- Visit your local travel agent
- Phone a call-centre cruise agency
- Book online
No one particular way is better than another, it comes down to personal preference in the end, although its always a good idea to do your homework first whichever way you choose.
If you have not booked a cruise before, i recommend doing your research first and then consult a cruise expert either in a call centre or face to face in a local travel agency. If you are a cruise veteran and know your stuff, the Internet is crammed full of offers that can save you bundles of money!
Why is this so I hear you ask?
Because the internet gives you instant access to the top cruise agencies, those who sell high volumes of cruise and can therefore offer bigger discounts. The fact that human-interaction has been subtracted usually means that the agencies can survive on smaller profits and therefore pass savings and benefits onto the customer. This means basically you get the same cruise and same service for less – what you don’t get is to talk to someone in person when you book – but if you know your cruise onions this shouldn’t be an issue at all.
So what is an ‘online’ cruise agency?
Online cruise agencies are real companies with real staff, in most cases some of the most experienced and knowledgeable cruise sellers you could ever find – it’s just that the actual booking you make is an automated process. This doesn’t usually mean that there is no-one to take your call if you have a problem – however, its always good to double check that an online agency displays their telephone number and address clearly for piece of mind. If you find an agency that has no contact details other than an email, I recommend that you steer clear – the best agencies wont hide their contact details from you.
How to bag a cruise deal
First of all you need to decide on the criteria that you want your cruise to fulfil, with a set date or cruise line in mind, you are then prepared to take the next step and ‘surf’. Take a look at a few different websites and compare prices, look out for extra discounts for booking online which many companies do. Some companies also offer a price match guarantee so if you do find the cruise you want at the price you want – but with an agency you just don’t want to book with – ask other agencies if they will match the price you have been offered. If the price you give is genuine, most agencies are happy to oblige – beware though, agencies know the available margins on a cruise and can therefore spot a fictitious price from a mile off!
Is buying a cruise online secure?
Always look for a security certificate, when you enter any personal details the following should happen:
- A padlock symbol should appear in the bottom right hand corner of the browser bar
- The web address should begin with https://
Every legitimate cruise agency should have at least two affiliations: ABTA and PSARA. Before you book your cruise you should verify the agent’s legitimacy by asking the agent for their professional credentials: ABTA and PSARA identification numbers. Then go to the web sites for these organisations and check the agent's credentials.
Good luck and happy cruise shopping!