Cruise Travel Agent
Internet Cruise Broker
What's the difference?
The difference is substantial and can make or break a vacation.
First, let's start with the Internet Cruise Broker. That would be one of the many online companies that offers unbelievably low prices on a cruise. In most all cases those are unbelievable prices because they are not accurate or do not fully represent what is being offered.
The first misleading expense is hidden fees. I call these Burried Fees because you have to dig to find them. They are there for all to see but you will find them most commonly toward the end of their "Terms of Service" , far after the boring text turned off the reader. Most all of these fees are not necessary and simply sometihng that Internet Cruise Broker has levied upon each buyer, should they fall into the trap.
One that can add up quickly are "change fees" where you may be charged $50 or $100 for name spelling corrections. In the past, the cruise lines DID charge this fee but it as been dropped for quite some time. If you see this fee it should be a red flag to pay special attention to the details before buying. Processing Fees are another one that runs up the price of the cruise and is often charged by Internet Cruise Brokers.
But if you can get past all the potential or actual junk fees charged the low price may still be a good one. Reason enough to buy from your Internet Cruise Broker?
No way! One of the biggest areas where Internet Cruise Brokers fail is what happens after the sale.
The job of almost all Internet Cruise Brokers stops once you pay.
They simply don't have time for you. To get those low prices they give up a good deal of their commission. They still have bills to pay so they rely on a huge volume of buisness to survive, often bending the rules or taking your money but not turning it over to the cruise line. Recently, I happened to visit www.CruiseValueCenter.com , one of the big Internet Cruise Broker's websites, to find they had shut down and were offering site visitors advice on how to recoup money they had paid. If that is not enough reason stay clear of an Internet Cruise Broker, I don't know what is.
I feel bad for those who may have had their vacation plans disrupted by the shut down of sites like that. This is a really good reason, one that savy travelers know, to concentrate on "Value" rather than simply "Price". Yes, that advertised price of $199 for a cruise sounds great initially. But in almost all cases the end price nears double that once port charges, taxes and fees that everyone pays are added in, not to mention optiona buried fees one might fall into.
The smart way to go is to find a Travel Agent who offers the best value, not the best price. Almost always, when all expenses are considered, the Travel Agent has the better value in the long run. And isn't that what really counts? A professional, certified cruise Travel Agent can be your friend in the business that provides a really necessary service, much like you might use an accountant to help with your finances. The business relationship between you and a Travel Agent is one of trust that is built over time. "Your" agent will come to know and take a personal interest in what is best for you. He or she will be constantly on guard of your vacation plans, taking advantage of special offers, using their behind the scenes contacts and daily up to date knowledge of the industry on your behalf.
The best part? This costs you nothing. Travel Agents are paid a commission by the cruise line. You truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain There are Travel Agents who are simply sales people and Travel Agents who offer a service that will offer you great value in the long run. And the long run is what you need to think of because you'll probably be cruising quite a bit in your lifetime
Here then are some simple ideas to consider when choosing between an Internet Cruise Broker and a Cruise Travel Agent:
Concentrate on Value, not Price- look at the whole picture
Always insist that your payments go directly to the cruise line- if they won't do that, go elsewhere
Carefully read the fine print- look for junk fees like change fees, cancellation fees, booking fees, etc. If you see them, run!
Always pay with a debit or credit card- the provide some protection if that Internet Cruise Broker goes broke and shuts down
Be sure they will honor any lower prices you qualify for. Most do not but ask the cruise line to lower the price anyway. They lower the price, regaining some or all of the commission they gave up to get you that initial low price.
Try emailing or calling them to ask a question and note the response time. This can be a real good indicator of how it will go after the sale