Booking a cruise? Test your cruise travel agent first

test your travel agentSome travel agents are not going to like this idea at all. Those would be the ones that are just in it for the commission. Others, the ones you want, the good ones, won’t have a problem with this and will pass the test with flying colors.

“Finding a good travel agent who will work with you to select the best cruise possible is sometimes as difficult as finding a good doctor, dentist or other service professional.” says cruise travel expert Linda Garrison from About.com.

A big advantage you have with travel agents is that you can test them. Other than seeing diplomas hanging on the wall or Googling a prospective doctor or dentist online, you really can’t test them much before using them.

The test: Fake-book a sample cruise. Pick an easy one using the following variables:

  • 4 to 6 nights
  • Carnival cruise
  • 2 guests, both under 55, residents of New York, not in the military
  • You want to sail sometime during the month of August 2011
  • Least expensive mid-ship Balcony cabin.

Try that online at the Carnival website then at Expedia.com and send it via email to your cruise travel agent or potential agent if you don’t have one. You’ll have to go all the way through the process online, stopping short of providing a credit card, to get the final price. Your good travel agent will take some time to get back to you but it should be reasonable.

Take notes

  • How long did it take to complete the process with the cruise line, Expedia.com and your travel agent?
  • Which source offered you the most options?
  • Which source had the best price?
  • Which source offered a human being that could look beyond the numbers and facts like humans do, offering me the best alternatives?

OK, so the last one was a slightly loaded question but the point is well taken: A good travel agent will be the one that takes a personal interest in you, your plans and can look beyond just the numbers, fees and facts with a focus on not just price but the experience itself.

Save time, skip the test, contact a Travel Agent.

Flickr photo by nicasaurusrex