Many people are simply overwhelmed when it comes time to book the cruise vacation of their dreams. There are so many options, so many cruise lines, so many destinations, and so many considerations. The list just continues on and on until one feels like they will never be able to sort through the jumble to find the perfect vacation package. But you can book the cruise vacation that you’ve always dreamed of. And while you can use a travel agent to do it, you can do it just as easily on your own if you know how.
The first step to booking your cruise vacation is to research and gather all of the cruise information you can find. Doing a keyword search online is a great place to start. You can also visit your local travel agent for brochures and catalogues printed by Princess Cruise Lines and various other cruise lines. Compare prices, destinations, and overall service of each vacation package offered to get a basic idea of what type of package you would like to purchase.
Next you will need to choose your destination. Again, the internet is a great tool. Online you will find tourist information, pictures, and testimonials for all of the top cruise destinations in the world. Your local travel agent may also be able to give you some insight into which ports are most popular among which types of travelers. Another great source of information are friends and acquaintances that have traveled with a cruise line. They can give you a unique perspective and advice on which destinations to avoid and which ones to include in your itinerary.
Before you visit your travel agent or book online, you should have a good idea of how much money you can spend and how long of a cruise you would like to take. Keep in mind that the time of year that you book your cruise can have a huge impact on the price you will pay. This means that you may be able to book a longer cruise with more ports of call for the same price of a shorter cruise if you book during the off season.
Once you have gathered and researched all of the information, you can begin booking your cruise. You can do this through a respected and well-known travel agent of your choosing or you can book your cruise yourself online or directly through the cruise line itself. No matter which method you choose, you will have to make several decisions about your vacation at this point in the planning process. Here are just a few:
1. Choose your point of departure and the travel method that you will use to get there.
2. Decide on ports of call and any extra activities that you may wish to take advantage of.
3. Choose your stateroom. Keep in mind that staterooms vary in price, amenities, size, and services available.
4. Become familiar with cancellation policies and restrictions.
5. Find out if you will be required to put down a deposit and how much it will be. Some cruise lines will require you to pay the full amount due up front.
Travel Agent or Book Yourself?
While finding a cheap price used to be the motivation that kept people glued to their computer well into the night looking for the perfect deal on a cruise, the popularity of cruises has led to the equalization of cruise prices all across the board. This means that you will probably pay the same price for a cruise that you book yourself as you would for one that you book through a travel agency. So which method should you choose? Take a quick look at the following advantages of each before you make your decision.
Booking with a travel agent has many advantages over booking online, and since the cruise line pays the agent a commission for booking the trip with its line, there is virtually no cost to you when you use an agent. Here are just a few of the advantages of booking your vacation through an agent:
1. An agent is quite familiar with all of the cruise lines available and the packages that they offer. This helps them to quickly narrow in on a package of your choice without having to do a lot of unnecessary research.
2. Since agents are familiar with popular cruise lines but are not employed by them, they can give you unbiased advice concerning your vacation and which cruise line you should travel with.
3. Most travel agents are certified or licensed through the Cruise Line International Association and the Travel Institute.
4. A travel agent will look for reduced pricing for your trip even after it has been booked and rebook your sea voyage for you at a lower price if and when it becomes available.
5. In the unfortunate even that something goes awry during your trip, your travel agent will act as a mediatory between you and the offending cruise line.
Booking online also has many advantages. Although a rare occurrence, searching for last minute deals online can still yield results. But even if you can’t find a last minute cruise bargain, you may choose to book online for one of the following reasons:
1. Online cruise websites contain most of the information that is available to travel agents. This puts the control of your vacation directly into your hands. You may also be able to browse inside information that would not have come up during a normal meeting with your travel agent.
2. You can access online travel agencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This allows for a lot of convenience and flexibility, which is perfect for people who have a hard time keeping and making appointments.
3. When it comes to researching your vacation, there is no better place to do it than online. Here you will find numerous research tools as well as photos, diagrams, reviews, schedules, and videos just to name a few.
4. Using an online calendar, you can search for the most inexpensive package available through the cruise line of your choosing. Sometimes you can save a few hundred dollars by leaving a week earlier or later than your scheduled time frame.
5. Since your travel agent narrows in on certain lines, ships, and destinations according to your wants and needs, you may not be able to browse all of the options available. Booking online will allow you to do this and more.
As you can see, there are many advantages of each, so it may be hard to make a decision. If you’re finding this to be true, you may want to book your vacation through an agent and perform additional research online yourself. Whatever your decision, once you have looked at all the details, go for it!