Does your cruise travel agent pass the test?

There’s an ongoing debate between consumers and those critical of the travel business which struggles to answer the question “Do I need a travel agent or not?”. They’re not required and cruise-related websites make it really easy to click and buy a cruise, much like you might buy an airline ticket. But a good travel agent, one that will bring great value to the table, will have certain qualities required to make the cut. Ask these simple questions to find an agent with the minimum qualifications that make them worthy of your business.

  1. Are you connected? Since you are reading this, you are connected. You need someone who speaks your language in the medium you prefer be that via email, facebook, twitter or maybe just an easy phone call away. Bonus tip: try communicating with an agent via email to provide a written record of what was said, promised or delivered.
  2. Have you been on many cruises? A good travel agent specializing in cruise vacations should have a rich cruise history on multiple cruise lines. You’re looking for their first-hand knowledge and experience dealing with cruise lines, they better have it
  3. Are you certified? They should be at least members of the Cruise Lines International Association and have a few letters after their name like ACC, MCC or ECC showing they went through basic training and then some. If they have one of those, odds are they will tell you about some specialized training they got from the cruise line too. Give big bonus points if they are members of other professional organizations or consortium’s.
  4. How long have you been selling cruises? If they say less than five years forget about them. That’s about the minimum amount of time it takes for agents to really know their way around cruise lines, establish contacts that can do you some good later and have enough bookings behind them to know what they’re doing.
  5. Will I be dealing directly with just you? This one has to be a “yes” answer or the whole thing is not worth your time. To a good agent, their job starts with making the booking and never ends as they work towards building a life-long business relationship with you. If they are not personally following your booking from beginning to end you have the wrong person.

Top 3 ways to insure a great cruise vacation

These are simple, easy to follow and almost guaranteed to increase the odds that you will have a great cruise experience regardless of the cruise line, itinerary, bumps in the road along the way or many other factors that can swing a vacation up or down the satisfaction scale:

  1. Use a travel agent. Internet-booking fares may seem like the way to go when surfing for prices. They’re not. After the sale that web site is done with you, never to be heard from again. A good personal Travel Agent has your best interests in mind and might have the opportunity to pass along future savings that commonly come along later. On price alone, you can be far better off using a good agent than going it on your own. Oddly, that is where a good agent’s job begins and many more benefits can be realized along the way. Even booking directly with the cruise line you don’t get that. Memorize: The Internet is for looking, Travel Agents are for booking.
  2. Tip your cabin steward up front. $20 should do it. When you first see your cabin steward, the crew member that will be in and out of your cabin throughout every day of your sailing, stop him/her, make eye contact, and shake hands with a folded $20 bill saying the following magic words “Take good care of us and we’ll take good care of you”. It’s easy, it’s simple and will almost guarantee you a better cruise experience, especially compared to Mr. NastyPants next door who demands stuff and treats the crew like dirt. Sure, its a bribe.
  3. Assume the best. As far as the crew is concerned, you are one of the few variables in their on-board lives. The ship, the cabins, the menu, even the ports of call, are basically the same from week to week to them. You are going to stand out one way or another. (see photo) Approaching them with a positive point of view can put you way ahead of the game. Yes, they make good money compared to their family back in LetMeOuttaHere Land but are drawn to guests that are nice people. Remember: They live there, you don’t. They know what’s up around the ship and can offer valuable ultra-insider information just as easily as the standard fare they dish out to everyone.

Flickr photo by divemasterking2000 (who appears to have the correct attitude)