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There are basically three ways to book a cruise. Do it yourself online, call the cruise line or use a travel agent. There are pros and cons to any of those methods but in the long-run, using a good travel agent reaps the greatest rewards. The big trick is finding a good one.

“A competent travel adviser can be your greatest asset when you’re planning a trip,” says┬áconsumer advocate Chris Elliott. “Good travel agents have an edge over almost any other seller of travel. They know what you want. They speak your language.”

But how to go about finding one of these good agents is the trick. Consider these suggestions to help with the hunt:

Attitude check

Start by getting your head in the right place. To get the most out of a travel agent, you and that agencies need to be working on a long-term business relationship that will benefit you far into the future. If you think along those critical lines, you already eliminate a whole lot of travel agents who are just in it for the commission.

Make a list and check it twice

Asking friends and family, maybe business associates, who they use is a great way to find a potential candidate. If you work for a large company that has a travel desk or uses one exclusive agency, that might be a good place to start also.

Engage

Start by asking questions of potential agents. “Are you certified?”, “How long have you been selling cruises? and other revealing questions are a must.

Test the waters

One of the big advantages of using a travel agent is saving time but spending a little time upfront locating that good agent is worth it.

At some point, you have to take the leap to use a travel agent. Try it on a simple booking you might have done online by yourself in the past. See first-hand if that agent comes through with a better value and overall better travel experience.

If they do, you have found your agent. If not, keep looking. The benefits of finding an agent right for you that produce good results is worth the investment of your time.