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FIve Reasons to Book Your Cruise via a Professional Travel Consultant

By Tareq Salahi, Connoisseur Traveler™


 In the 21st Century, we live in a “do it yourself” age powered by the Internet, which offers online booking options ranging from flights to hotels to rental cars. This means it’s easier than ever to act as your own travel consultant, even when it comes to booking cruises; just go straight to a cruise line’s website, decide on a date and port city, enter the passenger and credit card information, and boom, you’re all set! While it might seem easier to book your own vacation directly via a cruise line’s website, or even via Expedia or Travelocity, the truth is that not only will using a travel consultant save you time – it could also save you money as well as prevent the disappointment of booking with the wrong cruise line and/or wrong cabin type based on your wants and needs. 


Below are the top five reasons to book your next cruise via an experienced travel consultant, keeping in mind that, because all travel professionals are not the same, it’s vital to find the right one suited to your needs.  


Cost 

Some travel consultants buy blocks of rooms six months to a year in advance, paying the initial low cost up front, which is then transferred to the client, even if the client decides to book the cruise at a much later date.  Let’s say that my travel agency purchases 100 rooms in May for a New Year’s cruise to the Bahamas, and each room is $1,200 per person; in October, you decide to book the same New Year’s cruise on your own, and rooms are now up to $2,000 a person. You would save $800 a person by booking your cruise through my company, as opposed to making reservations directly via the cruise line. 


Cruise Perks 


A good travel professional knows each cruise line’s perks and promotions.  A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a woman who goes on seasonal cruises with her friend, who is still active in the U.S. military. After boarding their most recent cruise, they discovered that active military personnel could get $250 onboard credit (i.e. free money to spend); however, they had to have registered for it ahead of time. Unfortunately, by the time this woman’s friend discovered her mistake, it was too late to receive the benefit. While each travel agency is different, I prefer to offer additional perks for my cruise clients, such as bottles wine tasting 101 classes, bottles of wine, chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered to their cabins, and onboard credit deposited to their accounts ahead of arrival. 


Knowledge and Advice 


“Are you a foodie? Then go with one of Royal Caribbean’s newer ships or Norwegian Cruise Lines.” “Don’t like being around lots of small children? Go with a Celebrity cruise.” “Want to travel solo? Book a studio room on NCL’s Epic, Breakaway, Getaway or Escape.” These are the types of suggestions that your travel consultant can offer you, so that you don’t opt for the wrong fit. An experienced travel consultant can also tell you the pros and cons of cruise packages, such as Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package, which is a fantastic value on NCL’s Breakaway out of New York – especially since the Ultimate Dining Package gives passengers free admission to the Cirque Dreams & Jungle Fantasy show on the first night of the cruise.  I am also a supporter of the Ultimate Beverage Package on NCL, which offers premium all inclusive beverages for your entire cruise.   A travel consultant can also tell clients how to earn onboard credit via some cruise line’s casinos; if you enjoy gambling, you could break even on your cruise cost by playing the slot machines a certain number of hours per day during your cruise


Saving Time


 If you can give your travel consultant a list of dates on which you want to travel and/or a list of port cities you prefer, along with a budget estimate for your trip, your consultant can save you the time and hassle of having to research various cruise lines, dates, cruise lengths and prices on your own. Your consultant can also advise you on costs you might not have taken into consideration, such as the cost of a taxi from Newark Liberty International Airport to the Manhattan cruise terminal versus a taxi from Miami International Airport to Port Miami. It Doesn’t Cost Extra Many travel consultants, myself included, don’t charge an additional fee for booking a client’s cruise; instead, we receive a small commission from the cruise line, which is standard practice. Have no fear – we won’t book you in an overpriced cabin, because any travel consultant worth his salt knows the importance of satisfied (read: repeat) clients. If you’re in the market for a cruise, I hope this list has been enlightening. For those who have yet to experience the fun and adventure of cruising, there’s no time like the present; contact a cruise specialist today! Cruises are like my other passion in life, wine – there’s something for everyone, no matter what your taste.