I must first of all clarify the headline here. This isn’t always an either or and sometimes you will get a great onboard credit as well as great customer service. But this isn’t always the case and you need to decide what is important to you.
Fairly frequently, I receive a request for a quote with the potential client asking up front “How much is your onboard credit?” When I get those requests, I nearly always assume that person is looking only for the best onboard credit. This is important to those traveling who are very comfortable with all aspects of their travel experience. They have been on numerous cruises and don’t need assistance from a travel agent for selecting a sailing, a stateroom, a cruise line. They should also be someone who is comfortable dealing with any issues that come up. That last point is the thing that many people don’t consider. It’s the attitude that bad things only happen to other people.
Shopping for the best onboard credit is also not advised if you need help planning your trip. If you are relying on the expertise of a travel agent to help you in the planning of your vacation, you will want someone who is the most knowledgeable and gives the best service. A great onboard credit is not going to help you decide if you want to go on Celebrity Cruises or Carnival. Both are the right cruise for the right person but if your travel agent doesn’t know about these cruise lines, a great onboard credit won’t change that.
We work with our clients to find the best fit for them. Just because I don’t like a particular itinerary or cruise line, does not mean that no one will like it so I take the time to learn about every itinerary and cruise line available so that I can offer my clients a vacation tailored to their needs. The online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity don’t take the time to help you figure these things out. Sure, they may have a better onboard credit or throw in extras like free meals in specialty restaurants, shore excursions or an extra trip, but will that help you when your flight is delayed and you are going to miss the ship?
We do offer a very good onboard credit. We are not the top by any means but we are also not the bottom. We offer the most we can and still keep out agents happy and more than willing to help you will all of your needs.
I would also question a company that would agree to take over a reservation booked by another agency simply because they can offer a larger onboard credit or perk. This would be like buying a car from ABC Motors but before delivery of the car you have XYZ Motors take over the order because they will throw in free oil changes for a year. It’s not right to use the expertise of the first agency to book your reservation only to take the reservation from them and go to another agency that offers a better perk. I can’t think of any industry where this is accepted, yet some people think this is ok with their travel agents.
One last thing that a great onboard credit won’t get you. It won’t get you a good relationship and true dedication from your travel agent. I have received calls from clients late at night because their vacation would need to be delayed due to Hurricane Irene. I have also been on the phone between connecting flights to cancel a reservation when a client’s child became very ill before leaving for the airport. And in both cases, I’ve followed up later to make sure everyone was ok. I know my clients and take an active interest in their lives. This allows me to give them the best possible service. When I see something that I know is perfect for them, they are already on my mind.
We look forward to continuing to give our clients the best customer service possible. We may not always have the best onboard credits, but we strive to always be the best in service and hope you have a chance to experience this too.