Travel one Cruises

So, you've decided to go on a cruise - perhaps your first venture on a vacation at sea - and you're a little overwhelmed. You have to consider how much you're willing to pay, whether to book an inexpensive inside cabin or splurge on a suite, and which cruise line and ship are right for you. Add dinner seatings, shore excursions and cabin location to the list, and planning a relaxing getaway suddenly seems like a second job.

In the age of the Internet, many people assume that online is the only way to book travel. But, as booking online can often be confusing, a travel agent may be just what you need. In fact, according to the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) 2008 Cruise Market Profile Study, nearly 75 percent of cruise travelers book their cruises through travel agents.

One of the most important things to know is that agents - in particular, cruise specialists - have been onboard the ships and can really give you first-hand advice about different cruise options. They have done a great deal of research through familiarization trips and cruise-line seminars, so you don't have to do the work yourself. Even better, agents often have access to special discounts or perks - or know best where to find them - and as the cruise lines pay their commissions, you don't pay more for their services and expertise.

Still undecided, or unsure where to find an agent to help you? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Reasons To Consider a Travel Agent

If you're used to booking travel independently, consider these reasons why you might want to make use of a travel agent to book your next holiday at sea.

Choosing a Cruise: For your first cruise, you may need help in matching your lifestyle and budget with a cruise line and destination. Choosing a cruise is not the same as picking a hotel or flight, as there are many more options to consider.

For example, do you want to cruise close to home from ports like New York, Miami, Galveston or Seattle, or are you willing to fly to Europe for Mediterranean and Baltic sailings? Would you be happier on a large ship - such as Royal Caribbean's 154, 407-ton, 3, 634-passenger Freedom of the Seas - or on a smaller, more intimate ship - like Seabourn's's 10, 000-ton, 208-passenger Seabourn Pride? Do you prefer a casual and lively vibe, as is found on Carnival Cruise Lines, or a more formal atmosphere, such as Silversea's?

Remember, you won't just be using the ship as a home base, like you do with a hotel; it will be your home, restaurant and entertainment venue for a week or more. The right ship and itinerary can make your vacation that much more enjoyable - and an agent can help you determine the best selection for your tastes. In addition, an agent can answer any questions or assuage any apprehensions you might have about taking a cruise for the first time.


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