Cruises are a fantastic way to explore various new locations without worrying about planning all the details. Cruises come with the perk of constant entertainment onboard, no matter what you’re in the mood for. Yes, everything is taken care of for you once you step on deck, but what about planning which cruise to choose in the first place?
Picking a cruise for your upcoming vacation can be an exceptional challenge, especially if you have limited travel experience. There are four exceptional agencies that will dedicate their services to providing you a life-altering cruise experience: Cruises Only, Cheap Caribbean, Cruise.co.uk, and Cruise Direct.
Keep reading for the best cruise planners for your next vacation. Up next, we’ll share what the best and most reliable cruise planners have to offer, discover why agents are such an asset to your vacation planning, and how to best determine which agency is worth your trust.
Top 4 Cruise Planners
When all else fails, and you just want a quality cruise planner without jumping through research hoops, these four options are guaranteed to provide you with exceptional services and an unforgettable vacation.
Although common booking websites/ agents such as Expedia and Booking.com are always great options, the planners in this list are exclusively focused on planning for cruise vacations.
Boasting the title of “America’s Largest Cruise Agency,” Cruises Only has quite the reputation to uphold, and it does this without fail.
Virtually every major cruise line has awarded Cruises Only as “Partner of the Year” or as an “Agency of the Year” at least once over the past decade. Those are some significant references. Not only does the company pride itself on exceptional customer service, but its team also has the credentials to ensure it.
The average Cruises Only member has at least four years of experience with the company. Every member has gone through significant training and programs to be professionally certified in their position. So, rest assured, you’re dealing with experts here.
Cruises Only provide an extensive list of deals for users, from family packages to group discounts, to last-minute deals.
They also work with a long list of cruise lines, including luxury cruises such as
- Viking Ocean
Partnering with a vast amount of cruise lines also ensures that there is a wide range of destinations to choose from. Common trip locations include
- the Caribbean
- the Bahamas
- various regions of Europe
Don’t let its name fool you. Although Cheap Caribbean prides itself on ensuring that cruising is an accessible vacation option for all, regardless of budget, they do not sacrifice quality in the process.
Since its founding in 2000, this agency has provided fulfilling and affordable vacation packages to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.
The company site provides all-inclusive packages, promo codes, coupons, and Discounts for Heroes, a $150 discount reserved for teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, and members of the military.
Their exceptional agents’ work has been recognized through numerous awards such as the 2018 Shorty Social Good Award – Best in Hospitality and Travel and placing gold for the HSMAI Adrian Award in public relations. Customer service is also available weeklong for any questions or changes you might want to discuss with your agent.
If your ideal trip includes sandy beaches, clear blue oceans, and perfect sunny weather, then the Cheap Caribbean is the agent for you.
For our European readers, Cruise.co.uk is not only one of the most popular planners in Europe, but it was also awarded the ‘World’s Leading Cruise Travel Agent’ from 2009 to 2013 in the World Travel Awards. Their highly trained and well-reviewed consultants are dedicated to providing you with a stress-free and unique experience.
Cruise.co.uk provides thousands of packages to a wide array of destinations. Common locations include the
- North America
Additionally, this company provides more unique vacation destinations such as
- the Galapagos Islands
- Norwegian Fjords
- the Arctic
- New Zealand
One of the perks that set Cruise.co.uk apart from its competitors is that it not only offers a wide arrange of ocean cruises but river cruises as well.
Travelers can explore rivers worldwide, from the Yangzte of China to the Rhine in Europe to Po in Italy. River cruises have their own charm because they are typically on smaller, faster ships, which means you might have scenic cruising but no sea days.
These smaller ships can also allow passengers to visit regions that are too difficult for ocean cruisers to reach.
As you can see, Cruise.co.uk is an optimal agency for travelers that want a large pool of trip options to select from. Their dedicated team will ensure that whatever your aspirations might be, they will find the cruise and excursions to best fit your dream trip.
With departure points all around the world, Cruise Direct is a highly accessible and reputable agency. The company recently celebrated its 15th anniversary of serving half a million customers, demonstrating that they are widely trusted by a significant sum of travelers annually.
Cruise Direct’s website is easy to navigate, and their agency provides a wide range of trip options from river cruises to luxury to budget-friendly. Cruise Direct has various deals to help minimize vacation costs, especially for families.
Depending on the cruise line, travelers can enjoy perks such as kids traveling for free, up to 60% off of additional guests, tips, drinks, and features included in your booking cost, or even a gifted credit to spend on ship activities.
Cruise experts are also available for consultations every day of the week, and Cruise Direct guarantees that their customers pay the lowest rate possible.
Additionally, the company allows flexible payment plans and does not charge booking fees. As a result, Cruise Direct is an agency that ensures the cruise experience is stress-free and affordable for anyone.
Why Hire a Cruise Planner?
Many people are drawn to cruises to appeal that food, beverages, entertainment, and lodging are all taken care of for the entirety of your vacation with just one booking.
However, choosing the cruise with features and an itinerary that best suits you can be a massive decision to make. Luckily, you can hire some help. Here are five reasons you might want to work with a travel agent when planning your next cruise vacation.
You’re New to Cruising
With the vast array of available cruises with limitless features and varying itineraries, it can be difficult to weed out the ones that don’t suit you and your vacation plans, especially if you’ve never booked one before.
Cruise planners will provide a personable experience but also take the stress of planning off your shoulders. All you have to do is tell them what you’re looking for in terms of cruise style, preferred stateroom, potential trip itinerary, as well as your budget, and they will match your specifications to the best option.
If you are new to travel, you probably have limited experience with finding the best prices or figuring out details, such as how to get from point A to point B in a new region or country.
