Working with an online travel agency to book a cruise can be daunting, since you are not actually face-to-face with a representative. Still, by working with an online travel agent, you can often save a lot of money. If you decide to book your cruise using an online agent, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Tip #1: Book through a reputable company that has representatives willing to work with you over the phone.
It is unfortunately not difficult for anyone to set up what looks like a travel agency. In reality, though, these scammers take your money but never book your trip. You do not want to get to the airport only to find out that there had never been any reservations made in your name. Make sure that the company you are working with has a good reputation in the travel industry. If the name is not well known, contact the Better Business Bureau to make sure that complaints have been laid against them. One easy test you can do is to call their phone number to talk to a representative. Phony sites usually have fake numbers, phone numbers that never lead to a real person, answering services, or no numbers at all. A real travel agency will be more than willing to help you book your cruise over the phone.
Tip #2: Read the fine print of your contract carefully and ask questions.
Like with every contract, there will be fine print. Online, it can be easy to miss certain clauses that can end up being extremely important. For example, what happens if you cancel your trip? What happens if the cruise company cancels or goes out of business? Will you have to pay interest if you do not pay for the entire trip upfront? Do you have flexibility to change your dates or flight times?
It is also important to understand exactly what is included in your cruise. When you book online, there is no one sitting in front of you to tell you these things, so read about it and, if your questions are still unanswered, call the tour company before you book the cruise.
Tip #3: Don’t enter your credit card information until you’re ready to book the trip for sure.
You should not have to enter your credit card information just to get a price quote or read information about the cruise that interests you. By entering your credit card information, you might be entering into a contract. The site in question might not require you to book a cruise, but you might be paying for a site membership or confirming that you will book a cruise with the company within a certain timeframe. Make an attempt to not enter any personal payment information until you are 100% sure that you are ready to book the cruise.
Tip #4: Shop around when looking for travel insurance.
Most online travel companies automatically add a travel insurance policy to your vacation unless you manually ask for it to be removed. This can be a good thing – travel insurance is important – but if you shop around, you can likely find a better policy through a third party. Look for a policy that protects you medically and financially when traveling, as well as a policy that will make sure you get a refund in case you cannot go on the trip, for whatever reason. Even if your cruise is domestic, never leaving United States waters, it is important to have an insurance policy covering you.
Tip #5: Ask for information via mail on your destination of choice.
Before you make any decisions, call or email the company and ask them to send you information about the cruises available. Sometimes, having the literature in front of you makes the decision process much easier, since you are not going back and forth between pages online. Hard copies of the information can also make it easier for you to understand exactly what kind of cruise you are booking, and for most people, it is visually easier to understand what to expect when you have the ship information. Asking for a hard copy also helps legitimize the business, making it easy for you to spot scammers.
Booking a cruise online is usually not as easy as booking one at a brick and mortar business, but the plus side is that you can save money. You also usually have more options, and with the Internet, you can shop for your next vacation anytime day or night. If you are going to work with an online company, just make sure that you use the tips listed above so that you get the vacation that you really want.