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Should you use a travel agent when booking a cruise?

SmarterTravel

Excerpt from When you need a travel agent, published on August 7, 2003.

There’s definitely something to be said for the convenience of a travel agent, whether you end up paying a little more or not. You can spend hours online scavenging for the best price, even if you know where to look, but the time involved and frustration could in itself be costly. Not to mention that an experienced travel agent can give you valuable inside knowledge that will greatly enhance your trip.

Cruises are big-ticket items, and if you don’t plan correctly, you could risk not getting the vacation you’ve paid for, particularly if you are a first-time cruiser. Because agents often specialize in particular cruise lines, they’ll be able to direct you to the cruise that’s right for you, whether you’re looking for a demure line like Cunard or a family cruise like Disney. If you know what cruise line you’re interested in, you can go to that line’s website or call for a list of recommend agents that specialize in that line.

An agent also can assist in selecting a cabin. After all, you don’t want to get stuck in the smallest inside cabin next to noisy galleys or the boiler room. Additionally, they can help you with dinner seating arrangements, shore excursions, and dress-code information. Agents might also be able to swing perks like upgrades and shipboard credit.

You shouldn’t feel that you’re completely missing out on hot Internet rates if you go to an agent. Not only do agents have access to services that consumers don’t, such as consortiums, group rates (in which they buy blocks of space), and GDSs, more and more agents are gaining access to cut-rate prices available online. For instance, some cruise lines, most recently Carnival, have leveled the playing field with uniform pricing across the board so that sellers online or off can offer the same pricing. Also, should you find a great rate online, you can always ask your agent to beat it?many times he or she can.

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