Anytime someone asks me for advice about booking a cruise, I ALWAYS recommend using a travel agent. I am lucky that the travel agent I used to book my first Disney cruise almost 9 years ago is still the one I’m using today.
However, there are a few downsides to using a travel agent to book a cruise. For most people, the pros of using a travel agent far outweigh the cons.
Pro: On-Board Credit
Many reputable travel agents give you on-board credit for booking a cruise through them. This is the main reason many people even considering using a travel agent in the first place.
The price of the cruise is the same whether you book online with the cruise line directly or through a travel agent. The difference is that travel agents make a commission on your booking. They then use some of their commission to give you on-board credit. You can use that credit for tips, alcohol, excursions, spa treatments or merchandise.
The amount of on-board credit you receive depends on the price of your cruise. Generally, it starts at $25 per stateroom and can go up to several hundred dollars.
Good cruise travel agents have been on many cruises and know the ins and outs of the various cruise lines. They will advise you on the best cruise based on your budget, ages and travel preferences. Once you’re booked, good travel agents will also recommend excursions and on-board amenities.
Got a question? Ask your travel agent. He or she most likely knows the answer.
Pro: Time Savings
When you use a travel agent to book a cruise, you will save time. Why? Your agent will spend the time online or on the phone getting your reservation just right.
For example, when Disney Cruise Line releases new itineraries, you must call if you want to change a placeholder to a new cruise. Your travel agent will call for you and wait on hold (sometimes for hours) on those days when everybody is trying to get through.
Pro: Money Savings
Good travel agents will alert you to the best time to book a cruise based on promotions. Also, if your cruise goes down in price (which never happens on DCL but happens often on other cruise lines), travel agents will re-book your cruise at the lower price.
Con: Loss of Control
When you use a travel agent, you must rely on your agent to make changes to your reservation. If you want to switch cabins or add pre-paid tips, you must instruct your travel agent to make those changes for you. If you try to call the cruise line to make those changes yourself, the phone rep will tell you that only your travel agent can make those changes.
Even if you book with a travel agent, you can still reserve shore excursions and on-board activities yourself. But, some people don’t like to lose control of certain aspects of their reservation.
Con: Slower Reaction Time
Travel agents are human beings with lives, and they will not likely respond to your non-emergency calls at 3:00 a.m. So if you decide you want to change your stateroom in the middle of the night, you will have to wait.
Normally, waiting until normal office hours is not an issue. But, if you are trying to grab a certain cabin category or cruise that has been sold out, you could miss your window of opportunity by waiting for your agent to respond. If you booked the cruise yourself, you could make that change online in the middle of the night.
For both new and experienced cruisers, I still recommend using a travel agent to book a cruise. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Find an agent that has CLIA certification and is good at responding to your calls and emails.
Cruisers, do you use a travel agent? Why or why not?
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Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.
We’ve done with and without and unfortunately had negative results with using one. The first time our cruise was canceled because the agent forgot to make the final payment so we had to rebook and she had to eat the cost increase. The second time we used one in part of a large group and half of us were never “assigned” to our group which caused a lot of issues in the dining room and activities booked for the group. We also lost out on a upgrade/price drop because the agent was on a cruise themselves and the cruise line wouldn’t speak to me because I wasn’t the agent. We also never got the OBC the rest of our group got for booking with the agent.
I see the perks and I know a lot of cruisers who swear by them, maybe we just haven’t found the right one yet.
@Emily That sounds like a terrible travel agent! I’m not sure I’d be comfortable booking with a TA who is the only one in the agency for those reasons. My TA is part of a group and they back up each other when they travel. I’m sorry you’ve had a bad experience.