charge fees, they'll credit them towards your booking once it's finalized. This is because an agent doesn’t want to do your research and planning so you can go book on your own.
What is the advantage of using a travel agent?
Beyond the perks offered with your booking, another great reason to book with a travel agent is the service. A good travel agent has personal experience with travel, but also gets great feedback from his or her clients so they’re continuously learning about different offerings. This means that the agent can help get to know you, find out what you enjoy, what type of vacation you’re looking for, etc, and make recommendations based on the knowledge they’ve amassed. There is no “best cruise line”, but there probably is one that is best for you, and for this particular trip.
Another great service agents provide is being your primary point of contact for your trip. This can be a big factor, as your cruise may be much more than just a cruise. You might need a car to get you to the airport, a flight to the city you’re cruising from, a hotel in that city, a rental car, restaurant reservations, your cruise, shore excursions , and more. Your agent can not only make these arrangements, but if you need to make changes or get more information, you’ve got one person you can speak with that will help you with everything.
Can’t I get a better deal booking directly with a cruise line?
As mentioned, cruise lines generally require that with the exception of groups, prices are the same across all travel agents, and this applies to the cruise lines’ internal sales teams as well. Cruise lines depend on travel agents to sell cruises and help service those bookings, so they certainly don’t want to undercut the agencies they work with. Additionally, the cruise line has to market cruises, guide prospective guests through the process, and then be available for any changes or challenges that come about. When a travel agent does this for the cruise line, that’s money that in a way, the cruise line has saved, which get’s back to why cruise lines and other companies pay travel agent’s commission.
Getting a deal also means knowing that you’re getting the right cruise for you - a lower price isn't the only measure of value. While it’s true that 10+ years ago there was far less information out there on cruise line, hotel, and rental car websites – making the role of a travel agent more essential if you didn’t know exactly what you wanted, the amount of information on the internet today can be overwhelming. Yes, cruise lines put their information out there on the web, but like any other business, they control the message – so Princess Cruises may have a ton of information, but they’ll understandably be slanted to make their own line seem to be the most logical choice no matter what your preferences may be.
That’s great, but I like doing the research, and I don’t want to give up control of my booking.
Me too! According to another ASTA study, the biggest reason people say they don’t use a travel agent (aside from the 57% who said they just hadn’t thought of it) is that they want control. While it is true that when you book with a travel agent you’ll see certain changes aren’t available to you online or on the phone (such as changing stateroom categories, or adding a person to your reservation, for example), that doesn’t mean you don’t have control. Many of these changes can be a pain to understand, or require waiting on hold for a cruise line to do it. Let your agent wait on hold and figure out these changes.
Many other arrangements, such as booking shore excursions and specialty dining can be handled directly wih the cruise line if you’d like, but your agent can take care of them for you as well, and in many cases, is able to help with things that might leave you stuck online, such as finding out your desired dining time is booked – an agent may be able to get you waitlisted, or even work some magic on his or her side. In some cases, a travel agent can even help you skip to the front of a waiting list for a sold-out sailing or other tour.
In the end, you’re not relinquishing any control, in fact, you’re making it so you have slightly more control, potentially less waiting on hold, and you have a single point of contact for all your travel needs.
When you book a cruise directly you’re entering your contact info, birthday, picking your dining time, bed arrangements, traveling companions’ information, etc. Is it a real pain point? No, it’s not terrible, but now imagine doing the same for your rental car, hotel, cruise, and more – all while triple checking for mistakes. An agent will take care of all of this for you, once again, a single point of contact. Booking multiple trips? A hotel and a cruise? Your agent will note and remember your preferences. For example, my spouse recently found out she is allergic to down pillows. If I’m booking directly I need to remember to note this, but first I have to figure out how to even communicate this information. My agent has ways to annotate bookings, and knows just who to reach out to, so I know that any cruise or hotel stay he arranges for me will result in our walking into our room on day one with foam pillows instead of down.
Because this relationship has been established, when I book a trip, I usually do so in a two sentence email to my agent. He has my information, knows my preferences, how I like to pay for things, etc. In the end, I get a nice summary of my trip with all the pertinent information. Done.
If you really enjoy the process of clicking through and booking on your own, many cruise lines let you do this and then transfer your booking to an agent as long as you make the request within the first 30 days or so. This means, if you want, you setup the initial booking but your agent can still maintain it.
Want to have more control but with less work? Use a travel agent .
Should I use a travel agent to book a cruise?
We just spent some time answering this, but the real answer is that you should use a travel agent for booking much more than just cruises! We mentioned that if you have pre or post cruise plans, an agent can help with your hotel, car, and other reservations - but it turns out some people take trips that aren't cruises! Who knew? Keep this in mind, as whether it's business travel or a land vacation, it really can be a relief. Personally, we've booked hotels and other arrangements for entire department meetings using our cruise travel agent, and looked like the hero when we just said, "don't worry everyone, I'll handle it all."
Okay, you’ve convinced me, but how do I find a good agent?
At the beginning of this post, I emphasized the importance of using a good travel agent. This means finding someone you click with, and someone that isn’t just a call-center worker for a travel company, but a person that will remember your preferences, providing a real value. In this way, it’s somewhat personal – we all communicate and work differently, so I’d recommend asking a trusted friend, or perhaps a frequent traveler. Don’t be afraid to speak with an agent about what value they provide – just like any other service, a simple “why should I choose you over others” may be quite revealing. If you speak with an agent about a cruise, and they ask you just a question or two about your trip before making a recommendation, speak with another agent. A good agent will want to understand your likes and dislikes, what you do for fun, what type of restaurants you go to, what you’ve liked or disliked about past vacations, etc. The more an agent knows about you, the better recommendation they can make to ensure you pick the right trip for you.
True Story: For a decade now, we've used the same travel agent for dozens of land trips, cruises, Disney parks vacations, etc. If you want to try the same agency we trust and use, check out TouringPlans ! You can also click here to get a quote!
To get agent recommendations, you can ask cruise lines or others for agencies they work with, or just do a search and read about different agencies online to see how they resonate with you. You may already belong to some groups that have travel agencies, such as certain credit card companies, social groups, professional organizations, etc.
Ultimately, once you find a good agent, it makes your traveling easier, more rewarding, and at times, more affordable. This means you can take more cruises if you use a travel agent. Well, that was my takeaway at least. Do you use a travel agent? Why, or why not? Have tips for finding a good agent? Comment below, or reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook !
View the discussion thread.
Travel Agent Finder
Searching for a Travel Agent? Travel professionals are there to help you plan your next vacation aboard a Carnival fun ship.
Find a Travel Agent
Are you a travel agent.
At Carnival, we believe a travel agent is a cruise pro! They are an invaluable resource, helping you save time, money, and avoid the stress of vacation-planning. A travel agent is a fulfiller of dreams, offering all the tips you need about our ships, activities, and destinations! The contact information below is provided by the travel agents. Carnival does not verify that the contact information below is accurate or complete. Search below to find a travel agent near you.
Contact a travel agent today!
- Port Overview
- Transportation to the Port
- Uber & Lyft to the Port
- Dropping Off at the Port
- Cruise Parking
- Cruise Hotels
- Hotels with Parking Deals
- Uber & Lyft to the Ports
- Things to Do
- Cozumel Taxi Rates
- Free Things to Do
- Restaurants Near the Cruise Port
- Hotels & Resorts With Day Passes
- Closest Beaches to the Cruise Port
- Tips For Visiting
- Shore Excursions
- Cruise Parking Discounts
- Hotels with Shuttles
- Which Airport Should I Use?
- Transportation to the Ports
- Dropping Off at the Ports
- Fort Lauderdale Airport to Miami
- Inexpensive Hotels
- Hotels near the Port
- Hotels With Shuttles
- Budget Hotels
- Carnival Tips
- Drink Packages
- Specialty Restaurants
- Faster to the Fun
- More Articles
- CocoCay Tips
- Norwegian Tips
- Great Stirrup Cay
- Harvest Caye
- How to Get the Best Cruise Deal
- Best Time to Book a Cruise
- Best Websites to Book a Cruise
- Cruises Under $300
- Cruises Under $500
- Spring Break Cruise Deals
- Summer Cruise Deals
- Alaskan Cruise Deals
- 107 Cruise Secrets & Tips
- Tips for First-Time Cruisers
- What to Pack for a Cruise
- What to Pack (Alaska)
- Packing Checklist
- Cruising with Kids
- Passports & Birth Certificates
- Bringing Alcohol
- Cruising with a Disability
- Duty-Free Shopping
- Cruise Travel Insurance
- Things to Do on a Cruise Ship
- What Not to Do on a Ship
- News & Articles
The Best Websites to Book a Cruise in 2023
Looking for the best website to book your cruise ?
We wouldn’t be surprised if after a little bit of searching, your head is spinning a little bit.
Think of all the options you have to consider — the length of your trip, the cruise line, the ship, the date, ports of call, and more. And that’s before you even decide on which website to use to book your cruise.
Cruising is big business, and that’s why you have dozens of websites at your disposal, all competing for your travel dollars.
From the major cruise line websites like Carnival.com to major travel portals such as Orbitz or Expedia to lesser-known sites that specialize in cruises like AvoyaTravel.com, it can seem like your options are nearly unlimited… and overwhelming.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be stressful to book a cruise.
To help you out, we detailed the pros and cons of the best websites to book your cruise below. Before we get too far, however, there’s something you should know about price shopping for cruises online.
Cruise Buying Tip: Prices Are Often the Same Across Every Site
If you are worried about finding the best price for your cruise, there’s some good news and bad news. The good news is that cruise prices are usually the exact same across every single website you search .
Below are the results of a search we recently did for a July 2023 Carnival cruise from Miami aboard Carnival Horizon, with prices listed for each website:
As you can see, they all have the exact same rates. That means you don’t have to run yourself ragged trying to find the best deal.
The bad news? If you’re a deal-hunter, there isn’t some magic website that has cruise fares for dramatically cheaper than everyone else (that we’ve ever found). But there are differences on where you book.
That’s because some sites can offer perks like onboard credit or even a direct phone number to call to talk to someone with any questions you might have before you cruise.
So should you just find any random site and book your cruise? We’d suggest not. Below we lay out the advantages and disadvantage of booking with each different type of website.
For more on getting the best deal on a cruise, see our 10 Rules to Getting the Best Deal on a Cruise here.
Booking Direct Through Cruise Line Websites
It used to be that if you wanted to book a cruise, you’d visit a travel agent or call up the cruise line. You can still take those routes, but the cruise line websites make it simple to book your trip.
Every major cruise line allows you to book online and do everything from find a cruise to make upgrades, to pay for the trip. In other words, you can book your spot on the ship completely online at any time of the day.
Specific cruise line websites include:
Each of these cruise line websites will allow you to be as narrow or as broad with your search as you wish. You can search all cruises, or search for trips on a specific ship, leaving a specific date, and from a specific port.
Advantages: The good thing about booking directly through the cruise line then there is no third-party company to deal with should there be an issue with your trip. Want to make a change or get a refund? You don’t have to worry about any sort of mix-up between the cruise line and another website. While this is rarely an issue, it could happen.
Disadvantages: The main drawback of using a cruise line website? It’s like going to a buffet and restricting yourself to only the salad bar.
Cruise line websites only have cruises from that line, so you are limiting your options of prices, ships, dates, and itineraries. In other words, if you’re looking for the absolute best deal or the most flexible schedule, you aren’t likely to find it searching only one cruise line website.
If you are loyal to one specific cruise line, then that’s ok for you. But if you want to see all your options, it’s better to do a search on an “aggregator” website that will search all the cruise lines for that perfect vacation.
Bottom line: Know which cruise line you want to sail? Then going directly to the cruise line site is a good idea. Just know that if you want the cheapest deals or the most available cruises, then opening your search to more lines is ideal.
Booking on Aggregator Websites
While aggregator websites sound complex, they are actually just search engine for travel bookings. In fact, you’ve likely searched on these sites before for a hotel or a rental car. The sites include the big names that you’ve seen advertised heavily on TV and the Internet:
Just like searching for a hotel room, you can search these websites for a cruise across all of your options. This means being able to search across all the lines at once. They also give you the ability to narrow searches to specific dates of cruising, length of trip, destination, port of departure and more.
One thing to note is that many websites in this space are actually owned by a single company — Expedia. For instance, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, and Orbitz.com, are all part of the Expedia family.
That means you’re going to find the same prices across these sites, along with similar search functions.
Advantages: There are two main advantages to using an aggregator website. First, they allow you to search across every cruise line.
So if you want to sail from Miami, you’ll see all the options from the port for every cruise line. That gives you a better chance of finding something that matches your budget and schedule versus just searching one line.
In addition, while aggregator websites will almost always have the same prices you’ll find everywhere else, they often offer perks you won’t find on the cruise lines websites.
For instance, a cruise might be priced the same as another website, but will have an offer of free onboard credit as an incentive to book through them. These perks usually aren’t huge, but are a nice to have.
Disadvantages: The drawback is that booking through third-party websites introduce a “middle man” into your cruise booking. The vast majority of the time that creates no issue.
However, if there is a reason where you need to change your booking or get a refund, then it could be a little more complicated than booking directly through the cruise line.
So should you use aggregator sites? We think so as they can help you look at every cruise available to find one that fits. Smart cruise shoppers use them to look at all their options and see what sort of incentives they have for booking through their site.
