Travel Agent Insight

I got an e-mail last week from a reader who had a bad experience booking a cruise through a travel agent. His major complaint was that he just couldn’t get enough access information from his travel agent.

He wrote, “I decided I wanted to cruise on Royal Caribbean but I was undecided on the ship and itinerary. So I called up a local travel agent and told her I wanted to take a cruise and that I needed access information on all of the Royal Caribbean ships. She sent me some brochures but they didn’t really contain the access information I needed.”

Hmmmm…I’d have to say at this point, I probably would have gone elsewhere. I just can’t imagine it getting any better.

And it didn’t.

The reader continues, “In the end I pretty much blindly booked a cruise, and my travel agent neglected to reserve an accessible room for me. Fortunately the folks on the ship were great and they were able to change me into an accessible room, but this is not the way I want to book my next cruise. I’m really a stickler about advance planning and I was disappointed that I couldn’t get enough access information from my travel agent. Where did I go wrong?”

Good question. On the surface it appears you went wrong in the selection of your travel agent, as she seems inattentive and unconcerned about your needs. But after running the question past a few travel agent friends of mine, they brought up another point.

Says one agent, “I think the client made a huge mistake when he asked a travel agent who he had never dealt with before for access information on all the RCI ships. As a travel agent I get a lot of inquiries every day, and I have to try and separate the serious prospects from what I call the ’Lookie Lous’. One way I do this is to look at what questions they ask me.”

Another agent elaborates, “Most people have a vague idea of where they want to cruise, (or at least have it narrowed down to a few choices) so any time a new client asks me for information on *all* of the ships or all of my trips, I consider it a red flag. In most cases people who ask for detailed information on all of the ships aren’t really serious about booking.”

Good point, and to be honest, one I hadn’t really considered.

So to answer the original question, perhaps a more directed query would have elicited a more serious response from the travel agent. Maybe something like, “I’m thinking of taking an Alaska cruise next year. I use a manual wheelchair and I’d like information about the access features on the RCI ships that sail to Alaska. Which one would you recommend?”

Now granted some travel agents might not want to deal with that question either, however you’re more likely to be taken seriously with this more directed approach.

Remember, in travel agent-speak, all is the code word for “just looking”. The best plan of action is to ask more directed questions, and if you don’t get the answers you need, then find another travel agent.