As vaccines are rolled out globally, cruising in a world with coronavirus is still a hotly debated topic. I purposely didn’t say “after coronavirus,” because the reality is that the virus will likely still exist as Disney Cruise Line, and others in the United States, resume operations in 2021.
My last cruise was in February 2019 aboard the Disney Dream that I booked through Costco. It’s a little embarrassing to admit this since I’m a 12-year DISboards veteran and an article contributor. I thought I knew what a travel agent could do for me, and in the end, I chose the retailer incentive. It made sense at the time because my focus was budget. The really embarrassing part though is that the incentive wasn’t even that much. But I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t need a travel agent because The DIS had already taught me everything I needed to know.
I was fortunate that my cruise sailed without any problems and I patted myself on the back for a trip well planned. Then 2020 hit. I watched intently as reports surfaced of COVID-19 clusters aboard cruise ships and ports turning them away. In the weeks that followed, I read reports of cancelled cruises, payments in limbo, trip insurance confusion, rebooking policies constantly changing, lack of communication, and hours of waiting on hold. This is when I began comparing how experiences would differ for those travelers who booked through a big box travel provider and those who booked through a travel agency like Dreams Unlimited Travel.
As people commonly do when they witness a crisis, I began applying the situation to myself. In those early weeks of the pandemic, many late spring cruises were still scheduled to sail. I wondered what the process would have been if my cruise was scheduled during those spring dates and I no longer wanted to go. Cancellation policies seemed to be changing by the day and reimbursements were in limbo. Many tough questions went through my mind as I thought about the uncertainty of it all.
The truth is that the small incentive I received to book through Costco would not have replaced the value of an expert on my side. I would have spent countless hours trying to connect through a call center instead of emailing, texting, or calling my travel agent, a human with a name, who knew me and all the information about my trip.
If I had managed to cancel my cruise or if it had been cancelled by Disney Cruise Line, I would then be left with the task of obtaining a reimbursement or rebooking within the allotted time frame. I thought about the time I would have to sit on hold again, as well as the task of staying on top of the ever-changing cruise credits and rebooking policies. It would be necessary to track my reimbursement, which would be a significant sum if I had paid in full. Having a travel agent seemed like a luxury at this point, rather than a convenience.
I finally concluded that a travel agent was a necessity as I saw cruises cancelled month by month. These included cruises that were rebooked from previous cancellations. I imagined the frustration of getting through to a call center every time a change happened and the need to explain my situation all over again. It would be much different than calling a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.
Walking myself through the process of having a cruise scheduled during the time of coronavirus was eye opening. I thought I understood the value of a travel agent, but I didn’t. Nothing replaces an individual who is familiar with your situation and who has provided you with direct contact information.
I am still a loyal Costco member and I don’t see that changing. I’m a fan of their household items, two-year warranties, and I even used their mortgage services for my home loan. But for travel, where I have thousands of dollars invested, I will forever be a loyal travel agent customer.
If you book your Disney Cruise Line vacation through Dreams Unlimited Travel – the official sponsor of DCL Fan – you will recieve a shipboard credit up to $1000 plus a complimentary gift basket.