Bottom line: Not sure which cruise line you want? An aggregator site will search them all at once, allowing you to sort by price, date, and more.
Booking Through Specialized Cruise-Travel Websites
In addition to the large cruise aggregators, there are a number of smaller websites focused solely on cruises.
These sites include:
These websites are similar to the large aggregator websites in that they can help you search through every cruise out there to find the best deal. The difference? These websites focus solely on cruises.
With a focus on cruising, they are able to better serve cruise passengers — including having staff that you can call directly to help you book.
In other words, these sites are more akin to having your own travel agent to help you with the booking process compared to only a website.
That’s a big help if you’re not entirely sure about which cruise you should book. As well, these sites often have deals and incentives to entice you to book.
Advantages: Like the larger aggregators, the niche booking websites offer the ability to search across multiple cruise lines to see all of your options. As well, many of these sites also offer their own special incentives such as onboard credit, free gratuities, or low deposits for booking through them.
In addition, these sites feature their phone number prominently for those who wish to talk to a person about their reservation. You don’t always find that with the large aggregation websites.
Disadvantages: While booking through these sites is largely the same as through the cruise line or an aggregator, we’ve found the incentives can be somewhat confusing.
For instance, one recent search promoted free gratuities on trips booked through the site, but we couldn’t find any mention of this once we actually started the booking process. Digging further, the incentive applied only to certain cruises, despite being heavily promoted.
That’s where having the phone number to call an agent of the company directly is a big help in getting things explained.
Bottom line: Sites like these offer the benefit of searching multiple cruise lines and the help of an agent you can call to help you book.
Booking Through Costco Travel
Are you a Costco member? If so, then you can book cruises online through the store. In fact, the offers are good enough that it’s usually worth it to become a member for a year just to book a cruise.
You can book online at CostcoTravel.com
Costco is well-known for its low prices, great deals, and customer service. Buying a cruise through the store might not enter many people’s minds, but it can save you big.
Like other cruise-buying websites, Costco offers rates that are in line with what you’ll find anywhere else. However, the big difference is that Costco offers special incentives to book through their site. This includes Costco Shop Cards — a gift card to the store.
Advantages: While the deals change from day to day on aggregator websites, Costco’s incentives are simple and straightforward. If you book through them, then they offer Costco Shop Cards. The amounts can be high as well.
For example, we found a cruise offering a $45 Costco Cash Card for booking the cheapest stateroom for just $409. In other words, that deal is like getting 11% off the price of your cruise . The cash increases substantially with upgraded cabins.
Disadvantages: First, in our searches, sometimes Costco’s pricing seems to jump around quite a bit. So you’ll see one price, click through, and then another price appears. Even so, sometimes that works in your advantage with seeing lower prices than you thought. Sometimes it doesn’t, but the Costco Shop Card more than makes up the difference.
The other disadvantage is that you need to be a member of Costco to book. An annual membership costs $60. In addition, the Costco Shop Cards are only valid at the store. It’s not the same as actual cash.
Bottom line: Costco can offer great cruise deals if you are a member, but not everyone is.
Final Recommendation for the Best Websites to Book a Cruise
Costco Members: If you are a Costco member, then we suggest CostcoTravel.com as the best website to book a cruise. It’s the largest and simplest incentive we’ve seen for booking online. Prices are competitive, but the cash back offers provide a lot of value. Just be sure to compare the total price there with what you find on other sites before booking.
Non-Costco Members: If you aren’t a Costco member and don’t want to join, then we suggest looking first at the specialized cruise travel sites to search all your options and find the cruise you want.
If the site offers a good incentive for booking through them, then know that you’ve found a good deal. If the incentive isn’t that strong or you don’t want to go through a third-party to your reservation, then booking directly through the cruise line is your best bet.
FAQ About Booking Cruises Online
How do I know if a website is legit to book a cruise? There are dozens — if not hundreds — of websites that you can use to book your cruise. Frankly, not all of them look professional, so it is understandable you might question the legitimacy of a website or their deals.
We suggest you stick with the websites mentioned here or other well-known spots.
Above all, remember the age-old rule that if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Be wary of any websites advertising cruise deals that are significantly less than the same cruise priced elsewhere.
What about booking last-minute cruise deals on websites? It makes sense that if a cruise cabin is about to sail empty the price would drop to fill it up. In reality, this doesn’t usually happen. In fact, cruise lines consistently have occupancy rates above 100% — meaning that more than two passengers are in some cabins.
By waiting until the last minute you aren’t likely to find great deals, but it will mean that you have fewer cabin choices. It’s best to book earlier compared to later.
What if I book on a website and the price drops? Cruise prices can fluctuate. It’s possible that if you book one day, the next day the price may go down. The good news is that the price is unlikely to move much (unlike airfare).
So what do you do if the price does change? In that case, you’ll want to contact the website that you booked through — not the cruise line (unless you booked through the cruise line’s website). For example, if you book through CostcoTravel.com, then contact them first for any price drops you see.
Have more questions about the best website to book a cruise? Let us know in the comments below.
Popular: 39 Useful Things to Pack (17 You Wouldn't Think Of)
Read next: park & cruise hotels for every port in america, popular: 107 best cruise tips, secrets, tricks, and freebies, related articles more from author, black friday & cyber monday 2023 cruise deals, what price is a good deal on a cruise, 10 cheap 2024 alaskan cruises (starting at just $249), how much a cruise costs in 2024, 12 cheap spring break cruises for 2024 (starting at $239), the best cruise lines for kids & families.
CruiseCompete.com allows you to get quotes from multiple travel agencies by requesting a quote only once. You open an account for free, enter the date/cruise you want to go on (their site has info on itineraries, dates, etc) and then travel agents will respond with their pricing and special deals (OBC’s, etc).
I totally agree. I know people like to think they’re getting a “deal” but there aren’t that many deals out there. Most websites and TA’s are basically selling the same thing, for the same price. Where you will find better “value” sometimes though, is with a travel agent that can help put the pieces of the trip together for you. You’re getting more personal service, without paying more. A nice little bonus when we booked through an online TA was that we received an onboard credit that we weren’t expecting, which was nice. The deals likely come with whatever credit card you use, getting points or cash back. Some cards are pretty generous with their cashback on certain things.
You are dead wrong about costco cash cards. As a costco member you can cash the cards at any store for actual cash money. Done so many times.
That’s a good tip.
What about booking thru an independant, or franchise, agent? ONLY an indepent person is able to/allowed to give you back some of their commission. Most often as OBC – but heck $100 of OBC pays your gratuities. fyi: There are THOURSANDS of agents that have the SAME inventory as Cruises Only. ALL under the World Travel Holding Umbrella.
Vacations to go has a amazingly well laid out web site with every imaginable ship or itinerary feature. Just check it out and see. Great price and incentives as well
Why no mention of “www.Vacationstogo” ? I booked many at a reduces price on their website.
you didn’t mention booking through credit card companies. For instance, you can earn points for booking your cruise through Capital One, or, if you have discover you can earn 5% cash back through booking a cruise. Also, There are a few other sites such as Sears or Shop Your Way where you can book vacations. It’s not just going to the travel aggregator sites. if you can’t find a lower price, at least you can get a discount through these card companies. If you have the card that is.
LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
New Orleans Hotels With Cruise Port & Airport Shuttles (Or Walking Distance to the Ship)
15 perfect christmas gifts for cruise lovers (2023 edition), hotels with cruise shuttles for every major port in america, 107 best cruise tips, tricks, secrets, and freebies, 39 useful things to pack for your cruise (including 17 you’d never think of).
- Terms & Conditions
Should you use a travel agent to book your cruise vacation?
If you have a trusted travel agent who has helped you book your vacations in the past, you will most likely use them again to book your cruise package.
The rest of us will enjoy planning and booking our own cruise vacation. We will take the time to research cruise options, compare flight and hotel prices, choose the best transport options, read reviews, join group chats to get more inside info and tips, and speak to cruise consultants who work for the cruise line.
However, here are five specific situations where it makes sense to consider booking a cruise package with a travel agent. Because most often, we do need the whole package, including flights, the cruise itself, pre and post-cruise hotel accommodation, and transportation.
These are easy-to-follow guidelines that will help you save money and create value.
We will also address some general statements you come across when you read articles on whether travel agents are a thing of the past.
1. Accessing special flight prices to get you to and from your cruise port
Generally, visiting price comparison sites like Momondo , Kayak , and Skyscanner will find the cheapest flight prices online.
But then there are the special prices where you need to meet specific criteria to be allowed to book. These prices are often only available at traditional travel agencies. Examples would be:
- Tour operator fares if you also need to book accommodation or rental car
- Youth prices where you need to be of a certain age
- Student prices where you need to produce a valid student ID
Airlines are very strict about following the rules for these types of ticket prices. And today, there is no proven and effective way for price comparison sites and Online Travel Agents to know when to show these prices.
So, if you are looking for a particular flight price, consider booking with a travel agent for the best possible price and terms.
2. Save money when booking flights for more than two travelers
If you travel as a family or a group of friends, you could save money using a skilled and experienced travel agent.
To understand the concept, we need to look at how airlines use so-called booking classes to control inventory (available seats) and revenue (price per seat).
Most commercial airlines divide their airplanes into cabins. Examples would be Economy, Premium Economy, and Business.
Each Cabin is, in its turn, divided into a set number of booking classes. Each booking class is then given a total number of seats and a price per seat.
It could look like this:
Economy Class T K L
Number of seats 10 10 20
Price per seat 50 75 100
Business Class C D
Number of seats 10 20
Price per seat 200 275
Generally, we would move to a higher booking class and price per seat when available seats in the lower booking class are sold out.
But this is not the whole truth. Imagine that available seats instead look like below:
Number of seats 1 2 9
When a family of four searches online, most booking engines would return a result of 4 seats in booking class L at the total cost of $400.
The reason is that the L booking class is the lowest available class with four available seats.
However, a skilled travel agent could create a booking below at a lower cost of $300.
One seat in T class ( 1x 50) Two seats in K class (2×75) One seat in L class (1×100)
This would likely be three separate bookings, but your travel agent would link them together in the reservation system.
But how would you know if this is possible? Start looking for one seat, then two seats, and so on.
But you should also be able to ask your travel agent as that level of trust must exist in any good professional working relationship.
3. Combination trips to a new destination you have never visited before
You should always contact a travel agent if you plan a combination trip with several independent components to a new destination.
Choose a travel agent with experience booking to your desired destination, or better still, if they have been there and can advise you based on personal experience.
- Experience will protect you against booking a trip during the rainy season.
- Expertise would safeguard against missing essential details, such as a planned safari that requires a transit visa.
- The volume would allow you to benefit from preferential treatment and more competitive prices.
When you plan trips that include flights, hotels, transfers, tours, and a cruise, many details could go wrong.
And it is in situations like this that specialty travel agencies shine.
And no, it does not have to be expensive. Any good travel agency should have preferential rates where you end up paying the same as you would booking directly, and they pocket the commission paid to them by their supplier.
4. When your time is worth more to you than money
Booking with a travel agent should be stress-free and save you time.
You set a budget and discuss with your travel agent what you want from your vacation. A good travel agent will put together two or three suggestions for your vacation, and you work together to create your ideal holiday package at a price you are willing to pay.
From there, your travel agent will handle all the details, inform you of any itinerary changes and help you with information such as visas, vaccinations, check-in procedures, and more. They do all the planning and booking, saving you valuable time.
5. Airline stopover packages
If you are booking long-haul international flights, some airlines offer stopover packages.
A clever travel agent can identify a route where you can take advantage of a stopover package. This means you can explore an exciting city on the way to your final destination. And beat jet lag by breaking up your long journey with a good night’s sleep.
Often this is possible if your layover is, for example, longer than 6 or 8 hours. The airline will offer a heavily discounted package price on transfer to/from a city hotel, hotel overnight with breakfast, and even a city excursion can be included.
Some stopover packages allow up to 3 nights’ stopover. The stopover packages can be booked by your travel agent in the Global Distribution System (GDS) at the same time as your flight booking, saving you time and money and creating a seamless journey.
Some examples could be Singapore Airlines (Singapore), Air China (Beijing), and Emirates (Dubai) but always check with a travel agent for the latest information.
Three myths about the benefits of using a travel agent
As we have noted above, there are times when it makes sense to book your cruise vacation with a travel agent. But with the technological advances, the marketplace is becoming much more competitive and difficult for the broad and general travel agent.
Whereas there still can be a place for skilled, experienced, and specialized travel agencies, the following three myths are long gone as general truths:
1. Travel agents save you money
Generally speaking, a travel agent will not save you money. However, a good travel agent will not charge you more than you would pay to book directly and will instead earn commissions from partner cruise lines, airlines, and hotel suppliers.
The problem for the general travel agent is that many products are offered below cost in the online marketplace. And when the travel agent does not specialize, they may find it challenging to sell the volumes necessary with individual airlines or cruise lines, benefit from preferential rates, and remain competitive with their customers.
2. Travel agents offer personal service and support 24/7
This may or may not be true. But it would be best to verify before you assume that your travel agent provides 24/7 personal support and international contact numbers.
If something does wrong with your travel arrangements late on a Sunday afternoon and the airline refers you to your travel agent as you booked a package vacation, will your agent answer your call?
