Are You A Smart Cruiser? Travel Agency Rebates and Incentives!

You can read more about this topic, as well as many other family cruising topics, in our new book–Cruising With Kids: A Guide To The Perfect Family Cruise Vacation. Visit our dedicated Cruising With Kids website for more details.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably figured out that I hate paying more for anything than is absolutely necessary.  Some people have even gone as far as to call me cheap!  Okay, I see their point, but I rather like to think of myself as frugal.  Understand that the fine line between the two may be blurry at times, but the bottom line is that every penny saved means more family vacation time.  Nobody can argue against that, right?

I talk about cruising quite a bit because it’s something that I’ve done a lot of over the years (27 cruises and counting), so price is always an important factor.  One easy way to save up to 10% off of your cruise fare is to choose a travel agent/agency that rebates heavily.  Now, I know that I’m risking being attacked by every travel agent out there, but look, 10% isn’t chump change and in this economy, every penny counts.

Of course, the agents that rebate the most will typically do the least amount of research and handholding.  You can easily tailor the level of rebate/incentive that you get by choosing an agent and corresponding level of service that is right for you.  In my case, having been an outside sales agent for several different travel agencies in the past, I can pretty much do everything myself.  Not surprisingly, I expect and look for the biggest rebate.

Rebates and incentives can come in several forms, including money directly off of the cruise fare, onboard credits and free onboard services and gifts.  That is my order of preference, but cruise lines have certain restrictions in place that may limit a travel agent’s ability to rebate.  Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line allow the most direct form of incentive – money off of the cruise fare right up front.  Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line, however, require incentives to be in the form of onboard credits or gifts.  Due to the competitive pricing restrictions, travel agencies generally cannot advertise prices net of incentives, so you’ll either need to contact them directly or in the case of a web-based agency, join their “club” and read the fine print.

The amount of rebate or incentive offered will usually correspond to the total price of the cruise.  For example, you’ll be more likely to obtain 10% off of a $5,000 cruise than a $500 cruise.  Remember, these dollars off or onboard incentives are based upon the base cruise fare before port charges, taxes and fees.  Some agencies will also exclude the 3rd/4th passenger fares from the rebate calculation.

Most cruisers, especially first timers and those who are less experienced, will stick with a travel agent that can provide a greater degree of service and assistance.  You can find “full service” travel agents that provide incentives - all you have to do is ask.  Travel agencies are just as motivated as any other company to gain your business in this tough economy, so don’t be leaving money on the table. 

I’m always looking for agencies that provide significant incentives or discounts, so if you know of one or you are one, please leave a comment. We are working on compiling a list of reputable agencies that we can recommend to our readers in the future.

You can read more about this topic, as well as many other family cruising topics, in our new book–Cruising With Kids: A Guide To The Perfect Family Cruise Vacation. Visit our dedicated Cruising With Kids website for more details.

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5 Responses to “Are You A Smart Cruiser? Travel Agency Rebates and Incentives!”

  • Jan Marchand:

    wonder if you’ve had any problems dealing with smartcruiser.com. we’ve had conflicting reports on them.

  • I’ve reserved five cruises with them and they have always done what they said they would do. As a matter of fact, I’ve probably had a break or two that they didn’t owe me. Having said that, they are very hands-off. If you have a complex reservation, a lot of questions or need help in resolving an issue, my sense is that you’re going to be at a disadvantage. For somebody who is self-sufficient in making their own reservation, answering their own questions and resolving their own problems, the incentive that they provide is probably worth the effort. It also helps knowing the right person to contact to get things done.

  • Sebrena:

    Hi Randy!
    I was wondering if you could suggest some cruise lines that offer kids free we have a 16yr old and a 1 yr old. We are watching our pennies but we don’t wanna take the kids vacations away from them, Thanks in advance.

  • On NCL, kids under 2 will sail for free (just port taxes and fees) on all sailings. You may find the total cheapest fare on NCL, but be sure to read our review of the Norwegian Jewel before booking.

    Holland America is currently offering free or reduced rates for 3rd and 4th passengers on select sailings during its current sale, but we don’t believe that this is the best cruise option for a family with a 16 and 1 year old.

    Although there are currently no other kid’s sail free offers on any of the major cruise lines, you might want to check Carnival. Their 3rd/4th rates are often very low on some sailings, making your total cruise fare as inexpensive as NCL. For a family with children aged 16 and 1, Carnival is a good choice in your price category. You can read our Carnival Sensation review as well as our review of Camp Carnival for more information.

    Good Luck and happy cruising!

  • James:

    Nice blog!

    I’ve been using American Discount Cruises & Travel for several years. Their web site is http://www.americandiscountcruises.com and they always give me great incentives when I book with them, plus they’re great for customer service. They don’t take a reservation and leave you to figure out everything for yourself, which other travel agents and definitely most cruise lines do. The best situation is to find a travel agent that will beat the cruise line deals, but will also give you incentives that the cruise lines won’t.

    I booked directly with a cruise line before and one of the times I had an issue and they were nowhere to be found. You need a travel agent to be your advocate, as they want to continue earning your future business.

    I’d recommend always looking into a company’s Better Business Bureau ratings, as that can give you a good insight into their background and history. I do that no matter what I’m buying.

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