On occasion people will ask me about cruising. One of the things I get asked most about is the process of booking.
When I first started cruising, I’d book through the cruise line itself. While the process online is relatively simple, I would always book over the phone in case there was anything I missed. I could ask questions if I had any, and modifying an existing booking was always easier.
After (or in some cases before, they know when you repeatedly browse their site) your first cruise, you will usually be assigned a Personal Vacation Planner or PVP for short. This is great for either side because it will give you the comfort of familiarity and will give the PVP commission when you complete a booking. A really good PVP will actually take the time to engage with you over the phone and ask how friends and family are doing. It’s one thing to work on a sale, but it’s another to be (or at least act) human and have some interest in the conversation with those on the other side of the phone. I do know one such PVP who actually met while on a cruise. He and his fiance are both great people and enjoy cruising very much. They’re also very knowledgeable of Carnival, the ships, and categories.
Here is his contact information:
1(800)819-3902 ext. 85032
However, currently all my bookings are being handled by a travel agent. Why? well for many reasons.
First off, Travel Agents will often be able to go out of their way to give you the best rate possible. They are indeed restricted to the rates that the cruise lines offer, however occasional on-board credits are offered. Travel agents can also book a group of cabins and hold onto lower rates or amenities for longer periods of time. If you miss a good one by a few days, the chances are a travel agent has a group on that sailing you can join for that more desirable rate if you are flexible with cabins/location on the ship. Occasionally bonuses are offered on some of their bookings. Do you need help with flights or hotels? They will at the very least be able to give you guidance. There is really only one down side to booking with a travel agent, but it’s not really that big of a deal. If you need to make payment for your cruise, tips, or add guests, you must do so through them. Not really much different from booking directly though the cruise line except your travel agent may work shorter hours. Most often they’re there if you need them though, even if not by phone.
The travel agent I have has been an absolute pleasure to deal with. She is not only an excellent resource for all my cruise vacation planning and bookings, but now also a very good friend. She knows every in and out of Carnival Cruise Line and much the same of Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, etc… The ONLY U.S.-based cruise line she does not currently work with is Norwegian. Her name is Shelien Sorel Banning of Ban Travel. As if she wasn’t cool enough, she lives and works in Willemstad, Curacao. Cruising to Curacao and need to find something there to do? No problem! She has a lot of advice and ability to look into tours for your day in port there. The same for the other ABC islands and many of the other great ports in the Caribbean. After having given Shelien my business, I will not be going back to booking directly for some time.
*If you choose to discuss a booking over the phone, send an email with your phone number. You will then be contacted via phone/Skype*