Nowadays, 24/7 access across all time zones is a significant selling point for airlines and major hotel providers.
3. Travel agents are specialists
Again, verify before you assume that your travel agent is a specialist.
The word specialist is an extensive term. Booking a flight in the Global Distribution System that all travel agents use requires skills and expertise and is, in many ways, not destination specific. Some commands show availability, sell a seat, and price the booking regardless of destination.
On the other hand, if you plan a trip to Europe, Singapore, or Hawaii, you would want a destination specialist. The flight would be a part of it, but you would also want someone who has put together fantastic and successful trips in the past with rave reviews to prove it.
The harsh reality for many travel agencies is that they have to serve the business that comes their way. And with this follows an industry with more travel generalists and fewer travel specialists.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth booking through a travel agent.
There are situations where you should contact your travel agent for a quote. These include booking complicated trips, needing expertise, qualifying for special prices, or booking flights for large groups. But generally speaking, you will save money if you book yourself online.
How do I know if a travel agency is legit?
Reputable travel agents are often members of international associations such as The International Air Transport Association (IATA), The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), and The International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN).
It is also advisable to visit online travel portals and read reviews. And if there are no reviews to read, that should also tell you something.
Furthermore, you can contact consumer protection agencies and ask for advice.
And finally, if you doubt the travel agent you are in contact with, please find another travel agent to work with. So many good and reputable travel agencies are out there – there is no need to risk your hard-earned money.
Book flights through a travel agent versus online
When booking just flights, you will most of the time save money booking online. There are some situations where a travel agent can be helpful if you qualify for special prices or book larger groups of people.
How much do travel agents make per booking?
A good and professional travel agent should be prepared to share the fees charged. Ideally, the travel agent will not charge you more than you pay if booking directly and will make a living from commissions from travel partners and suppliers.
Is it cheaper to book flights online or with a travel agent?
In most cases, it would be less expensive to book flights online.
The cost of booking a flight can vary depending on various factors, such as the airline, route, time of year, and demand. In general, booking flights online through a travel website or directly through the airline’s website can often be cheaper than booking through a travel agent.
Online booking platforms usually offer competitive prices because they can access various flight options and compare prices across multiple airlines. Additionally, some airlines may offer exclusive discounts or promotions for online bookings unavailable through travel agents.
On the other hand, travel agents may offer more personalized service and can sometimes find flight options that may not be easily accessible online. However, this may come with an additional fee for their services, which could make your overall cost of booking a flight more expensive.
Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.
Did you find the article helpful?
Would you consider supporting us at no cost to you? Learn how you can say Thank You - at no cost to you.
We would love to hear from you!
We invite you to comment below if you found the article helpful or need us to cover an angle we missed.
Please note that comments are not immediately visible.
We check comments for relevance before publication to avoid unsuitable content or SPAM appearing on our website.
1 thought on “Should you use a travel agent to book your cruise vacation?”
Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes.
Many thanks for sharing!
Leave a Comment Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Get Daily Travel Tips & Deals!
The 9 Best Sites to Book a Cruise
Avital Andrews, SmarterTravel's editor-at-large, is a travel and lifestyle journalist who is also a contributing editor for AAA's Via magazine. Her stories have been among the 10 most emailed or viewed on the Los Angeles Times, Outside, Sierra, and SmarterTravel websites, and have also appeared in USA Today, HuffPost, Apple News, Business Insider, and many other nationwide outlets. Her travel book , sold at bookstores and on Amazon, is in its fourth edition, and her journalism gets national media attention, including from The New York Times , The Atlantic , Time , NPR, and MTV. She's currently working on her first children's book. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb .
The Handy Item I Always Pack: My laptop—the lightweight and stylish HP Spectre x360—since I'm almost always on deadline.
Ultimate Bucket List Experience: A round-the-world cruise that makes stops to experience Aurora Borealis, the Olympics opening ceremony, Borneo, Madagascar, the Jerusalem Festival of Light, the Bolivian salt flats, Kenya's Giraffe Manor, the Galapagos, the Maldives, Bora Bora, the Seychelles, and every Disney park. (That itinerary definitely exists, right?)
Travel Motto: I'll steal Saint Augustine's: "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Window, always. For the views and also the naps.
Travel Smarter! Sign up for our free newsletter.
Booking a cruise isn’t always simple. It can be a complicated, time-consuming process that involves dozens of open tabs and maybe a spreadsheet or two. But knowing the best site to book a cruise can help a lot.
And while would-be travelers are accustomed to clicking around on travel search engines to find the best deals on flights , hotels , and rental cars , many people don’t realize that they can use these same types of sites to book cruises, too.
But is there one best site to book a cruise? That depends on what you’re looking for. Sometimes the best cruise website is actually a cruise line’s own site—since technically, cruise booking websites aren’t allowed to undercut the prices that the cruise lines set.
Often, though, the best cruise search engines are indispensable for locating incredible deals, including ones that throw in booking incentives worth hundreds of dollars—in Amazon gift cards, complimentary shore excursions, onboard freebies, and so on.
To save you the hassle, SmarterTravel investigated the glutted space of cheap cruise sites to determine which are worthy of listing as the best cruise websites; below are a few that come highly recommended.
The Best Sites to Book a Cruise
- Expedia (including Travelocity and Orbitz )
Cheapcaribbean.com, cruisedirect, cruise critic, costco travel, cruisewatch.
Expedia is an obvious first mention in a list of the best cruise booking sites, in part because it’s an absolute juggernaut (Expedia also owns Travelocity and Orbitz ). Its cruise-booking interface is simple and straightforward, only requiring you to enter your preferred sailing destination and date range, as well as how many passengers you’ll be bringing along. Then Expedia does the heavy lifting for you, with comprehensive results that make it one of the best cruise search engines.
On Expedia, it’s common to find bookable cruises for 70 percent off face value, with the ability to sort by price so the best cruise deals come up at the top of the list, saving you the scrolling. A sample search for a mid-June cruise to Alaska, for example, quickly came up with a seven-night itinerary starting at $389 per person—that’s less than $56 per person, per night for a mostly inclusive weeklong vacation.
Expedia’s cruise deals tend to come paired with other enticing offers, including steep discounts on pre-departure hotels when you book both your cruise and hotel through Expedia. There’s also a dedicated 800 number that lets you speak to Expedia’s cruise experts and, often but not always, a generous amount of onboard credit thrown in for good measure.
Best feature: Sheer search power. Expedia’s easy-to-use cruise search engine generates a useful and well-ordered list of the best cruise deals, without much effort required from the user. Also, Expedia’s prices frequently match what the cruise lines themselves offer.
Check out Expedia
Priceline is another powerhouse among cheap cruise websites. The initial interface comes off a bit clunkier than, say, Expedia’s or Kayak’s, but the tradeoff is that you can quickly search by cruise line, both standard and luxury, as well as by cruise length and departure port.
Using the seven-night Alaska example, Priceline brought up an itinerary aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Radiance of the Seas that starts at just $374 for the full week—roughly $53 per night. Hard-to-believe cruise deals like this show up on Priceline with regularity, which is part of what solidifies it as one of the best cruise websites.
Also adding to the appeal: deals exclusive to Priceline, plenty of bonus amenities (examples include $50 in onboard credit, third and fourth guests sailing free, and free specialty dinners for two), no money down to book certain sailings, frequent onboard credit sales, an 800 number to call should you need assistance while booking, and a loyalty club that’s ties in with every cruise line’s loyalty program. Priceline also lets you click a “senior discount” box if that applies to you.
Best feature: Priceline’s “ 110% Best Price Guarantee ” promises that if you find your cruise listed at a lower price on another website within 48 hours of booking, then Priceline will refund you 110 percent of the cost difference, including port charges.
Check out Priceline
Many people think of Tripadvisor mainly as a travel review site, where you go to get real talk on hotels and attractions, and to see non-glamorized photos of places as seen through actual travelers’ eyes. But Tripadvisor is also an excellent site for travel deals, including on cruises.
Tripadvisor Cruise , which launched in April 2019, is among the best websites for cruise deals—it lets you nab the lowest price by comparing more than 70,000 ocean and river cruises from some 60 of the best cruise websites. It’s got an attractive, inspiring landing page, and its newest function, “Explore Ship-tinerary pages,” lets you browse full ship profiles, details, photos, and itineraries.
Though Tripadvisor is technically a meta-search site for cruises, which means that it will send you elsewhere to actually book, its search engine lets users sort by destination, length, cruise line, and month of travel. The default search results are ordered by “best value”, unless you specifically click that you’d rather see the results organized by price, cruise length, departure date, or cruise ship. Even when you click on “price,” the lowest-priced offering doesn’t always come up first, though it only takes a few seconds of scanning to determine which itinerary has the lowest price—that seven-night Royal Caribbean International trip to Alaska came up on Tripadvisor starting at $365.
Best feature: What makes Tripadvisor one of the best sites to book a cruise? In addition to having one of the best cruise search engines, Tripadvisor lets you read other cruisers’ candid reviews of the cruise that you’re considering, so that you get the non-sugarcoated truth about each sailing.
Check out Tripadvisor
7 Things You Should Never Do on a Cruise Ship
A rarity on the internet, Avoya Travel is a family-owned company that has been dealing in travel for more than 55 years. Avoya is one of the best sites to book a cruise in part because of its patented technology that lets travelers search cruises by destination, date range, cruise line, and last-minute status—and then get matched up, in real time, with one of Avoya’s expert vacation planners, who use that algorithm to customize a cruise booking to your specific preferences. (From Avoya’s website: “…we combine the ease of online search, with the expertise and personalized service of Independent Vacation Planners, plus secure exclusive deals and extras so you get more out of every vacation.”)
Avoya’s team of staffers and wide network of independent agencies make for a cruise booking website that’s a bit different from the rest. Its front page shows the “Best Travel Deals,” which might include half-off cruise fares, onboard credit, prepaid gratuities, and free or reduced airfare.
Like several of the other best cruise websites, Avoya offers a low-price guarantee; if you book a cruise with Avoya and then find a lower rate on another website within 24 hours of booking, Avoya will refund the difference.
Best feature: Avoya offers free membership, and members get exclusive deals and discounts, access to unpublished fares, first dibs on promotions, the ability to save favorite searches, and the right to book, change, or cancel travel without incurring any Avoya fees.
Check out Avoya Travel
When looking for the best site to book a cruise, don’t be put off by CheapCaribbean.com ’s overly specific moniker. Despite the site’s name, it offers cruises all over the world. The site’s vibe is beach-oriented and a bit cheeky, with a front page that can overwhelm—but click on the “Cruises” tab, and a cleaner interface appears. There you can search by cruise line, ship, destination, departure date, and departure port.
CheapCaribbean.com offers refunds on 24-hour cancellations (within certain parameters) and a “ 110 percent best price guarantee, ” a promise that if you find a lower price on the same cruise within 48 hours of booking, the company will refund you 110 percent of the difference. The site also lists traveler reviews about each cruise ship (as supplied by Cruiseline), though the reviews often include comments about the ship’s destinations other than the one you’re considering, which isn’t entirely helpful. There’s also a live chat widget if questions come up while booking.
Best feature: Helping to make CheapCaribbean.com one of the best cruise search engines is the fact that it lets you check boxes for additional discounts, including a senior discount, discounts by state (just enter your ZIP code), and past guest discounts if you’ve previously sailed with, say, Princess, Norwegian, or Disney.
Check out CheapCaribbean.com
Its front page is clunky and sort of in your face, but CruiseDirect is still one of the best cruise sites for a variety of reasons. As a cruise-only company, CruiseDirect doesn’t deal in flights, hotels, or rental cars, allowing it to focus its full capacity on helping you find the best cruise deal possible. On the site, you can search by destination, departure port, month, length of cruise, and cruise line. There’s real-time online chat and a contact number for support from a cruise expert. If you aren’t quite ready to buy, you can “heart” cruises to save them as favorites to refer back to later.
CruiseDirect offers perks on most sailings, like onboard credit, free drinks, free Wi-Fi, free gratuities, free travel insurance, or a free specialty dining experience—check out the “Bonus” box on the cruise listing you’re considering to see what extras it comes with.
Best feature: Like some of the other cruise websites on this list, CruiseDirect offers a “ best price guarantee ,” which means that if you find a lower price on another cruise booking website within 24 hours of your initial booking, you’ll get refunded the difference. But one key difference between CruiseDirect and the other cruise sites is that you don’t have to pay the cost of your cruise up front, just a deposit—and then if your cruise fare drops before you’ve made your final payment, CruiseDirect will readjust your rate accordingly.
Check out CruiseDirect
5 Crazy Themed Cruises You Can Take in 2022 and 2023
A subsidiary of Tripadvisor, Cruise Critic has similar search results to that site, but it offers a bit more comprehensive information for seasoned cruisers who want more details before they book. Cruise Critic has tons of filters and sort options to help you find what you want, including everything from cruise line to cruise style (family cruises, luxury cruises, cruises for the disabled). Each itinerary clearly lists what is and isn’t included in the fare; Wi-Fi, alcoholic drinks, gratuities, and port taxes and fees are among the common exclusions.
Certain itineraries are marked with graphics declaring that the ship has won one of the site’s “Cruisers’ Choice” awards, denoting vessels that Cruise Critic members declare to be the among the best in categories such as cabins, entertainment, and family-friendly features.
