Once you have selected a cruise and feel confident that you are getting a good price, you have two options for booking: online or through a travel agent.
- Book online: If you're confident that you understand all of the steps to booking a cruise, know all of your options, and have it all planned out, you might decide to buy online. You can book through the cruise line directly, through an online agency, or through a discounter. Most websites give you a variety of tools to help you make the best decisions about your cruise, such as maps of the ships, cabin photos, and descriptions of ship amenities.
Another possibility is to use the Web to begin the booking process, and then request a phone consultation with a travel professional. Many of the cruise lines, as well as the online sellers, provide toll-free numbers that connect you with a cruise specialist. These representatives will be happy to complete the booking for you, or just answer your questions and let you finish the purchase online.
- Use a travel agent: When booking a cruise, there's really no substitute for developing a relationship with a trusted travel agent, either by phone, over e-mail, or in person. A travel agent who has been on many cruises will be able to help you through the complex booking process, considering all of the details that may affect your trip. In addition, a travel agent may be able to get you the best deal, because he or she can negotiate discounts with the cruise line based on the agency's volume of sales.
While travel agents can bring a personal touch to the cruise booking process, you do have to be wary of agents that are biased toward or against a particular cruise line. These agents may push you toward a ship or itinerary that is better for their sales incentives than your vacation needs. An agent who asks you a ton of questions and seems to be making an effort at understanding your specific requirements will most likely be more trustworthy than one who merely asks where and when you want to travel.
You can find a travel agent either in your local phone directory, or by using the "Travel Agent Finders" on cruise line websites. You can also find a trusted agent through a certified travel organization such as the Cruise Lines International Organization (CLIA) or the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).