Travel agencies will take care of all these details, from flights to excursions to booking a room, so you don’t have to let lack of experience hold you back. Agents do this for a living, so they are constantly learning new tricks from working with previous clients and will ensure your entire trip flows smoothly.
You’re on a Budget
Cruises typically have fixed rates for their experiences, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clever tricks to make the trip a little cheaper.
For one, travel agencies will compare cruise features and experiences to find which ones provide the most bang for your buck. For example, some cruises include drinks, tips, or special features such as spas packages for free, while others will charge fees.
Agents will also spend the time to keep an eye on cruise costs in case there are any deals for what is included as well as potential price drops or incentives such as the reduced price for paying with a particular credit card.
Many agents will have access to special rates or additional incentives that they will use to help reduce the cost of your cruise as well. They will also compare various cruise lines to determine if any supply coupons or discount codes may apply to your trip or group size.
Let Someone Else be in Control
Even if you’re the one that’s used to doing it all, it’s nice to let someone else take charge for once. This is much easier if it’s someone you’re not traveling with.
But also, planning a trip can be exhausting, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. Hiring a cruise planner will put your mind at ease and take the responsibility of planning every little detail off your shoulders.
All you have to do is tell them what you want, pay for the experience, and enjoy. With a cruise planner, you’re mind is truly free to take advantage of everything the ship has to offer.
Of course, for some, planning a trip is a fun process in itself, so it might be hard to give that responsibility away, especially if you have very specific plans in mind for your trip. If you prefer to have control of your trip, that’s great, but it doesn’t mean you don’t need an agent.
After all, not all control is good. For instance, if you need to make a change to your reservation, you might be subject to a tedious roundabout process of holding on to the phone and waiting for answers. This is something your agent can do for you.
Cruise planners are also valuable resources purely for their experience. They can provide insight into where you are going, top-rated experiences you should have, and providing discounts, and being a great form of insurance should something go wrong and you need a quick car rental or plan ride out.
You can do as much or as little of the planning as you’d like, and they will provide support and ensure everything is booked to your liking.
Cruise Planners are Inexpensive… as in Free
A common misconception about travel agencies is that you’re paying for their assistance on top of your vacation fees. For the majority of agents, this is not true.
Planners are typically paid through commissions from hotels, airlines, and, in this case, cruise lines. The agents help these companies book their rooms and experiences, so they are the ones who compensate the planners, not you.
So, in a sense, you are getting invaluable experience and assistance at no extra cost, so why wouldn’t you hire some help?
You Don’t Have to Do All the Work Yourself
Travel agents pride themselves on being highly personable and fully supporting their customers throughout the entire vacation process. From planning to boarding to experiencing to departure, they will be with you the whole way.
Planning a cruise vacation can be stressful, which, in turn, might ruin your experience. It is always a relief to have someone available to answer any questions you might have, reduce some of the planning burdens, or purely have a conversation about the exciting potential of your trip.
Even if you are fully capable of booking a cruise experience on your own, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a confidante in your corner.
How to Choose a Good Cruise Planner
After determining that you want to hire a cruise planner, you must now determine which agent to trust for the duration of your trip. This decision can feel like it requires as much research and hard work as planning the trip itself. So, here are some tips to help you find the cruise planner that is best for you.
Check Their Credentials
Just like you would ask for someone’s resume before hiring them for a position, you should check a cruise planner’s history and referrals before delving too deep into what they can do for you.
There should be reviews available about the agents from previous clients that you should read to see what highlights or issues these individuals had with the company or their individual agent.
Most reliable and reputable cruise planners are also labeled as:
- Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC)
- Master Cruise Counselor (MCC)
- Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC).
This means that the agents took extensive courses in cruise training, ship inspection, and cruise experiences. Therefore, the agent is educated on which cruises are safest and provide the best overall experience for their passengers.
Other exceptional references for your potential travel agency would be:
- the National Association of Cruise Oriented Agencies (NACOA)
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)
You can never have too many credible references, and seeing these companies backing your agency should put your mind at ease that your vacation and your hard-earned cash are in the right hands.
Interview Potential Cruise Planners
As mentioned previously, the ideal cruise planner is highly personable, detail-oriented, and efficient. Therefore, when you finally speak to a potential agent, you should treat this conversation like an interview with a potential employee.
Have questions ready for the agent regarding why you should hire them over a competitor and have all the necessary details regarding your ideal vacation available.
If the agent is of true merit, they will ask for a wide range of details. They should ask you about your:
- Party size
- Attraction destinations
And these are just the basics. A great cruise planner will ask additional questions to figure out exactly what your perfect cruise might look like. The more questions they ask, the more they’ll learn about you to help find the cruise that’s right for you.
If they offer you a potential cruise without asking for or receiving any of these details, then this agent is not prioritizing you and your vacation experience, and you should search for another.
Check with Cruise Lines for Recommended Planners
If you’ve done some light research on potential cruises you might want to book for your vacation, but you want a planner’s opinion, see if the cruise line has any recommendations.
It is not uncommon for cruise lines to have agent recommendations on their websites that you can research and compare.
Sometimes, these agents merely appear on a map of who is close to you, but that in itself can be beneficial because you can research the agent down the street and then personally meet with them to determine if they are right for you.
Cruises are a great way to travel because it will include nearly all expenses and have your itinerary all laid out for you. Travel agents will take this planning one step further by choosing the best cruise that suits you and your needs so you can relax throughout the whole process.
It is rare to have the opportunity to travel to new regions and not have to be responsible for all the particulars along the way.
If you want to have an added thrill to the experience, let your travel agent pick your destinations and excursions for you. Merely describe the activities and trip aesthetic that interest you and let them surprise you at every corner for a completely unique and sensational vacation.