You can sign up for price alerts, which will notify you by email when the fare on your selected itinerary drops.
Once you’re ready to book, Cruise Critic shows you a variety of offers from some of the best cruise booking sites, including bonuses such as onboard credit and prepaid gratuities. Then you click off to the site of your choice to make your purchase. Prices generally match what’s advertised on Cruise Critic.
Best feature: Under each search result is a tab for “reviews” where you can read reviews from Cruise Critic members who’ve previously traveled on the ship. On certain cruises you can click over to a full-length write-up of the ship by one of the experts on the Cruise Critic editorial team, including detailed information on dining options, cabins, entertainment, dress code, and more.
Check out Cruise Critic
When you think of Costco, you probably think of bulk food and toilet paper. But the next time you’re booking a cruise, it’ll be worthwhile to pull up Costco Travel , which is, unexpectedly, one of the best cruise websites.
The site doesn’t look fancy—it’s pretty bare-bones, visually—but the upside of going with a no-frills cruise-booking website is that Costco Travel offers extremely competitive prices, as well as some of the most attractive incentives, usually in the form of Costco Cash delivered to you after you get home from your cruise.
Though there’s no single point of contact if you need to call and discuss your cruise booking, Costco Travel’s call center is staffed with helpful agents from early morning until evening, seven days a week, and passengers can rest assured that Costco won’t go out of business before they set sail. Note that a Costco membership (starting at $60 per year) is required to book with Costco Travel, and that Costco doesn’t accept American Express.
Best feature: Rock-bottom prices—plus lots of cash back if you play your cards right: Costco Citi cardholders earn 3 percent cash back on cruise purchases, which can combine with the 2 percent Costco Reward for Costco Executive Members for a total of 5 percent back on Costco Travel’s already super low cruise rates.
Check out Costco Travel
Pondering which is the best site to book a cruise? Keep Cruisewatch in strong consideration—more than a typical cruise booking website, Cruisewatch bills itself as a “digital cruise advisor” that couples data power with personalization.
As an artificial intelligence cruise advisor, Crusewatch created technology that makes searching and booking a cruise more efficient—the first, it calls “Cruise Price Prediction.” In short, Cruisewatch collected and stored the daily price for each ship and cabin over a span of five years, resulting in millions of data points—and a massive database that informs exactly when cruise prices are lowest, and when the greatest saving potential exists.
Thanks to this comprehensive price history, Cruisewatch can predict cruise prices and drops with an accuracy rate of around 80 percent. Using the site’s cruise price prediction alerts, travelers can save up to 71 percent just by booking at the right time.
In addition to being able to predict prices, Cruisewatch tailors user search results to match their established preferences through customizable profiles and other similar features. This means you won’t waste time wading through cruises that may be cheap but don’t align with your vacation goals.
Best feature: Cruisewatch’s easy-to-set price alerts, based on tons of data, allow users to be notified in real time of the best new cruise deals the minute they come online.
Check out Cruisewatch
Book a Stay With SmarterTravel Hotels
Need a place to stay the night before you set sail? Search SmarterTravel Hotels for great accommodations in your port of call.
Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.
Follow Avital Andrews on Twitter @avitalb or on Facebook .
Editor’s note: Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.
You Might Also Like:
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Top Fares From
Don't see a fare you like? View all flight deals from your city.
Today's top travel deals.
Brought to you by ShermansTravel
Exclusive: 9-Night Tanzania Safari Tour w/Game...
Santiago to Buenos Aires: Luxe, 19-Night...
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Pennsylvania: Daily Car Rentals from Pittsburgh
Trending on SmarterTravel
Best Way to Book a Cruise: Travel Agent or Direct with the Cruise Line?
Sharing is caring!
If you’re thinking of booking a cruise , you might be wondering if it’s better to book with a travel agent or directly with the cruise line? There are a few factors to consider, and questions to ask, before you decide.
In this post, we’ll go over the benefits of using a travel agent or cruise specialist, as well as the advantages of booking directly. When it comes to the best way to book a cruise, you may have wondered…
- Why do people use travel agents to book a cruise?
- Do travel agents get better deals on a cruise?
- What questions should I ask the travel agent?
- When is it better to book directly with the cruise line?
For most people, the benefits of using a travel agent experienced in selling cruises are well worth it. Travel agents will help you to choose a cruise, offer travel advice and answer questions, and can often find great cruise deals. Some may also provide an extra amenity, like an onboard cash credit or bottle of wine.
However, there are some instances when some people will prefer to book directly with the cruise line. We’ll go through when and why this makes sense. I’ll also go through some of the most important and frequently asked questions about booking a cruise.
How to Book a Cruise – Travel Agent or Direct with the Cruise Line?
If you’re a first time cruiser , the process of how to book a cruise might seem confusing. However, even for repeat cruisers, some of this information may be helpful as well.
You can book your cruise with a travel agency or directly through the cruise line. This can mean using a local travel agency or booking online through a cruise vacation website.
Travel agents who specialize in selling cruises, are often referred to as Cruise Specialists or Cruise Consultants. This is important, as you will want to use a travel agent who is knowledgeable and trained in selling cruises.
Which Travel Agents Sell Cruises (examples)
- A local travel agency storefront
- A large online booking website
- Independent travel agents (who may work for cruise agency franchises)
When you do book online with a large website like Expedia Cruises or Vacations to Go, these are large travel agencies. In some cases, depending on the company, you can work with a specific cruise specialist for every cruise. For experienced cruisers, this can often be the best option.
Deposits and Final Payments
When you book a cruise several months or even a year or more in advance, cruise lines will ask for a deposit (which may or may not be refundable). The deposit secures your reservation until final payment. Cruise line final payment dates range from 120 days before your cruise, to 60 days before your cruise. Always check the cruise line confirmation and note the payment dates.
Should You Use a Travel Agent to Book a Cruise?
There are several benefits to using a travel agent to book your cruise. In fact, a majority of cruisers use a travel agent, whether a local agency or an online booking website, to book their cruise.
According to the Cruise Line International Association , when people did use a travel agent, they reported a high degree of satisfaction with the advice, knowledge and value received.
Suggested: 25 Most Recommended Items to Bring on a Cruise
Benefits of Using a Travel Agent to Book Your Cruise
Experience and Advice
One of the biggest advantages of using a travel agent to book a cruise is getting great advice. A cruise specialist can guide you to the right cruise line and ship based on your vacation preferences and goals for the trip.
If you’re new to cruising, using a travel agent to book a cruise is a good idea. First time cruisers need to know about travel documents, online check in, cruise line gratuities , new health protocols and more. Having a travel agent to hold your hand and answer questions, right up to embarkation day , is very helpful.
Cruise specialists are also aware of more than one cruise line, and for avid or repeat cruisers, this can be especially useful. Our tastes change over time, and we get older. What we loved about the cruise line we sailed with when the kids were young , may not be the best fit years later.
Travel agents can bring our attention to other cruise lines and travel experiences , especially as you may want to plan some of those bucket list cruises.
Service and Convenience
Travel agents can take care of the booking and making payments, and even help with booking flights and pre and post cruise hotels . Of course, if you prefer to book online with an online travel agency website, that’s a convenience too.
This will come as a surprise to many, but when you book a cruise, the service of your travel agent is free. The price will not be higher than booking with the cruise line directly. Now this doesn’t mean they don’t get paid, but rather that the cruise line pays a commission to them directly.
There can be exceptions to this, as some travel agents may charge booking or administrative fees. They should let you know if this is the case.
Suggested: 20 Practical Tips for First-time Cruisers
What to Look for in a Cruise Travel Agent
I love travel agents. In my experience, they are passionate travelers themselves, and can offer excellent first person advice. However, when it comes to cruising, you need a travel agent that specializes in cruise travel.
Travel agents who specialize in selling cruises are often called Cruise Specialists or Cruise Consultants. They are usually passionate cruisers themselves who have a keen interest in learning about cruises and sharing that knowledge with their clients.
When looking for a travel agent, make sure this person is knowledgeable and trained in selling cruises. When booking with an Cruise Agency franchise like Cruise Planners or Expedia Cruises, this should be the case.
Questions to Ask Your Travel Agent or Cruise Specialist
When you make a payment (deposit or final payment), does the travel agent pay the cruise line directly on your behalf.
It’s best to have the travel agent make the payment for you using your credit card, directly with the cruise line. This is safer than the travel agent taking your payment, and paying the cruise line themselves. Paying directly ensures that your payment is made to the cruise line, and is standard practice for most agencies.
You can also ask to receive the booking confirmation from the cruise line, showing payments, for your records.
Do you have a back up to contact if you’re on vacation or unavailable?
Travel agents go on cruises and travel. While this is great, who is available if you have a question or need assistance? Often, those working for larger agencies or franchises will have a main contact number if the need arises.
Will you monitor my cruise fare for price drops or should I contact you?
Did you know that many cruise lines will adjust your cruise fare if it drops before final payment? Often it needs to be on the same cabin category and it won’t be combinable with past promotions, but it’s always worth checking.
While many travel agents will try to keep an eye on price drops, the reality is it can be missed. It’s a good idea to keep track yourself as well.
Are there any fees I should be aware of?
Some travel agents charge an administrative fee, or even a cancellation fee. While booking the cruise may be free, booking a flight or hotel may have additional fees. It may still be worth their service, however if you’re keeping track of your cruise vacation budget , it’s good information to know.
Suggested: How to Save Money on a Cruise: 27 Tips and Cruise Hacks
Do Travel Agents Get Better Deals on a Cruise?
Travel agents may have access to better deals on cruises. In most cases, larger agencies or franchises have huge influence and buying power with the cruise line. This can mean better pricing on some cruises and/or some extra perks or amenities.
The Earlier the Better
Travel agencies often hold inventory on cruise ships that are likely to be popular with their clients. They reserve several cabins at the earliest and lowest rates, and can continue to sell them even as prices increase with the cruise line.
However, these cabins can be limited, and may not be available closer to sailing. Book 6 months to a year, or more, before your cruise for access to these special rates.
Travel agencies that sell cruises may also have some perks if you book with them. This can include an onboard credit (can be used on drinks, excursions and more), a bottle of wine or a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, and even travel points.
Suggested: Cruise On Board Credits (OBC): How Can You Use Them?
Another advantage of using a travel agent or cruise specialist, is being able to book when they have a special promotion with the cruise line. Agencies partner with cruise lines at certain times of the year and will offer a booking incentive, such as prepaid gratuities or specialty dining .
Suggested: What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise
How to Get the Best deal on a Cruise
The best ways to find deals on a cruise is to keep informed. Sign up for your favorite cruise line’s emails, as well as emails from travel agencies and online booking websites. If you get too many emails, consider working with only your favorites.
If you’re happy with the service and value of a specific travel agent, keep in touch and let them know what cruises you’re considering even a year or two down the line. This way, when she sees a new promotion or great deal on a cruise, she can let you know.
Should You use a Travel agent to Book a Group Cruise?
If you’re planning a group cruise, using a travel agent will be enormously helpful.
Your cruise specialist will take care of everything you need, and manage all the reservations. If you’re planning a group cruise with friends or family (like a multi-generational cruise ), the travel agent will work with each party to make sure all their questions are answered. In addition, they’ll coordinate dining reservations and cabin locations.
If you’re the group leader, you can concentrate on the fun stuff, like matching t-shirts , and leave the boring details to your cruise consultant.
Suggested: 27 Cruise Travel Hacks of Repeat Cruisers
When Should You Book Directly with the Cruise Line?
If you know what cruise ship, itinerary and cabin you want, and prefer to do a lot of your own research, you may want to book directly with the cruise line. In addition, if you prefer to have control over all aspects of your cruise booking, and think you’ll be likely to make a lot of changes between placing a deposit, and sailing, booking direct will be most convenient.
When you book with a travel agent, they’re responsible for your booking, and all major changes need to be done through them. Things like changing cabins or requesting a price reduction, if the cost of your cruise drops before your final payment, will need to be done by your travel agent.
However, things that have to do with your own vacation planning are left up to you. As an example, reserving your shore excursions , making specialty dining reservations, and even booking your cruise line air flights are able to be done online, within your cruise reservation.
It’s worth giving this some consideration, as there are pros and cons to using a travel agent versus booking directly.
Planning a cruise? These articles can help:
Should You Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise or Pay Onboard?
10 Cruise Ship Cabins to Avoid
63 Things NOT to Do on a Cruise Ship
What To Wear on a Cruise Vacation (when dress codes are changing)
Cruise Essentials List – Favorite Amazon Items
Video: How to Book a Cruise: Should You Book Direct with the Cruise Line, Travel Agent or Online
If you enjoy cruise tips, news and reviews, please subscribe to our channel, Life Well Cruised on YouTube.
Final Thoughts: Is It Better to Book a Cruise with a Travel Agent or Direct with the Cruise Line?
To recap, in this article we’ve gone through the benefits of booking with a travel agent for a cruise, as well the disadvantages. In addition, we’ve also gone through what to look for in a travel agent and what questions to ask.
When booking a cruise with a travel agent, there’s no additional cost, and it may be cheaper in some cases. You may even receive travel rewards or an onboard gift from your agent. If you’re a first time cruiser or booking a group cruise, booking with a travel agent is probably best.
However, the disadvantages of using a travel agent include not having control over all aspects of your booking. You’ll have to communicate with your cruise specialist for questions and changes you wish to make.
