Here’s Why Travel Advisors Might Just Be Your Best Friend

I was at a writers’ retreat last month in New Orleans with some friends — travel journalists and editors — whom you might call extremely experienced when it comes to trip planning. One pal had booked a cruise on a large ship and was facing issues. She told us she doesn’t even want to go on the trip at this point because the experience has already been so negative.  

 I was aghast. “You booked a cruise without a travel agent?” I asked. It was her turn to be surprised. “You use a travel agent?” she said, incredulously. For sure, after serving as Cruise Critic’s editor in chief for more than a dozen years and experiencing some 300 different voyages, I do know something about ships. And yet I wouldn’t even consider booking a cruise on my own.  


Why not? 

Wendy Perrin, a travel journalist whose website connects travelers with the best possible trip planners, answers this question much better than I can: “I would never book a trip without the right travel agent,” she tells me. “If anything should go wrong, the right travel agent can advocate for you. They can arrange special experiences.  They can eliminate unnecessary logistics. They can book smart flights, make pre- and post-cruise land-based arrangements, and help you choose the right travel insurance for your needs. They can recommend not just cruise cabin categories and locations but also different layouts.  

“Ultimately,” says Perrin, who also happens to be godmother of Windstar’s Star Breeze, “they only enhance what the cruise line is already offering.” 

All through the month of May, the cruise industry is celebrating its commitment to its travel advisor partners by creating new programs and rolling out new software to make their jobs easier. And that’s something that regular travelers might not even need to be aware of. But in honor of the month, we encouraged some Windstar guests to share their experiences with their own trusted travel advisors.  

Why should you bother with planning and logistics? 

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

“She takes care of everything, for one,” said Judi Witt, whose most recent sailing took her and her husband to Greek Isles and Ephesus, a cruise where her agent acted as host for her booked guests. “She organizes the flights, our excursions, and handles everything from A to Z without us ever having to think about it. She tells us what to bring, what not to bring. One day, when it rained suddenly, she darted into a shop and bought us all cover-ups. She has never failed to meet our expectations.” 

And it’s not just planning and logistics that matter, argues New Zealand-based Wendy London, who’s just back from her first-ever Windstar cruise. It’s understanding travelers’ preferences and styles. “Windstar wasn’t even on my radar, but my travel agent suggested I come along for a seven-day coastal New Zealand cruise on Star Breeze three days after getting off a 78-day voyage on another line. It was a totally transformative experience from a travel agent who is also a great mate, looking after my cruise life and opening my eyes to something different.” 

When real life happens 

Dancing in Nuka Hiva, in French Polynesia’s Marquesas Islands

Sometimes, things go wrong. Sandra Drewes’ travel agent has played an essential role in making things right, even when issues get very, very complicated — like the time that she and her husband Warren were booked on a back-to-back voyage that culminated in a Pacific crossing to Alaska. “We were sailing from Osaka to Yokohama and then onward from Yokohama to Alaska,” she told us. Then her husband needed unexpected eye surgery, which meant they’d miss the first portion of the back-to-back (OK, easy enough to change) — but it also meant they wouldn’t make it to Yokohama in time to join the repositioning. This being a Pacific crossing, with Windstar visiting very tiny ports before heading across the ocean, it definitely required the efforts of a superb travel counselor.  

“There were three possibilities for us to connect with the ship,” she said. “One required a nine-hour train ride. Another didn’t have customs and immigration offices, which meant we wouldn’t have gotten on the ship. The last was accessible via a flight from Tokyo. We took that one. He saved our trip.” 

Expanding horizons

Several guests mentioned that their travel advisors had become friends. Wendy London said she and Tasi, her longtime advisor until Tasi’s recent career change, became such close friends that Tasi “took a bus from Auckland to Wellington just so she could be at my husband’s 80th birthday in Wellington” — the flights were all booked, so bus was the only way down.  

And sometimes they’ll do things that most definitely aren’t in their job description — but that can truly go beyond logistics and support to make trips extraordinary. I reached out to my own travel advisor for examples of really unusual services she’s provided. These include, she told me, “arranging a mahjong set to be bought and waiting for a client to bring aboard a cruise ship and bringing another client’s favorite snacks with me from the U.S. to drop off at his hotel in Amsterdam six days before arrival (he was doing a keto diet on his trip and was getting upset because he was running out of his supply).” This one’s my favorite: “When clients could not get an early check-in at their hotel, I changed their airport transfer to ‘pretend the driver was getting lost’ and then he stopped at a farmhouse to confirm directions. It was really a farm luncheon surprise for them.” 

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Bruce Iacobelli, Mathy Simon Wasserman, and Claudia Cox for helping connect us to travelers.  

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