By Adventure Travel Trade Association
May 11, 2010
It’s on every cruise vacationer’s mind – book direct or through an agent / broker? Todd Smith of AdventureSmith Explorations offers some sage advice.
Tahoe City, CA – People embarking on a search for a small ship adventure cruise that fits their pocketbooks, touring interests and on-board requirements may be best served by securing a cruise vacation through an unbiased resource such as a booking agent, rather than direct through a cruise company itself.
Todd Smith, founder and the “Smith” in AdventureSmith Explorations, the active travel company that secures matches between adventure-seeking clients and a treasure trove of small, expedition ships, shares seven reasons why the client might be better served reserving their vacation through a booking agent:
* Selection – Clients have a selection of pre-vetted adventure cruises to choose from, many of which may not be on the client’s radar because the companies are so small.
* Style – The hallmark of an adventure cruise is the ability to explore off the ship, in small groups, in the company of trained expedition leaders. There exists a wide variety of specially outfitted small ships and yachts that can actively explore regions that would otherwise be inaccessible to most travelers, all without sacrificing comfort and safety — or the environment. Choosing the style that’s right is key.
* Value – Clients usually do not pay more and may often pay less through a booking agent because of the agent’s buying power. The agent is also always on top of what’s out there in the marketplace as regards to special offers, early booking discounts and on-board credits that may not be available by booking direct.
* Knowledge – A booking agent that serves its clients professionally very often has more hands-on experience and knowledge of a ship and its itinerary than the ship’s own phone reservationists.
* Service – Instead of calling into a ship’s reservation center and possibly being shuffled to various voices, a good agent provides one contact throughout for unbiased information and service in selection, booking, preparation, travel and the post-cruise experience including transportation, extensions and accommodations.
* Relationships – Ongoing, mutually successful relationships begin with travel partners and employees and are then shared with the client to his or her benefit.
* Sustainable Travel – A booking agent can offer a portfolio of small ship adventure cruises that meet the sustainable travel expectations of its clients. This can mean favoring locally owned boats, accommodations, guides and operations; conservation projects and, most important, communicating between the values of the client and the meanings inherent in the destination.
Smith relayed experiences when he was an adventure guide. In two instances bookings were made through an individual cruise company, without taking the client’s complete needs into consideration. A honeymoon couple was booked onto a small ship that offered only bunk beds – and they were never informed of the cabin configuration. In a scenario of mixed physical abilities amongst a group of friends and family, he has seen some passengers push themselves beyond their physical abilities just to keep up with everyone else, or sit back twiddling their thumbs because they couldn’t or didn’t want to participate in a particular activity.
In other cases, he said, “You find travelers who arrive on board a small ship expecting an active program of hiking and kayaking every day, when in fact the ship does not offer any off-vessel activities. Many small ship companies promote their products as adventure experiences when they are really just wilderness cruising. Similarly you will find travelers arriving on board a small yacht unaware that they have to share a bathroom. Obviously this can create frustration at the beginning of a trip which may fester throughout. We present all the options and ensure our clients know exactly what to expect when they book a trip and when they arrive at their destination.”