Myth – Travel agents book cruises. They don’t make them better.

This is a whopper of a myth.  While it’s true that there are tons of travel agents out there that have never been on a cruise themselves, thus putting them (and their clients) at a disadvantage when their client wants to take a cruise.  Sure the agent can book the cruise for you, but that agent can’t give you first hand advice and incredibly helpful tips like someone who’s actually taken a cruise.

However, an agent who happens to be an experienced cruiser can be an incredible asset.  And even better if the agent has been on the same ship and/or visited the same ports of call.  For example, choosing your cabin can be very important.  An inexperienced agent would probably just pick an available cabin at random and assign it to you.  But experienced cruisers would spend a lot of time with you explaining the benefits and detriments of your choices. I cannot express how important choosing the right cabin is for me.  I will go so far as to say it could mean the difference between having memories of an incredible experience or memories of having to endure some frustration.  For example:

  • If you are in bed and in a stateroom at the very forward part of the ship and the water happens to be choppy, it is likely that you will feel every bump as the ship hits a wave. Keep in mind that the bigger the ship the less you will feel that bump, but you will indeed feel it while in bed. I happen to not be overly sensitive to those types of bumps so they never kept me awake.  However, my wife is not a fan which is why, after our one experience in a forward stateroom, we never choose a stateroom in the very forward part of the ship. She didn’t have the best night’s sleep but thank goodness it was only that one night when the weather created those rough seas.
  • If the seas are rough the ship will rise and fall as it travels over the waves. The farther forward or the farther aft (rear) you are means that you will feel it that much more.  The closer you are to the middle of the ship, the less effect of the waves you feel.  When in bed, some people like that feeling of being rocked to sleep (like I do).  However, some really don’t like it (like my wife), which is why Lyn and I choose a stateroom somewhere around the middle third of the ship.
  • Another important factor when choosing your stateroom is the level (high floor or low floor) you want to be on, especially if your stateroom has a window that opens, or better yet a balcony. If you don’t have an opening window or balcony, the only real consideration is how close to the action you want to be as you will find yourself going to and from your stateroom many times during your trip.  Most of the time you’ll be heading upstairs to the higher decks where you’ll find things like the pool(s) and hot tubs, fitness center, sports decks, and most restaurants.  (Most ships have stuff like their casinos and theaters on lower decks.) So, if you want your walks to and from to be shorter, you’ll want to be on a higher deck (with a stateroom nearer to an elevator or stairway). If you have an opening window/door there are other considerations.  No matter how high you are, when you open that window or sliding door, the sound of the ship slicing through the water will rush into your room.  The lower you are, the louder it will be.  Keep in mind that some people love to sleep to that sound.  In my opinion it is the most wonderful white-noise.
  • Most ships have staterooms without windows as an available option. These are typically less expensive than staterooms with a view.  However, if you are susceptible to sea sickness I wouldn’t recommend a windowless room.   Then again, if you are budget-conscious, you can always rely on the wonderful remedies available today, both by prescription and over the counter.
  • Keep in mind that waves in an ocean like the Atlantic or Pacific are going to have a bit more impact on a ship than the typical waves of the Mediterranean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. Then there are cruises on relatively calm waters such as the inside passage to Alaska where waves are almost non-existent.  Therefore, being in a forward stateroom shouldn’t be much different than middle or aft.  The point here is that the body of water on which you are traveling should be a consideration when choosing your stateroom.

And that’s just picking your stateroom.  An experienced agent can also help you select tours and excursions that are right for you.  Most cruise lines do a great job of having plenty of tours and excursions available at each port of call.  But perhaps you’re a bit of an adventurer and are not really excited by any of the tours and excursions being offered by your cruise line during your day in Belize.  Knowing this about you, an agent who has been there (me for instance) might ask if you would enjoy a leisurely three-mile hike, then rappelling down into and exploring a massive cave.  Perhaps you’re nursing an injured ankle like Lyn during one of our cruises through the Med.  She was using a cane for a few weeks.  It isn’t bad enough for you to cancel your cruise, but you need to be careful.  An agent who’s been on tours in this region of the world will help you choose those excursions that don’t require a lot of walking.  You’ll also want to keep off uneven surfaces such as cobblestone streets or particularly hilly areas.

Let’s say you have food allergies or are on a gluten-free diet.  An experienced agent will be able to tell you which cruise lines are best at dealing with these (and some are really terrific with food issues).  They can also tell you which countries are best to visit if you have these issuers.

There are so many more examples I can give.  But I hope I’ve convinced you that a travel agent that has experienced many types of cruises and, better yet, has been where you’re going, can give you first-hand advice that will enhance your experience and help you make the most of your cruise.