If I was told I could offer just one bit of advice about cruise travel and not be allowed to say anything more on the subject, it would be to find a good travel agent and begin building a long term business relationship with that specific person. Not so much a good travel agency as a specific individual who focuses much if not all of their attention on cruise travel. But before contacting that agent, do a little homework.
Actually, you might already be doing the homework, you just call it “dreaming” and go about it by clicking on different cruise line websites to see what they offer. That’s a good first step that can become overwhelming pretty fast, much like trying to find a needle in a haystack as the old saying goes.
To help in getting the most out of that homework/dreaming takes little more time than reading this post. Here are three steps to take before contacting your potential travel agent.
Ocean Cruising, Step One- Where Do You Want To Go?
Knowing where you want to go, or at least having some kind of idea about it is a critical first step and information your travel agent will want to know. For example, traveling to Alaska in January is possible but not by cruise ship. If a nice warm Caribbean cruise in the winter sounds good, start with that. Long and short term travel goals come into play here too. Travelers coming from North America have a lot of options for Caribbean cruises which can be arranged relatively simply with the use of a qualified travel agent. Traveling overseas to that dream destination takes more effort, planning and time.
Ocean Cruising, Step two- When Do You Want To Travel
Establish a “travel window” of time that will work for you, like “In the summer” or “when there will be a lot of other kids on board” are both good, general travel window times.
Better is “Between June 5 (after kids get out of school) and we must be back by August 15 (a week before school begins again). If you have a specific time that is best like, “this is to celebrate our son’s graduation from high school which is on May 28th” note that.
Ocean Cruising, Step Three- How Much Do You Want To Spend
This is often one of the most difficult steps for many, especially first timers. A good way to get an idea of what cruise vacations cost is to surf the internet at sites like Expedia.com where a number of lines can be compared. Keep in mind that the initial prices you see online almost always do not represent the total price that will end up including all port charges, taxes and government fees.
Also important, keep in mind that the attractive price we see online, in a magazine, by direct mail or on television might also be for specific sailings of a particular ship which may or may not fit into your travel window. Cruise lines also commonly advertise entry level accommodations which might not match the cruise dream in your head.
That’s to start. Surfing the internet for pricing will give you a good general idea of what it takes for the cruise fare portion of the total vacation cost. But while cruise vacations are rather inclusive by nature, most are not all-inclusive and other expenses can add up fast.
How To Find A Good Travel Agent
The process is quite similar to finding a good real estate agent, insurance agent or even a accountant or investment specialist to handle personal finances. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends are a good place to start but the name of the game is building a long-term business relationship and that takes time.
Looking at a travel agent as the ‘person who handles travel’ like your accountant is the person who ‘handles your taxes’ is the way to go and with every success they have on your behalf, the more their stock goes up as a trusted personal advisor.
Checking with your local Better Business Bureau, a local chamber of commerce or other professional organization like the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) orAmerican Society Of Travel Agents (ASTA) are also good places to begin, even with the recommendation of a friend.
Getting the thumbs up on a potential agent from multiple sources should head you in the right direction to finding one that can be of great value for life.
This article is brought to by Cruise Compete. CruiseCompete.com allows you to easily compare multiple offers from Cruise Experts.