It's not too late to start booking your future cruises with a travel agent.
Royal Caribbean recently announced their top-performing travel agencies of the year. The list includes both newcomers and repeat winners from previous years who proved their dedication, passion, and ability to book Royal Caribbean vacations.
- Chairman's Award for Overall Achievement: Travel Leaders Network
- President's Award for Overall Achievement: World Travel Holdings
- National Account Partner of the Year: Travel Planners International
- Southeast Partner of the Year: Travelmation
- Northeast Partner of the Year: Cruise Brothers
- Central Partner of the Year: Magical Vacation Planner
- West Partner of the Year: MEI-Travel
- Canada Partner of the Year: The Travel Agent Next Door
- Franchise Partner of the Year: Cruise Planners
- Corporate Incentive Partner of the Year: 3D Cruise Partners
- Charter Partner of the Year: Entertainment Cruise Productions
- Caribbean Partner of the Year: Travel Planners / Expedia Cruceros
- Automation Partner of the Year: Travel Planners International
“These are extremely exciting times for the entire cruise industry – cruise lines and travel partners alike. The sky’s the limit at Royal Caribbean, and the strong performance we’ve seen is thanks in large part to our valued travel professionals and their incredible knowledge when it comes to matching their clients with the right vacation experience,” said Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service for Royal Caribbean International.
“I’m very proud to honor these experts who consistently work with us and continue to see success with their businesses. As we dive into 2024 with the exciting launch of Icon of the Seas and then Utopia of the Seas in July 2024, as well as the next Icon Class ship, Star of the Seas, in 2025, we’re excited to reach new heights for the entire travel industry. Thanks for the support, and congratulations to the winners.”
If you don't utilize a travel agent, here are 6 reasons why you should consider making the switch when booking your next cruise vacation.
Travel agents have a strong understanding of the cruise industry
Travel agents will be able to help you understand all of the nuances of a cruise, as they're unlike traditional vacations. If you're debating between booking a suite or not, you might want expert advice on the benefits that you'd receive, especially if you're cruising on a ship with the Royal Suite Class, as some suites have perks that others do not.
Perhaps you cannot decide between two itineraries and want a little insight into what the ports offer; a one-way cruise in Alaska, for instance, is different from a roundtrip one from Seattle.
Travel agents can also advise you on cabin selections. If you aren't familiar with the ship, you could accidentally book a room in a location that you find undesirable, such as near the nightclub or with an obstructed view.
In essence, an agent will help guide you through all of the decisions that you have to make.
They will save you time
Planning a cruise can be time-consuming, so you should let a travel agent do the majority of the work! Rather than spending your own time pricing out different itineraries and cabins, you can request a quote for all the options you're considering.
Once you're booked, they'll check to see if your rate has decreased before final payment, so you do not have to. If they notice that the price dropped, they'll contact the cruise line to get them to honor the lower rate.
Additionally, if you don't know how you want to spend your day ashore, a good agent will give you some ideas based on your personal preferences. If there are multiple highlights that you don't want to miss, they can help arrange a private tour for you and your travel party, as cruise line shore excursions can be pretty limiting.
Travel agents have access to better rates
The first time I booked a cruise with a travel agent, I was genuinely surprised by how much money I saved. When I booked a cruise onboard Freedom of the Seas, my agent had access to group rates, meaning that I was able to secure a balcony cabin for the same price as an interior!
Additionally, when I was considering a cruise on the brand-new Celebrity Ascent for July 2024, Celebrity's website was advertising a Prime Edge Infinite Veranda cabin with drinks and Wi-Fi for $6,490.18. My travel agent booked the same stateroom category and perks for $5,440.32.
While they may not always be able to offer jaw-dropping savings, they'll usually give you some onboard credit as an incentive to book with them.
They'll provide peace of mind during emergencies
While not super common, cruise lines will sometimes make changes to your sailing. Dry dock maintenance, for example, might require Royal Caribbean to change your ship. Once onboard the ship, the Captain might deem it unsafe to dock at a certain port of call due to weather.
While unfortunate, a travel agent is advantageous in these instances, as they'll act as your advocate and liaison, meaning that you won't have to worry about communicating with the cruise line. Before any changes are made, they will ask how you'd like to proceed and then work with the cruise line to honor your specified wishes.
If you book your flights when an agent, they'll also be able to assist in rebooking them in the event that your original flight was delayed or cancelled.
Travel agents can help you book unique staterooms or get onboard special sailings
When Icon of the Seas' bookings opened, the inaugural cruise sold out within 24 hours. Those who worked with travel agents didn't have to worry about logging on and securing a reservation themselves, as the agent was on the ball the second itineraries were released.
Additionally, if you're hoping to book during a sale, cruise lines will often notify travel partners in advance, so your agent can alert you of when the best time to book is.
They'll work with you to create a payment plan
One of the best aspects of a cruise is that, unless you're booking a last-minute cruise, you have time to pay off the vacation; the full amount isn't due upfront.
After placing your deposit, you'll have until a specified date to pay the remainder off. While it's unlikely that you'll forget the date, if you book with a travel agent, they will help you create a plan and make payments on your behalf.
They will give you other friendly reminders, too, such as helping you remember when your check-in opens. If you want an earlier arrival time, it is imperative that you make your selection as soon as possible.
Read more: Final payment change for long cruises