Have you booked a cruise using a travel agent or directly with the cruise line? Please let me know any questions, as well as any tips that you may have.
If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. Please share on Facebook or PIN to your favorite Pinterest board (share buttons at the top). Thanks so much!
Follow me on Facebook at Life Well Cruised
Follow me on YouTube at Life Well Cruised
Follow me on Pinterest at Life Well Cruised
Follow me on Instagram at Life Well Cruised
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
Protect Your Trip »
Is a travel agent worth it the pros and cons.
Travel experts agree there are several advantages to hiring a vacation planner.
The Pros & Cons of Using a Travel Agent
A travel agent can save you money and time. (Getty Images)
Need to pivot your trip plans but don't want to deal with the extra time, money and hassle of rebooking flights and accommodations on your own? That's just one area where a knowledgeable travel agent (also commonly known as a travel advisor) can help. Read on to discover the other benefits – as well as the downsides – of using a travel agent, so you can confidently decide whether or not a travel agent is worth it for your next trip.
The Pros of Using a Travel Agent
Travel agents can save you money – and get you other perks.
"In some cases, you'll actually get a better deal by working with a travel agent," says Jackie Steele, travel expert at MagicGuides . "This could be in the form of a cruise onboard credit (free spending money to use on the ship), access to special agency/group rates, or even just learning about a discount you qualify for but weren't aware of." The best agents will even keep an eye on new discounts as they're announced and apply them to your trip even after you've booked, he notes.
Travel agents handle all the details
Hotel room? Booked. Dinner reservations? Made. Tour tickets? Ready to go. A travel agent handles every detail of your vacation itinerary. "The traveler still gets to be involved in the fun part of dreaming up ideas and providing their travel wishes, while we take and perfect them," says Jessica Parker, founder of Trip Whisperer .
Molly McShea, owner and travel advisor at McShea Travel , points out that travel agents can also help with timing logistics. "Travel agents know how many days should be spent in each destination, which tours go together, and how many things you should do in a day," she says, adding that crafting an itinerary can be challenging if it's not something you regularly do. Additionally, travel agents can help you choose the best time to visit your preferred destination(s) based on seasonality and your budget, and sift through travel insurance policies to find the best option for your needs.
Travel agents can provide local expertise
"A travel advisor's industry connections and relationships provide added value to their clients," says Valerie Edman, a luxury travel advisor and agency owner at Cultured Travel LLC. She says when working with a travel agent, travelers gain access to a global network of connections including:
- In-destination specialists who work exclusively with travel advisors and can connect travelers with unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences they wouldn't otherwise know about
- Exclusive experiences not available to the general public
You'll avoid surprise fees
When deciding if a travel agent is worth it for you, remember this: A reputable agent can guarantee you won't encounter any surprise fees on accommodations and activities once your trip is booked.
You'll have someone to troubleshoot unexpected travel issues
A travel advisor is essentially your personal vacation concierge. "Because they've been around for so long, agents really know what to look for," says Christopher Elliott , a consumer advocate and journalist. "Travel agents are among the first to know about flight cancellations and delays , making it easy for them to rebook itineraries right away."
The Cons of Using a Travel Agent
It might not be your cheapest option.
There are some instances when it makes more sense to plan your own trip. "If you're planning a quick flight from New York City to Los Angeles, it's easy enough to book it yourself online directly or through a third-party booking site," says Elliott. "If you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip or bucket list honeymoon , that's when you call the experts."
You'll have less flexibility in your itinerary
The upside of working with a travel agent is having someone plan an epic vacation for you based on industry knowledge and local expertise. But this can also be a downside in the event you discover an activity you'd like to do or a restaurant you'd like to try that isn't on your pre-planned itinerary. If you alter your plans, you risk losing money; plus, the time it takes for you and your travel agent to coordinate your change of plans may not be worth the hassle.
You still have to do some research
It's important to find an agent you can trust, which means you still have to do some of the vacation planning. For this part, Parker recommends picking up the phone. "Lots of people avoid or don't pick up the phone as much anymore," she says. "That's where you get the high-touch service, tone of voice, excitement or concerns to manage." She advises to look for the following red flags:
- No fees: " Travel advisors are charging planning fees more now or increasing them, so the client knows more confidently than ever, we work for them, not the suppliers with the best commissions," Parker explains. "There are a lot of things that are non-commissionable and the advisor's time and expertise shouldn't be given away for free, either. That's the best way to show an advisor takes their business seriously."
- Limited options: If you work with someone who is inexperienced or has an incentive to book you with a certain supplier, they may not be prioritizing your best interests. "It's important to check if they are with a larger consortia, accreditations and network, typically listed on their website and signatures," says Parker. "That level of mindshare doesn't come with a lone advisor unless they have many, many years of experience."
- Slow response times: If communication is delayed, that's a sign they may be too busy to plan your trip – but again, this is something you can avoid by having the right conversations early on.
Edman suggestes starting your search with the American Society of Travel Advisors . "ASTA-verified travel advisors are committed to the highest industry standards and have verifiable industry knowledge so consumers can feel confident in working with them," she says.
You might also be interested in:
- Is Travel Insurance Worth It?
- First-Time Cruise Tips
- Carry-on Luggage Sizes by Airline
- What to Pack in Your Carry-on Bag
- The Best Luggage Brands
Tags: Travel , Travel Tips
World's Best Places To Visit
- # 1 South Island, New Zealand
- # 4 Bora Bora
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.
You May Also Like
The best zoos in the u.s..
Nov. 16, 2023
The Best Mississippi River Cruises
Brittany Chrusciel and Gwen Pratesi Nov. 16, 2023
Best Black Friday Luggage Deals
Amanda Norcross Nov. 16, 2023
Top All-Inclusive Cancun Family Resorts
Amanda Norcross Nov. 15, 2023
Adults-Only Resorts in Punta Cana
Sharael Kolberg Nov. 15, 2023
Cheap Caribbean All-Inclusive Resorts
Timothy J. Forster Nov. 15, 2023
Top All-Inclusive Resorts for Weddings
Holly Johnson Nov. 15, 2023
All-Inclusive Hawaii Resorts
The Best All-Inclusive Resorts for Teens
11 Top Affordable All-Inclusive Resorts
Nicola Wood and Timothy J. Forster Nov. 15, 2023
Cruise Trip: Should You Work With A Travel Agent Or Book Directly?
It's never easy choosing between working with a travel agent or booking directly with the cruise line. Read on to see our take.
Let’s face it. It’s always hard deciding on whether to use a travel agent or to deal directly with a cruise line. Each option has its disadvantages as well as advantages. Also, a cruise trip is not like a road trip. There are many factors to consider. According to our opinion, we think the best scenario will involve working with a travel agent but not living everything to him—in a hands-off manner that many imagine.
Therefore, one should, for instance, check the cruise line’s website or call their representatives to get what they would offer as the best deal. With this amount in mind, call the travel agent and give him or her—the baseline price—while asking if a better deal is possible. After this, monitor price movements daily , and then inform the travel agent to get a re-price in case of a drop.
Here’s our reason.
Why You Should Work With A Travel Agent On A Cruise Trip While Still Maintaining Control
We all know this trite phrase: trust but verify. That’s the same attitude one should assume when working with a travel agent. The danger, like with most things in life, is to sit on the extremes. One extreme is to believe that booking a cruise trip directly with a cruise line is the best option— always . At the other end of the spectrum, the decision to deal with an agent—and leave everything for him to handle is a little naive, even gullible. Here’s the truth: booking directly not only feels secure but is actually secure. It’s unlikely that one will be scammed or seriously inconvenienced. Secondly, the prices of cruise lines are almost always the best one can get. Still, working fully with them may make you miss out on certain perks and incentives. And aside from the parks, there’s actually a chance that one can get a lower price when working with an agent—than the one quoted by the cruise line.
That’s the reason we advise working with a travel agent—while still doing both preliminary and continuous research throughout the trip. While leaving everything in the hands of the travel agent may appear so relieving, it’s better to be in the know regarding many travel elements to be sure of a good deal. The main advantages of working with a travel agent are: the possibility of getting better On-board credits, the agent’s ability to price adjust in cases of price drops, the possibility of getting lower prices due to group rates that cruise lines give travel agents—and the ability and competence of the travel agents to expertly handle logistics-related issues that may be hard or just impractical, especially for a novice. Remember, on a cruise trip, there could be a lot of complex nitty-gritty to consider. For instance, there are issues a couple will want to consider that a solo traveler won’t.
Related: Top 10 Best Cruise Journeys To Take In 2022
In the end, working with a travel agent while putting one’s fingers on the pulse, is the best strategy. It’ll ensure one will get the best that both have to offer. With this in mind, one should ensure his or her choice of a travel agent is the best.
How To Choose A Travel Agent For A Cruise Trip
Since we’ve advised working with a travel agent, even if still closely being involved, the next step in the process is to identify a reliable cruise trip travel agent. Let’s make this simple. It might appear odd but the best method of getting a reliable travel agent for a cruise trip is through the old, tried method of referral. While one can pour through a thousand reviews on online sites of agents, and read each and every review, nothing compares to word-of-mouth referral by a friend, colleague, or family member. A referral is important because it’s a true story of someone that’s known—and who’s close—and therefore reliable. A good step would therefore to ask for such information from a network of friends. Also, when a traveler engages a travel agent because of a referral and mentions the same to the travel agent, the travel agent will be motivated to exceed—or at least equal the desired expectations. This is because they would want to maintain that reputation as it can earn them even more business.
Related: The Best Argument For Hiring A Travel Agent In 2022
Still, even if a referral is the best way to choose a travel agent for a cruise trip, one should still check the online reviews and feedback for a big-picture perspective. Other than referrals and reviews, a good cruise ship travel agent should be someone who’s detailed and thorough. If in an initial engagement, an agent is ready to proceed with a reservation before knowing more about a traveler, then that’s a red flag. This desired information should include stuff like hobbies, personality, preferred food and drinks—and the desired type of restaurant or nightlife—among many others. It’s this information that’ll provide a profile on which basis the agent should select the cruise ship. Of course, as a traveler, one should also be involved in the selection of a cruise ship .
Here’s the take-away. For one wondering whether to book a cruise ship directly or work with an agent, the best option is to work with an agent in a close, deliberate manner. The key is to get a fine travel agent.
9 Reasons Why You Should Use a Travel Agent to Book your Cruise
Jul 21, 2021 | CRUISE TIPS , MONEY SAVING IDEAS | 0 comments
Should you Book Direct or Use a Cruise Travel Agent?
You’ve decided to take a cruise. Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. Many people ask “should I use a travel agent to book a cruise?” and there is a simple answer to this question – Yes. Choosing a good cruise travel agent could be one of the best decisions you make when booking your cruise.
There are several important decisions you need to make. Where would you like to go? What type of ship should you choose; Boutique Ship or Mega-Ship? Ocean Cruise or River Cruise? Maybe an adventure on an Expedition ship? Do you want to Fly to an overseas location to pick up your cruise? The list goes on.
No wonder people feel confused and unsure as to what to do next. So what are your options? Some folks start by doing online research or use recommendations, but whether you’re new to cruising or a seasoned traveller looking for something different, we highly recommend getting advice from one of a growing number of independent cruise travel agents.
We cruise a lot and some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked when someone is looking to book a cruise include the following:
- Should I use a cruise travel agent to book my cruise?
- Surely dealing directly with the cruise company is better for me?
- What’s the best way to book a cruise?
- Should I use a cruise travel agent to make my booking or do it myself online?
This in-depth article, covers all the reasons why we believe booking through a cruise travel agent is the best solution. There is a widely held belief that travel agents are a thing of the past, although it was not long ago that using a travel agent to book any travel was the only game in town. Anyone can book anything online, but is that the best way? Here are why we believe it is always best to book with an agent.
Personalized experience using a Cruise Travel Agent
If you choose the right agent, they will have access to vast numbers of cruise line offerings and will not only be able to scour the whole market to find your perfect cruise; they can also save you time and money into the bargain. On top of this, they will often know of the latest deals available through their prefered cruise lines.
They can also add exclusive perks, such as flowers in your stateroom, onboard spending money, cabin upgrades or a bottle of bubbly on arrival. In addition to these fun extras, agents can also arrange personalized travel details for your cruise like specific dining requirements like vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free.
Higher Levels of Customer Service
Perhaps one of the most important reasons for using a cruise specialist is the high level of customer service you will receive that you will not get when using an online service or even a non-focused travel agent. The right cruise travel agent will be able to answer all of your questions and guide you through essential steps.
The right travel agent, especially one who specializes in cruising, will give you access to experienced staff with extensive knowledge who can help you choose the right cruise and stateroom. They will be able to take care of all your specific requests. If they sound vague or cold, ditch them and find a company that is passionate about winning your business.
Better Communications & Technolgy
Most travel agents can be reached easily seven days a week through a phone call, email, text message, WhatsApp or Social Media.
The better cruise agents will allocate a dedicated person to manage your account, which helps them understand your requirements and help build a long-term relationship.
These dedicated contacts are often called your “Cruise Concierge” or “Cruise Connoisseur”.
Sophisticated agents will make all your reservation information available online and readily accessed 24/7 — no more reams of paper to contend with and kinder to the planet.
