A couple of year’s ago I wrote an article about travel agents and what they do. Many people, including myself have the misconception that a travel agent is an out of date profession since we can all book travel easily and freely through a plethora of different options available to us via the Internet.
However, as I was just in the process of booking a cruise that is set to sail more than a year away, I was determined to get the best price and decided to do my research. I looked on many different cruise boards on where and when to book to get the best deal and many of them were saying contact your local travel agent. What?!? I thought for sure it was a desperate ploy from disguised agents trying to get business but as I looked into it more I realized it’s true! Travel agents really can offer you the best deals on cruises.
At first it is tempting to book directly through the cruise line’s website as they often have flashy deals such as cabin upgrades and on-board credit. But this would be like paying sticker price for a car! You need the middleman in this situation to bargain for you and get the best deals possible. Travel agents can get you all those flashy extras and more times than not a better rate on top of it. Sometimes they can throw in free travel insurance and can make sure you get a decent cabin. A lot of time’s a balcony can come with an obstructed view, something you may not know of and blindly book on the cruise line’s website only to be disappointed at departure.
Another question you may have, why would I book early? I like to wait till the price drops or book last minute. If you do not have flexible travel dates or have your heart set on a specific ship and itinerary or sail date book far in advance! Sometimes if it’s a popular cruise you may never see the price drop, or it could sell out. Another great perk to going through a travel agent is that if the price drops between booking and when final payment is due, your travel agent can negotiate the new rate for you. It is up to you to keep an eye on the price though and let them know if it changes (some will do it automatically it just really depends on the agent and your relationship).
But how do you find a decent travel agent? This is the million dollar question right? I really don’t have any great answers for you on that. Many people happen-chance meet one that they trust and have been going to for years. It’s great when that happens because you build a relationship and your travel agent understands your preferences and travel habits. But if you are new in the game like we were, and are looking for the best deal it may be worth it to try CruiseCompete. We were skeptical but again the boards on the cruise sites said it was the best, and since we really were in the market for a cruise and there is no-risk and no cost we decided to give it a try.
The way CruiseCompete works is you submit a request for a quote on a specific cruise you are trying to book and let them know what cabin type you prefer. Then the website sends the query out to hundreds of travel agents across the country who try to compete for your bid. They don’t know what the others have submitted, and they don’t contact you directly. All the quotes are listed on the website. Then you are free to choose which quote sounds the best to you either based on price or extras they are able to throw in. Then you contact the agent directly using a specific quote number provided on the bid.
We were impressed when we used it. We went with the lowest bid and actually booked through that agent. The agent was awesome and even got the cruise line to let us use our voucher that had expired so we didn’t need a down payment. She also got us a two-category cabin upgrade. Before we went ahead and pulled the trigger we did talk to the cruise line and did do our research to make sure they couldn’t offer us any other discounts or upgrades. We wanted to be sure this was the best way. We did end up paying about $300 less with the agent vs. the cruise line and getting a better cabin.
So my advice if you are planning on booking a cruise in the near future would be to do your research and make sure you have looked into all your options. Who knew that we would save money and get a better balcony from booking with a travel agent?
*DottingTheMap is not affiliated with CruiseCompete and did not receive any sort of compensation or perks from doing this review.