So, you have decided to take a cruise and are ready for the best vacation of your life. All you need to do is actually make a reservation and put a deposit down on this trip. You decide to go to the cruise line’s website to find an available cabin and book it online or call that nice lady pictured on the company’s website. You will make a reservation and be on your way. Even though they are telling you that you are getting a good deal on the cruise, how can you be sure?
In fact, it is more than likely that you are NOT getting the best possible deal! Why? Because you are not taking advantage of the best ally you have when trying to score a great cruise deal, a travel agent. Here, we outline why we use a travel agent and why you should too.
The Occasional Cheaper Cabin
All cruise lines guarantee the lowest prices.
Occasionally, you can find a travel agent, that through a special promotion, has a lower per person cabin fare than what is currently advertised by the cruise company. Although, preferred travel agents sometimes have access to “non-advertised rates” that they can offer certain travelers during time frames other than “last minute”.
For our January 2014 sailing on Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas , I was able to secure an inside room, at a rate that was over $45 less, per person, than the price on the RCI website. This was booked about 10 months ways from the sailing date.
In contacting a few of our preferred travel agents, I was surprisingly quoted a price lower than what was on the cruise line’s website WITH some additional onboard credit. I called both the cruise line and another travel agent to verify their current cruise fare and indeed, both were higher prices. So, I called the first travel agent back and put down a deposit making sure it was refundable in case there was an issue.
Needless to say, I do have firsthand experience that travel agents CAN save you money, on occasion. Not all travel agents provide these privileges-just a few trusted partners that work with certain cruise lines can offer these deals. So do some research as the correct travel agent MAY be able offer a price lower than the advertised cruise fare.
Regardless of saving money on the cruise fare, a rare occurrence indeed, there is one even bigger financial advantage to using a travel agent- travel perks!
Getting Additional Travel Perks When Booking a Cruise
There is a lot of competition among travel agents to get bookings. Since most travel agents can’t advertise prices lower than those the cruise lines offer, the only means of getting cruisers to book with them is to offer travelers’ perks.
A popular perk is onboard credit. This is money that is put on your ship board account to be used to purchase items once you are sailing. Basically, you can use onboard credit for almost any onboard purchase-just not in the casino. Drinks, pictures, specialty dining, and shore excursions purchased while onboard, or purchases made in the cruise shops can be bought with onboard credit.
Another perk you will see are free prepaid gratuities. Most ships now require you to prepay the daily gratuities for your service onboard. These cost you anywhere between $12-$18 dollars a day, per person, based on the cruise line and room category, saving you close to $100 a person for a seven night cruise if a travel agent offers them to you as a perk.
Travel Perks Combos- the Way to Save the MOST Money
Travel agents are almost always running some type of promotion that includes a booking perk. It can as little as $50 of onboard credit for the cheapest inside state room to free drink packages worth over $350 a person, or even more freebies for certain cabin types.
To get the most out of using a travel agent, and save the most money, you can maximize the travel perks by combining travel agent promotions with cruise line promotions.
Yes, the cruise lines run promotions too. For instance, Royal Caribbean typically does a WOW sale in the end of May/June, with onboard credit of $100+ for seven night cruises. Celebrity Cruise Lines runs a special 1,2,3 promotion at various times throughout the year, offering the choice of one of three perks, or two perks for certain itineraries and cabins.
To score the best value is to find the cruise line promotion and then time that with the perks being offered by a partner travel agent.
How Much Money can I Save With Travel Agent Perks?
For an upcoming cruise, we were able to jump on a deal in which Royal Caribbean International WOW sale was offering onboard credit of $125 for an inside cabin on an 8 night cruise. We were able to get more than DOUBLE the amount of onboard credit (a total of $275) and pay the same cruise fare by booking with one of our preferred travel agents. And, we were able to put down a reduce deposit of $250, vs. the typically $500 required deposit, another perk that our travel agent was offering.
Want more examples about the financial bonus of booking with a travel agent?
For our recent Alaskan cruise in September 2014, we waited for the fall Celebrity Cruise Line’s 1,2,3 promotion. For booking a balcony cabin- which we planned on splurging on anyway as Alaskan cruising is all about the scenery-the cruise company was offering the option of free gratuities, a Classic drink package, or onboard credit. We opted for the drink package, valued at over $780.
A travel agent we had experience with in the past was running an add-on promotion offering an upgrade from the Classic drink package to the Premium drink package AND free onboard gratuities. The upgrade drink package was worth an additional $160 bucks and free gratuities were another $168. Thus, booking with the travel agent gave us another 300+ dollars of additional perks, increasing our total perks to over $1,000 dollars in value!
This time booking a balcony paid for itself! The travel agent’s and cruise line’s perks were only offered for a balcony cabin or higher and doing the math, we actually paid less than if we had booked an inside stateroom and paid out of pocket for the Premium drink package and gratuities.
Find a Travel Agent and Begin Saving
So, now that you know that using a travel agent is the smart way to go, you need to find one that you like and trust. While I do a bulk of my research online, I prefer to call travel agents over the phone to verify costs and current promotions.
Once you have a travel agent you can depend on, keep your eye out for cruise line based promotions. Once you see a cruise line sponsored special, get the info, find the price for you cabin category on the website, and then call your travel agents.
You might be shocked at what additional goodies they can give you. You could easily save hundreds of dollars by doing just a little extra digging.
Don’t be afraid to shop around. Call a few different travel agents to ask what offers or additional promotions they have. Show that you are committed to booking a cruise vacation, and they may even offer you some additional onboard credit or perhaps dinner at a specialty restaurant if you book with them that day.
How Do You Save Money When Booking a Cruise
As always, we would love to hear your tips and advice for saving money when booking a cruise vacation. Do you have any secrets to getting the best perks from a travel agent? What’s the best deal you’ve scored? Drop us an anchor below so we can all save a few extra bucks to help sea the world one port at a time.