As well as an intelligent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, these agents will also have intelligent computer systems with access to flights, hotels and other cruise add-ons to help provide you with a stress-free booking.
These booking engines make booking a cruise, flights, hotels and addons simplicity itself. They also link to all the major cruise line booking systems and can instantly advise on the availability of particular staterooms or suites. Some agents can even hold staterooms for a few days, so you can double-check everything before parting with your money!
Ship Visits, Inspections and Reviews
Good Cruise Travel Agents gain valuable insights into ships during regular ship visits and ‘educational’ trips with the cruise lines.
You can take advantage of their extensive knowledge to ensure you book the right cruise for you.
If there is a particular ship you would like to see and it visits a close port to where you live, some agents can arrange for you to visit and even have lunch on board.
Many of these specialist cruise agents provide helpful, unbiased reviews, inspection reports, blogs and informational videos on their websites and via their social media channels.
Adding Value and Keeping You Up to Date
The best agents also keep up to date with policy changes made by the cruise lines. Such things include smoking restrictions, covid rules, cruise gratuities and Drinks Packages, which help avoid surprises when you embark on your cruise. They can also advise on the Dress Code and the number of Formal evenings planned for your chosen cruise voyage. If you have stock or shares in a particular cruise line, they will also apply for your shareholder benefits.
More importantly, the travel agents with a real focus on cruising are kept fully informed about the latest offers from the cruise lines. Many of these agents offer the ability to sign up to receive offers and unique offerings direct to your inbox via email. Signing up for these offers or newsletters is particularly good for last-minute and cancellation cruise offers.
Related: Cruise Line Shareholder Benefits
Groups and Travel Agent Rates
Some Cruise Travel Agents are able to negotiate special pricing with the cruise lines if they undertake to book a certain number of cabins or staterooms on a particular voyage. In return for this commitment by the agent, the cruise line rewards them by giving them ‘agent rates’ or free cabins, which the agent can sell or use themselves.
Examples of these ‘bonuses’ to the agent are 1-in-8 (i.e. The agent gets one 1 Free Cabin for eight cabins sold). If you are travelling in a large party with family or friends, it is always worth asking if the agent has special group pricing and ask for free places for your group rather than the agent taking the “Free” cabins as extra profit or freebies for their staff.
Top cruise travel agents often organize hosted cruises with a particular theme or destination experience.
Examples of this are the Monaco Grand Prix , Food and Wine Extravaganzas and small group adventures to places like Antarctica or the Galapagos. Hosted by a seasoned travel agent, these cruises are an excellent way to pick up tips from a professional.
Your host can often arrange for you to dine with the ship’s officers or the captain.
Tailor Made Cruises
For total peace of mind and reduce the stress and worry of making numerous arrangements, why not pass this on to an expert and let them build a bespoke and unique package for you.
A cruise specialist travel agent will look after everything from transfers, flights, hotel stays and even arrange some shore excursions to ensure your vacation is smooth and effortless.
The Cost of Using a Cruise Travel Agent
There is a view that using a travel agent to book a cruise will cost you more than booking directly with the cruise line. In reality, the opposite is the case. There is no surcharge when using an agent, and in most cases, their prices will be better than booking with the cruise line direct.
The reason for this is that the cruise lines need travel agents to sell the bulk of their cruises as they could not handle all booking themselves directly. The cruise agent will receive a percentage of the fare as a commission, but that doesn’t affect the price you get charged but funded by the cruise line. Commission earned is based on from the cruise element of the fare with things like port charges, flights etc. excluded.
Save Time and Money
Using a specialist cruise travel agency can save you a lot of time and money. If you explain to your agent exactly what you are looking for, they will do all the work and provide you will personalized quotations to meet your needs. The right agent builds a profile of your interests and preferences and will match your hobbies and even the celebration of a special occasion to find your perfect cruise.
The best cruise agents may suggest a unique itinerary which you would never have spotted. It’s so easy to watch one of the many TV programs about cruising or get drawn into a commercial promising a particular cruise line being the best fit for you and then potentially miss the perfect cruise with another cruise line.
How to Choose the Best Cruise Travel Agency
There are so many cruise travel agents and cruise specialists after your booking; the trick is being able to find the best ones. Some of the essential qualities to look for before you book include:
- Check that the agent is a member of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association). ie a CLIA Travel Agent. CLIA is the governing body of the cruise industry.
- Multiple cruise line offerings. If your cruise agent only promotes or has knowledge of one cruise line, all of their recommendations will be with that line. Even if another cruise line is a better option, you may end up with a dud.
- Getting to know you. Any cruise travel agent can ask a series of questions and book you on a cheap seven-day cruise around the Med. Always try to find an agent who asks about your family, your interests, hobbies etc. Every cruise line has a particular speciality and a travel agent who takes the time to get to know you will find that perfect vacation. You want your cruise travel agent to feel like a friend, not someone who wants to make a cold business transaction.
- Make sure your money is protected either through financial protection schemes offered by your agent, through travel insurance or at the very least pay by credit card as this may offer some protection.
- We use a local specialist cruise agency called Deluxe Cruises UK who really understands what Ultra-Luxury Cruising is all about. Do your research well, and you will not be disappointed. If you want suggestions on who to use, just drop us a line and we will do our best to help.
The Good Stuff
- Better Pricing
- Wider Choice of cruises
- Perks from the Agent
- Expertise with multiple cruise lines
- Emergency Hotline numbers
The Not so Good
- If you like to do it all yourself, you may feel a loss of control
- Can sometimes be slower to react to problems
FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions
If i book directly with the cruise line, will i get a better deal.
Cruise lines generally expect all travel agents to chargee the same price, for a particular cruise, unless the agent has groups or agent pricing. The cruise lines’ internal sales teams have to abide by the same rules. The aim is to avoid heavy discounting and price wars. Cruise lines depend on travel agents to advertise, sell cruises and process bookings. On this basis, they certainly don’t want to undercut the agencies with whom they work.
SHOULD I USE A TRAVEL AGENT TO BOOK A CRUISE?
The real answer is Yes. It would be best if you used a travel agent for booking your cruise as they have so much added value.
WHEN YOU SHOULD BOOK YOUR CRUISE ON YOUR OWN
If you are happy to do everything yourself and hate the idea of someone else doing what you think you could do yourself, then going it alone may be for you!
While travel agents have access to perks that the average cruiser does not have, some still prefer to book directly through the cruise lines and do all the planning on their own.
Choosing to use a cruise travel agent can take some time, but once you find a good one, stay with them as they develop their relationship with you. If they don’t perform, dump them and look for another.
All Our Cruise Secrets for FREE
Joining this list will be your best decision ever. We send monthly emails with news, cruise tips and advice all designed to help you get more from your cruise. No Spam, we promise.
You have Successfully Subscribed!
Hi, I’m Mike, a passionate cruiser with over 400 days at sea! This blog is dedicated to all those who love to cruise and are looking for a place to explore, learn and enjoy our tips, insider secrets and money-saving ideas about cruising. Happy Cruising!! Find Out More
BEST SELLING CRUISE BOOKS
You might also like ....
- SHIP TRACKER
Subscribe For Updates
We really do hope you enjoy our blog and all that we have to offer. Don't miss out on our latest money-saving tips and tricks by joining our mailing list and becoming a Smart Cruiser!
We promise not to spam you and you can unsubscribe at any time...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list and become a Smart Cruiser!
Pin It on Pinterest
Secret advantages of using a travel agent to book a cruise
Are you tired of your usual land vacations? Have you thought about trying a cruise for the first time? Great! All you need to do is make a reservation and put a deposit down. While you might think it is best to browse thru the cruise line website, find a cruise you like and then call their reservation line or start booking online. But how can you be so sure that you’re getting the best value for your money?
What if there’s another option to get the best cruise deals? Or better yet, the best cruise value! Here’s a tip – book thru a travel agent. And here are some reasons why:
1. GET A CHEAPER CABIN RATE
Most cruise lines offer their lowest prices on their website. But have you ever noticed that some travel agents offer cheaper cabin rates even though the cruise lines do not have ongoing promotions? Fret not, it’s not a scam. Preferred travel agents are sometimes given access to exclusive, non-advertised rates by cruise ships which allow them to offer discounted cabin rates to their customers. These unadvertised rates help the cruise lines fill their ships without upsetting your fellow guests who have booked at a higher fare. Typically these fares are bare-bones and don’t include any extras. Also, these low fares are not usually available during special holidays and last-minute bookings.
2.ENJOY OTHER PERKS & FREEBIES
To stand out from the competition, all travel agents aim to make their travel packages as attractive as possible. And since most travel agents cannot legally publish prices lower than what the cruise lines offer, they resort to the next appealing incentive – travel perks!
Here are two popular travel perks you can possibly get when you book with a preferred travel agent:
- Onboard Credit. This is the currency onboard. This credit is loaded into your onboard ship account which you can use to purchase goods in shops or to pay for specialty restaurant up-charges. You can also use this to buy souvenir items, beverages and shore excursions.
- Prepaid Gratuities. Expect great services once you are sailing. However, most of the time, you will be required to pay daily gratuities for such services – sometimes amounting up to $18+ dollars a day per person! With free prepaid gratuities offered by your travel agent, you can save over $100 per person for a 8 day / 7 night cruise trip.
3. SCORE THE BEST DEAL
BONUS : Tips to get more savings through your travel agent
- Sign up on a travel agent website/newsletter so you are always updated with their special promotions.
- Book through a seasoned travel agent. They are more often than not ‘preferred agents’ of cruise lines and get special discounts and promotions.
- Compare before you select. Be proactive in calling several travel agents and find one you are comfortable with.
- Don’t be shy to ask for special discounts and freebies. But also be sure to ask about what’s the best value. For many guests, the cheapest price is not the BEST deal or value.
Our Travel Magazine
So how to choose the right vacation for you?
Vacations are an investment! With literally thousands of options, choosing the right vacation and the best value is difficult to sort through. That’s where I bring my 12 years of travel experience and expertise to do this right, and get you the best value for your money. With the backing of the largest travel consortium behind me, we have options you can’t find online. Plus our work just gets started once we book your dream vacation. Chat with us to learn more.
The world awaits you and we look forward to assisting you in choosing the exact right adventure on the waters or land for you and your companions!
Let’s chat and find the right vacation for you.
Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!
About the author: brian raymond.
- Find a Cruise
- Cruise Tips
- River Cruising
Best to book through Viking or an agency?
By badger1829 , September 4, 2013 in River Cruising
First, we have never ever been on a river cruise but are anxious to go. Is it best to book through Viking or will a travel agent get the same deals? Is it better to book Viking air? Are there advantages or disadvantages? Any thoughts or help is appreciated. Thanks in advance
Link to comment
Share on other sites.
For our first cruise with Viking we booked direct. I booked our own airfare and arranged our own pre/post extensions.
That's just me as I like to research and plan.
When we booked through a TA we got a $500 discount that I don't think we would have gotten from Viking if we had booked direct. This offer was advertised on the TA's website and that was what drew me to them initially.
We booked through Viking Air for our November trip. I could not come close to their $847 roundtrip air fare on my own from Ft Lauderdale. But then maybe others know places to look for fares that I don't.
Also when I balked about the cost of travel insurance the TA was able to offer us travel insurance that was less expensive than Viking's.
We did book the pre and post extensions with Viking and I know I am paying more than what I should be than if I did things on my own, but their seems to be a big convenience factor for me - no muss, no fuss, no worries - I give them my luggage when I land in Prague and they give me back my luggage when I leave from Budapest, and they provide all of the transfers. More carefree, but also more expensive.
We have booked our Viking cruises with a cruise specialist. As others have mentioned, she is able to offer some discounts that Viking extends to the T.A.'s. On our first Viking cruise, she also worked with me and Viking Air to book my airfare and flights, staying on the phone with me to ensure I was comfortable in my dealings with the process. For our next cruise in '14, we have decided to book our own airfare and extensions, as we have found that Viking cannot match the price. But, we are traveling with another couple, so that increases our comfort level in doing so, where we might not do that on our own.
As you see we always sail with Viking and the TA we use has a standard $500 off (prob the same TA Cary Cruiser uses :D) the Viking cruise price which is on top of all other discounts you can get from Viking. There is also a $200 per cruise discount if you use a referral which is combinable with the TA discount.
However booking with any TA requires more time and interaction from your side: e.g. you can't make any changes or check something just calling to Viking. Need to call TA first, ask them to call and check it out for you and wait for their call back...
Viking Air could be very inexpensive. For this Christmas they are even offering it for free from certain cities: NYC, PHL, BOS, EWR...
I can think of another consideration.
My wife & I did an early June cruise with Viking. We are inexperienced travelers and we purchased everything through Viking, including Travel Insurance. No Muss, No Fuss.
Once we arrived in Budapest and took our first walking tour, we learned all about the Flood heading our way. There was no way the cruise was going to work out as planned.
Some travelers managed to cancel and take advantage of their insurance with the help of their Travel Agents. Viking was my Agent and they were impossible to talk to during the whole flood thing. No surprise as they had plenty of other problems, but they weren't available to help me.
The Boat wasn't ever full, so I imaging that many folks cancelled because they knew what was going to happen. I would guess a good agent would know about things like that and help the traveler. This is not something I would expect from Viking.
Had we been given any warning about the situation, we would have cancelled before leaving the country, making good use of the Insurance.
By the way, I was with Viking, but I'd bet all the cruise lines would work about the same way.
Next time, I'll give an Agent a try.
I can think of another consideration. My wife & I did an early June cruise with Viking. We are inexperienced travelers and we purchased everything through Viking, including Travel Insurance. No Muss, No Fuss. Once we arrived in Budapest and took our first walking tour, we learned all about the Flood heading our way. There was no way the cruise was going to work out as planned. Some travelers managed to cancel and take advantage of their insurance with the help of their Travel Agents. Viking was my Agent and they were impossible to talk to during the whole flood thing. No surprise as they had plenty of other problems, but they weren't available to help me. The Boat wasn't ever full, so I imaging that many folks cancelled because they knew what was going to happen. I would guess a good agent would know about things like that and help the traveler. This is not something I would expect from Viking. Had we been given any warning about the situation, we would have cancelled before leaving the country, making good use of the Insurance. By the way, I was with Viking, but I'd bet all the cruise lines would work about the same way. Next time, I'll give an Agent a try.
Thanks for the info. So sorry about your trip
We have booked three times directly with Viking as we have found, in the past, that some travel agents did not work as hard as we had to in order to find the travel accommodations that we wanted. There are pros and cons to booking directly. Pros--not having to worry about booking hotels, travel arrangements to and from ship/hotels, Viking has to worry about getting you there. Cons: While we have received discounts dealing directly with Viking, not sure how much more if we had used an Agent, Travel Insurance is always cheaper with a private insurance provider (Allianz Is good). I have friends that books their own private tours on pre and post trips and some they loved and some they didn't because they felt rushed. All in all, I think it's a crap shoot. If you have a good agent and have been happy with them and what they do for you, why not stick with them. Have a great time.
- 2 months later...
Why? You are paying the same whether you do it yourself. (often times more)
Use an agent that specializes in river cruises. You may see negative comments here and there about travel agents but many times...those agents just aren't experienced or as knowledgeable about the river cruise product. River cruising is a niche that is relatively new...so to speak. Some general agents are still learning this fast-growing cruise niche.
A trusted agent on your side adds value. You get free assistance from start to finish and they handle all the work and remind/educate you along the way. No need to stress over figuring everything out, hoping you don't miss something.
A good agent will find you all the discounts you qualify for and probably save you much more money with the experienced advice and industry connections...not to mention finding you the best value on air and insurance and hotels and...
The river cruise companies that allow you to book through a travel agent/broker expect that this agent/broker will bring them business. Although each TA goes about doing it somewhat differently, the reality is that a substantial piece of your payment comes back to the TA and with the best ones (for us) this means many hundreds of dollars (or better) back into your pocket.
On the other hand, I don't think you can count on anyone (better read it here) in terms of which company, which itinerary, what season, which cabin etc. through folks who have experienced it!
I'm one of those folks who fell for the 100% early payment and hope that the itinerary, the season, the boat, and the cabin work out and am eager to continue reading about river cruise experiences.
- 3 years later...
Cary, Thx for this info about your experience going through a TA vs. booking direct with Viking. After reading similar comments from others, I'm thinking I need to find a river cruise TA. Did you use one of the ones linked through Cruise Critic or find one locally. First-time cruiser, and, other than going direct, I don't know where to look for a river cruise TA.
Thanks for any advise or recommended TA's.
When we booked through a TA we got a $500 discount that I don't think we would have gotten from Viking if we had booked direct. This offer was advertised on the TA's website and that was what drew me to them initially. We booked through Viking Air for our November trip. I could not come close to their $847 roundtrip air fare on my own from Ft Lauderdale. But then maybe others know places to look for fares that I don't. Also when I balked about the cost of travel insurance the TA was able to offer us travel insurance that was less expensive than Viking's. We did book the pre and post extensions with Viking and I know I am paying more than what I should be than if I did things on my own, but their seems to be a big convenience factor for me - no muss, no fuss, no worries - I give them my luggage when I land in Prague and they give me back my luggage when I leave from Budapest, and they provide all of the transfers. More carefree, but also more expensive.
Cary, Thx for this info about your experience going through a TA vs. booking direct with Viking. After reading similar comments from others, I'm thinking I need to find a river cruise TA. Did you use one of the ones linked through Cruise Critic or find one locally. First-time cruiser, and, other than going direct, I don't know where to look for a river cruise TA. Thanks for any advise or recommended TA's.
THE most strictly enforced rule on Cruise Critic is against naming or requesting names of TAs. This makes it very difficult to find a good TA at the time you need him/her most (before taking your first river cruise) -- once on board you can chat up your fellow passengers and get some good recommendations. Sorry about that -- but my job is to enforce the rules...
The way I found out TA was through the cruise company site. They had suggestions for companies they deal with, and I talked to a couple in our area. Once I found someone I was comfortable with who had been on a couple of different companies cruises, we settled with her.
As for doing your own research vs using a TA, there is nothing stopping you from still doing your research to see what you want and letting your TA know. That's what I have done, given her the name of the hotel where we wish to stay pre-cruise, the train route we wish to take to return to our originating airport, and our preferred flight plan. The nice thing for me, she has the experience in getting the bookings done, so I don't have to worry about that....and if anything goes wrong, she will be the one to sort things out for us!
Pick a TA that will give you something beyond just booking the trip for you, if there is no extra discount or OBC then find a different TA or do it yourself.
Don't get too excited about OBC offers though as there isn't a lot to spend the money on as it cannot usually be used for tips for example, look for a TA offering a rebate or discount on the price paid instead.
We are on a 23 day Viking cruise starting April 6th Amsterdam to Bucharest we booked a suite, the TA price was $2000 cheaper then booking direct with Viking! We are using Viking Air its $1995 per person for business class round trip the airline price is $8500 per person without transfers which Viking includes if your using Viking Air our Air price was cheaper because we booked a Suite, we will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary on this trip!
Sent from my iPhone using Forums
You will pay TOP dollar if you book direct with Viking!
It sort of determines how much of a discount is significant for you and whether you can and like to make arrangements versus having them made for you? I am ex-military (just a regular service once I completed university) and my insurance company has a travel agency and I have used this agent for several years. Obviously I compare prices and nobody is upset when I go with the best price. Viking uses travel agents as its price includes agent commission. It depends on the agent in terms of how much is shared with the customer.
I would also suggest that the same effort is necessary with air travel. So far I've never found a provided fare is both less expensive and of equal time to the one I come up with myself. Indeed, I met a retired pilot on my Viking cruise (Basel/Amsterdam) who lived in Jacksonville Florida -- you would think that they would fly out of the country at Atlanta? But they first flew into Minneapolis (as Viking obviously uses the least expensive seats they can find).
Our first Viking cruise represented the first week of our 2014 summer vacation that was followed by a train visit into Belgium and then an extensive Norway cruise RT Amsterdam (absolutely wonderful). My logic was that I selected a short river cruise and balanced it out with visits to Ghent and Brugges and then a wonderful cruise (hope to repeat fairly soon).
I could also note that we are retired and have plenty of time to select/design vacations, including internet, Cruise Critic, and Trip Advisor. I also found that doing pre-vacation research on river cruise ports did NOT improve this experience as incorporating that "additional art museum (etc.)" was often a problem and Viking made no effort to accommodate such activities (i.e. you miss lunch time, there isn't even a plate of sandwiches provided for your arrival). If you have never researched your own vacation, you may not want to start with a river cruise (I'd suggest spending a week in an exciting city using a rental apartment). (I have always wondered about folks who reach our age without making hotel and air arrangements: Some vacation-planning is a challenge, but many people are motivated to be helpful!
FWIW, we booked our Viking cruise through a big box member based retailer's online travel agency. We got about $300 off of Viking's price, a $200 abc (which frankly was difficult to use and not really needed) and a $500 cash card for the warehouse store...which since we shop there regularly and buy our gas there, was as good as cash in our pocket.
When Viking redeployed our boat and therefore canceled our cruise, I was very concerned that we wouldn't get much service out of the TA....boy was I wrong. They went to bat for us and got us not just the one category upgrade on the revised cruise (we lost one land day pre-cruise but gained one on the other end)but a two category since I didn't want a french balcony.
- 2 weeks later...
You will pay TOP dollar if you book direct with Viking! Sent from my iPhone using Forums
True our TA was $1000 less per person than the Viking price, but Viking Air is a bargain compared to booking on your own or Thur a TA.
Sent from my iPhone using Forums We are flying business round trip for $1995 p/p booking direct with the airline was almost $9000 p/p
Sunny AZ Girl
Most ocean cruises are at their cheapest when first released. Is this also true of River Cruises? Also, once booked, if the price drops will Viking honor that price drop?
Viking will NOT honor a price drop. If you don't care where your cabin is located or aren't interested in sailing peak season you can get some good deals by waiting to book. The problem with waiting is that often what you save on the cruise you more than lose because you can't find a good deal on airfare.
Viking will NOT honor a price drop. If you don't care where your cabin is located or aren't interested in sailing peak season you can get some good deals by waiting to book. The problem with waiting is that often what you save on the cruise you more than lose because you can't find a good deal on airfare. Sent from my iPhone using Forums
Thank you. That is what I wanted t know.:cool:
- 6 months later...
Have travelled with Viking Ocean and able to get a good discount with my TA but she now states as of May 11, 2017 Viking will not allow discounts with travel agents. TA's may be able to give ship board credit but unless you have the desire to take Viking's optional tours don't need too much OBC.
Maybe they will change that policy as they get more ships operational as there is lots of competition. Like Vikings product and will use again if the itenary is to my liking but lots of other ships in the ocean.
Have travelled with Viking Ocean and able to get a good discount with my TA but she now states as of May 11, 2017 Viking will not allow discounts with travel agents. TA's may be able to give ship board credit but unless you have the desire to take Viking's optional tours don't need too much OBC. Maybe they will change that policy as they get more ships operational as there is lots of competition. Like Vikings product and will use again if the itenary is to my liking but lots of other ships in the ocean.
Your agent is misleading (a polite way to express it) you! The agents who provide 10% or more of the cruise only price do not discount the cost of the cruise. But rather share their commission with their customer. This usually works out in a couple ways, 1) way "can be" the client bringing in less for final payment OR a check to the client either just before sailing OR upon arriving home. It all depends on how & when the Agent receives their Commissions from Viking.
This is not DISCOUNT and is not banned my any cruiseline. So don't let you TA pull that old "Cruiseline A,B, or C" just banned the practice.
Go to Vikings web site or goggle new Viking policy. It states that only OBC can be given as a discount. The agency I use is HUGE and quite a presence in the industry and after reading the new Viking policy don't think they are " pulling the wool over my eyes" . I was getting a minimum of 10% off Vikings rate taken off my invoice plus Viking's paltry $200.00 past passenger credit prior to the the New Policy.
Please sign in to comment
You will be able to leave a comment after signing in
- Welcome to Cruise Critic
- New Cruisers
- Cruise Lines “A – O”
- Cruise Lines “P – Z”
- Cruise Critic News & Features
- Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
- Special Interest Cruising
- Cruise Discussion Topics
- UK Cruising
- Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
- Canadian Cruisers
- North American Homeports
- Ports of Call
- Cruise Conversations
- ALERT: Update Your Email Address functionality is currently offline
Features & News
LauraS · Started 11 hours ago
LauraS · Started 13 hours ago
LauraS · Started 20 hours ago
LauraS · Started 21 hours ago
LauraS · Started Wednesday at 04:22 PM
- Existing user? Sign In
- Find Your Roll Call
- Meet & Mingle
- Community Help Center
- All Activity
- Member Photo Albums
- Meet & Mingle Photos
- Favorite Cruise Memories
- Cruise Food Photos
- Cruise Ship Photos
- Ports of Call Photos
- Towel Animal Photos
- Amazing, Funny & Totally Awesome Cruise Photos
- Write a Review
- Live Cruise Reports
- Member Cruise Reviews
- Create New...
Online travel agency Booking.com to sell cruises
The Carnival cruise ship Sunrise is seen docked at Miami Port, in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights
NEW YORK, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Booking Holdings (BKNG.O) largest brand Booking.com said on Thursday that it is launching a cruise section on its website to take advantage of the emergence of cruises as a popular option among consumers in the United States.
Cruise operators expect record bookings in 2024 due in part to rising demand among first-time cruisers and as consumers search for cheaper ways to travel. Online travel websites are trying to become one-stop shops for people planning vacations.
Booking.com is launching the cruise travel vertical in partnership with private cruise travel agency World Travel Holdings, the company said.
"The new offering meets traveler demand in the largest market for cruise bookings globally, representing 58% of the entire industry," the company said in a statement.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in July that there is more interest than ever among Millennials and Generation X travelers to take their first cruise.
About 73% of those who have never cruised before indicated they will consider such a vacation, the association said. About 85% of people who have been on a cruise will go again, a 6% increase from pre-pandemic seasons, according to a 2022 CLIA survey.
The travel booking website expects the new vertical to become available to all travelers in a week. Booking Holdings' Priceline.com brand currently also offers cruises.
Cruise operator Royal Caribbean Group said its bookings during the third quarter significantly exceeded 2019 levels and that cruise bookings for 2024 are significantly outpacing 2019 levels.
Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Starbucks employees at hundreds of US stores walkout on Red Cup day
When is Black Friday and which deals are consumers looking for?
Amazon to sell Hyundai vehicles online starting in 2024
Walmart sounds a note of caution on consumers ahead of holidays, shares fall
More from Reuters
Bath & Body Works trims sales forecast as demand slows into holiday season
Bath & Body Works lowered its annual sales forecast on Thursday on signs of slowing demand ahead of the crucial holiday season, as customers cut back spending on non-essential items like the specialty retailer's candles and soaps.
Hyundai unveils its first high-performance electric car
Environmental groups urge funding halt for TotalEnergies' Mozambique project
China's Li Auto to start mass production of its first full EV in Feb
Oil futures spreads signal market moving toward oversupply
Travel Advisor Resources
How to Become a Cruise Travel Agent (It's Easier Than You Think)
The Modern Travel Agency
Image courtesy of Virgin Voyages
Ocean- and river-bound vacations seem to be all the rage, and for good reason. For travel advisors, this popularity presents a prime opportunity to sell more travel.
But how does one become a cruise travel advisor? And what, specifically, can a cruise specialist offer? Below, we break it down for you. Read on to learn how to become a stellar cruise travel agent — including how to get started, resources to consult, best practices and more. Soon, you'll be ready to set sail.
Curious to learn more? Become a Fora Advisor to build your dream job, in travel.
What is a cruise travel agent?
Image courtesy of Hurtigruten Group
A cruise travel agent books cruises! The role of a cruise travel agent is really no different than the role of a travel advisor, who books hotels, tours and other excursions. (See our guide on what to expect from working with a travel agent , which goes into all the benefits of booking with you.) Consider cruises another tool in your travel advisor toolbox — and another way to earn more income.
What does it take to become a cruise travel agent?
We at Fora believe in learning by doing. To that end, the best way to learn how to become a cruise travel agent is to jump in.
More technically, the first step is to join a host travel agency — like Fora! While Fora is not a dedicated cruise travel agency, our travel industry experts nonetheless know the ins and outs of planning and booking the ideal cruise vacation, and are eager to share their wisdom, especially about how to be a successful travel advisor . Plus, you can do all the training from home. (Read more about how to become a travel agent from home .)
What are the requirements to be a cruise travel agent?
To become a cruise travel agent, you'll need to be affiliated with a host agency like Fora. (Interested in joining us as a travel agent? Learn more about joining Fora ). While many cruise travel agents opt to become certified through Cruise Lines International Association, or CLIA , this step is not necessary.
How much do cruise travel agents make?
When travel agents book a cruise vacation, the cruise line pays them commission — a percentage of the cost of the cruise vacation they booked. The commission rate varies between cruise lines. (Want to learn more of the basics? See our guide on how to become a travel agent .) It's best to check with the cruise line directly to discover what percentages they offer.
With this model, the more you book, the more you earn. You'll collect a larger chunk of commission if you book, say, a multi-family cruise vacation than you would for a couple's anniversary trip, or a small family's cruise vacation. (Disney cruises are popular for families. Read more about how to become a Disney travel agent .) And remember, this commission-based model is ideal for your clients, since they won't have to pay extra to enlist your expert services. Everybody wins!
How does a cruise travel agent book a cruise vacation?
Fora Advisor Fallon Alexandria
Unsurprisingly, when learning how to become a cruise travel agent, you'll need to learn how to book. We've got your back. Just as with hotels, you'll first need to head to the cruise line's website. There will usually be a designated tab or link labeled "Travel Professionals," "Travel Agent Portal" or something similar. There, you'll land on a page to create your own log-in. When you register, make sure to have Fora's IATA number handy. This number verifies that you are a Fora Advisor, and work within our travel agency. Fora can guide you through the process. With some cruise lines, like Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean, Fora will need to directly approve your registration.
Then, just as you dove into the world of hotel bookings, you’ll do the same with cruises. Our advice? Building relationships goes a long way. By simply asking for extra perks (like onboard credit), you can often level up your client’s vacation at no extra cost.
Now you know how to become a cruise travel agent. It's time to set sail...
There is indeed a lot of information to keep track of, which can be daunting. But, the more you learn — and the more you book — the easier these water-bound bookings become. We at Fora will be with you every step of the way.
It doesn’t stop there, of course. When you become a Fora Advisor , we’ll also help with marketing your travel business like a pro , mastering the art of group bookings and everything in between. And we provide all the tools, tech, expertise and community to do so.
Eager to learn more? Download our guide on how to turn your passion for travel into $$$. Like what you see? Become a Fora Advisor to build your dream job in travel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
We empower anyone with a passion for travel to transform it into meaningful revenue. Sign up to become a travel advisor today.
Travel Agent Shares With Us The Biggest Mistakes To Avoid When Booking A Cruise
Posted: November 6, 2023 | Last updated: November 6, 2023
From the outside looking in, booking cruises appears to be a one-and-done affair. Since many offer an all-inclusive experience, you might assume that the process begins and ends by simply choosing and booking one that tickles your fancy. Planning a cruise is certainly less headache-inducing than orchestrating a trip with multiple flights and long layovers . However, travel agent Victoria Fricke, from Vic's Vacations , told Explore in an exclusive interview that a few blunders can spell the difference between an enriching, memorable cruise and a disappointing voyage.
Fricke notes that a common error among travelers is failing to consider their itinerary once they disembark at the cruise ports. Too often, vacationers fall victim to tourist traps like overpriced bars and restaurants or souvenir shops selling the same generic items. "While [there's] nothing wrong with visiting those establishments, you're missing the entire culture and experience that destination has to offer if you don't plan ahead and explore. Look on blogs, talk to your travel advisor, look up the destination on YouTube and find the hidden gems," she advised, noting that a little research can greatly improve your experience. If you don't want to plan, you can ask your travel advisor to help you look into booking cruises that offer shore excursions or sightseeing tours.
Additionally, Fricke also supplied valuable advice to help you avoid incurring more expenses on your next cruise . She cautioned cruise-goers to be wary of this major mistake: falling prey to advertising ploys from cruise lines.
Read more: It's Time To Ditch These 10 Outdated Travel Tips
Don't Be Blinded By Marketing Schemes From Cruise Lines
Many travelers don't realize that cruises aren't truly all-inclusive, despite what advertisements say. Fricke told us that while most cruises cover essentials, including food, port fees, onboard activities, and basic child care, they don't include alcohol, specialty drinks, desserts, dining locations, and a bunch of other "fun" stuff. When booking cruises, Fricke suggests paying close attention to the fine print instead of relying solely on the advertised prices. "Cruise lines are notorious for a marketing strategy that draws you in with a low price that's too good to be true ... and oftentimes it is," she warned.
When it comes to comparing cruise lines , she says that it's important to determine how much add-ons cost and if the cruise offers packages so you can budget appropriately and save as much money as possible. "Many first-time cruisers don't take these additional amounts into consideration and might have been better off going to an all-inclusive resort instead," she added. "Especially if looking for a budget-friendly trip , this is a huge mistake to avoid."
The last thing you want is to spend the bare minimum on a cruise, only to spend more than you should have onboard because everything else costs extra. It's vital to clarify what the cruise includes before taking the plunge. Fricke also advises keeping your eyes peeled on cruise sales around holidays like Black Friday to get deals on onboard credits.
Scheduling Your Flights Prior To Embarkation Wisely
If heading to the port involves hopping on a flight, Fricke told us that you can potentially ruin your entire trip if you book a flight that is too close to embarkation -- even if it's hours apart. She says that too many cruise-goers make the "catastrophic" mistake of flying in on the day of the cruise, failing to give themselves ample leeway between landing at the airport and embarking on the ship.
"It sounds like the correct route. Get a flight that lands in Miami at 10 a.m., board your cruise at 2 p.m., and enjoy. The reality is far too much can go wrong on travel day," she explained. "From weather to missed connections, the reason for the delay doesn't matter. If you miss your flight and are late the boat does not wait."
When booking your flight, she advised that it makes more sense to arrive the day prior, ideally at a hotel close to the port, so you won't have to rush on the day of the cruise check-in . "Unwind, let the kids swim, go to dinner, and start fresh the next day ready to enjoy their cruise," she continued. Conversely, Fricke says it's fine to fly home the same day as disembarkation -- provided that your flight is after 1 p.m.
Read the original article on Explore .
More for You
Newly released audio reveals Trump’s words about January 6 crowd
Photos of Musicians Backstage in the '70s
Patrick Mahomes unleashes blitz on NFL's new jersey rule: "It's making QBs' lives tough"
Video shows the moment Antony Blinken winces after Biden calls China's Xi a dictator, upending months of careful diplomacy
Social Security Update As Millions To Receive 2 December Payments
Where are the Hamas fighters?
Trump 'made his own bed,' cannot add witness for writer's trial - judge
Friday night's meteor shower could be spectacular. Here's when to watch and where to look.
The Best Fast Food Fried Chicken, Ranked
A town that became 'one giant Airbnb' is now facing a reckoning
Fallout From Musk’s Endorsement of Antisemitic Post Spreads
COVID Map Shows Rising Hospitalization Hotspots in the US
Leaked coup tapes upend the Georgia RICO case: Melber Report
FDA recalls another 27 eye drop products: What you need to know as a consumer
Draymond Green suspension: Steve Kerr says actions were 'inexcusable,' punishment is 'deserved'
Backlash as Netflix cancels five shows at once including its ‘best series’
36 Dutch Oven Dinner Recipes
Xi Jinping's Ominous Warning For America
Trump Era Tax Cuts Are Set To Expire — Here’s How Much More You’ll Pay
Israel rushes out new ‘Iron Fist’ anti-missile vehicle to Gaza front line
Booking.com Launches Cruises in the U.S.
Dennis Schaal , Skift
November 9th, 2023 at 10:51 AM EST
There doesn't seem to be much of a downside for Booking.com getting into cruises. As with flights, which it launched in 2019, we can only say — what took you so long?
Known for many years as primarily a Europe-focused accommodations business, Amsterdam-based Booking.com on Thursday launched cruises in the U.S. through a partnership with cruise agency World Travel Holdings .
For Booking.com, which is the flagship brand of Booking Holdings, the deal to offer a white label cruise site powered by World Travel Holdings in the U.S. punctuates the company’s commitment to be a larger force in the U.S., where it competes with Expedia and Airbnb. The U.S. is the largest cruise market in the world, representing 58% of all cruise bookings, the company said.
Booking Holdings’ initial brand, U.S.-based Priceline.com, likewise offers cruises with World Travel Holdings, the largest cruise agency stateside, as its partner.
Booking.com Cruises’ Differentiation
Asked how Booking.com Cruises would be different from the rest of the pack, a spokesperson said: “Key differentiators for Booking.com Cruises are that customers will have access to exclusive offerings and deals on our platform as well as an enhanced onboard spend process. On Booking.com, when travelers make a cruise booking and board the ship, their onboard account will be automatically credited with the spend amount they can use to purchase food, beverages, spa treatments, excursions etc.”
Booking.com customers will be able to select from more than 10,000 sailings 30-plus cruise lines. Customers are eligible for “up to $50, $100, $500 or even $1,000” shipboard credits depending on how much money they spent to book their cruises, and on Black Friday the company is doubling these numbers.
Best Price Guarantee
Booking.com also offers a 110% Best Price Guarantee. If a customer finds a lower price on a competitor website with 48 hours of making their booking on Booking.com Cruises, then Booking.com pledges a refund of 110% of the difference.
“Additional exclusive spend at sea deals will also be offered on select cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and several others,” Booking.com stated.
Cruise Phone Bookings
Most cruise bookings are done over the phone due to the complexity of typical reservations and World Travel Holdings’ agents will handle the bookings, support and customer emails. There’s also live chat on the website.
For now, Booking.com’s game plan is to launch cruises in the U.S. only, a spokesperson said, although the company wants to expand its customer base across all its verticals, including stays, flights, car rentals, attractions, airport taxis, and now cruises.
Some U.S. consumers will be able to view Booking.com’s new cruise site starting today, and that percentage will grow over the next few weeks, the company said. It will be available on desktop and mobile.
Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry
Go deeper into the business of travel with Skift’s new AI chatbot.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch
Tags: booking holdings , booking.com , carnival corp. , carnival cruise line , celebrity cruises , norwegian , online travel newsletter , royal caribbean
Photo credit: The Carnival Liberty sailing out of Miami. Source: Mike McBey/Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/158652122@N02/49476509766/in/photolist-2io53BQ-2nVW2Hc-2oev7Co-7GSnc8-7GWio3-2nWN8RQ-2o6eeHk-2mgftPf-2nmXdoV-2omvC3i-2oiQaFW-2nNpnzz-7GWihs-2o4qFZ8-2ns6Nsf-bCzcfr-7GWioo-2ocRznN-2nH5sW5-2ogKzY7-2omb9Zh-2kep5AF-2nMUJJt-2nY5JN1-2obZsEa-2nMTM6p-7GSnbk-2obhTw4-7GWijj-7GSn58-7GSn4p-7GWisd-2nC9c5j-Boosun-2nn2DEr-2kMfNmb-2oo9EQE-2oeEUBU-2okXVjp-2oc3M3v-2md6tNq-2mfS5ZZ-2kX7Vow-2kivHQZ-2mnT7Rd-2okSNR3-2m6pStm-2nrtM3S-2mkPK8n-2meLGAZ Mike McBey / flickr