How to Become a Cruise Travel Agent in 2024 (It's Easier Than You Think)

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Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

  • Cruises

Image courtesy of Virgin Voyages

Welcome! This article is focused on building a career as a cruise travel agent. If you are looking for a cruise travel agent to book travel, head to our page that highlights our offerings as a cruise agency.

Ocean- and river-bound vacations seem to be all the rage, and for good reason. For travel advisors, this popularity presents a prime opportunity to sell more travel. And if you’re a cruise-obsessed type of person, it may just be the perfect career path for you.

But how do you get started as a cruise travel advisor? And what, specifically, can a cruise specialist offer? Below, we break it down for you. Read on for our comprehensive guide on how to become a stellar cruise travel agent — including what the role entails, steps to get started, frequently asked questions and more. Soon, you'll be ready to set sail with your new career.

Curious to learn more? Become a Fora Advisor for in-depth training on becoming a cruise travel agent, and build your dream job in the cruise industry.

What is a cruise travel agent?

Image courtesy of Hurtigruten Group

Put simply, a cruise travel agent books cruises. As a cruise travel agent, you earn money by recommending and booking cruises for your clientele.

But you’re not limited to booking only cruises. The role of a cruise travel agent is really no different than the role of a travel advisor. As a travel advisor, you can book cruises, and you can also book hotels, tours and other travel experiences. (See more our guide on different types of bookings you can make as a travel advisor.) Consider cruises another offering in your travel advisor toolbox — and another way to earn more income.

What attributes make a good cruise travel agent?

Fora Advisor Brit Healey

A good travel advisor possesses a unique blend of skills and qualities that enable them to provide exceptional service to their clients. Some of these attributes include:

A passion for travel

As a cruise-focused travel advisor, you’ll want to have a deep understanding of different cruise lines and travel trends so that you can make recommendations for your clients. Knowing the difference between river-bound voyages, expedition cruises, luxury cruises and mass-market options, for instance, as well as whom these outlets cater to, will be crucial. 

If you already have a passion for travel (including personally going on a cruise experience yourself), then you’re well on your way. You can use your opinions from cruise travel experiences to form the foundation of cruise recommendations for clients.

Continuous learning and staying updated with travel trends and industry developments are imperative. At Fora, we offer general travel agent training as well as a dedicated cruise curriculum that will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully market and book multiple cruise lines. Through Fora, you’ll be able to earn a cruise badge to showcase to your clients that you’ve completed intensive cruise training. 

Entrepreneurial spirit

Being a successful cruise travel advisor means you’ll put in a lot of hard work. Especially as you are getting started, there is a learning curve, and it takes time to build your book of business. But it is a rewarding career in many ways, and your efforts will pay off as a small business owner.

Passionate people person

Working as a cruise travel agent is a great career option to connect with people. 

You’ll want to get to know your client and their travel style, helping them to make informed decisions on which cruise line to choose and which itinerary they’ll enjoy the most. You’ll also help out with other travel decisions (for example, booking a hotel in the port city before they depart). You’ll need a strong focus on providing excellent customer service, including being responsive, patient and empathetic to clients' concerns and desires.

It’s also an opportunity to network within the travel industry. You’ll develop deep relationships with representatives from different cruise lines. We always say that travel people are the best people, and it's certainly a fun industry to be in.

Attention to detail

It goes without saying, but cruise travel agents are good planners. You’re the go-to person for travel tips, and you love match-making a client’s preferences to a detailed travel plan so that their vacation goes off without a hitch.

What are the steps to becoming a cruise travel agent?

Image courtesy of Virgin Voyages

Working as a cruise travel agent is a great opportunity to transform your passion for travel into a fun and fulfilling career. It’s relatively straightforward to get started, and we’ve broken down the process into three main steps.

1. Find a host agency

The first thing you’ll likely want to do as you embark on your new career as a cruise travel agent is to find a host travel agency. A host agency is a business within the travel industry that provides support and resources to independent travel agents or small travel agencies. These services can include access to booking systems, travel partnerships, training, marketing tools, and sometimes even travel agent certification.

Fora is a host agency, and a one-stop shop for everything you need to set your business up as a cruise travel agent. When you join, you’ll be welcomed into a warm community (including a network of passionate cruisers). And we will set you up with all of the tech, tools and training you need to get started as a cruise travel agent, including an in-depth cruise curriculum helmed by seasoned cruise experts within our community.

2. Get certified with travel agent training

Once you join a host agency, you’ll want to get started with a training program. A solid training program helps you learn the ins and outs of booking cruises, as well as other useful topics like marketing (for example, how to utilize social media to build your business).

Fora’s cruise training is live and asynchronous, so you can learn at your own pace. We have a training curriculum designed specifically for cruises. Through the training, you can earn Fora’s Cruise Badge as a distinction to highlight prior knowledge, skills, personal experience, and professional sales indicative of a trusted cruise-focused travel advisor. Earning your Cruise Badge will position you better than ever to meet your clients’ needs and demonstrate through action that you have honed your expertise for all things cruise. From understanding the basics of vessels to complex commission structures, we cover the need-to-know information advisors should keep in mind when booking cruises.

For broader training, we also offer webinars as well as opportunities to connect in person (including an annual conference). These are not your traditional seminars; they are opportunities to connect directly and network with leading industry experts. You can get accredited as a travel agent through our travel agent certification program. And our training is not a “one and done” program. We offer advanced certification, as well as ongoing opportunities to stay in-the-know with the latest industry trends.

3. Book cruises (and repeat)

Once you’ve learned the ropes on booking from a training program, you’re ready to dive in (no pun intended) to booking cruises. 

We believe in learning by doing. To that end, the best way to learn how to become a cruise travel agent is to jump in. In fact, in order to earn your Cruise Badge at Fora, our cruise travel agents need to book at least three cruises across at least two different lines. 

As a cruise travel agent, you can choose a niche if you have a specific expertise, or focus on a broad range of offerings. (And remember, as a travel advisor, you can book more than just cruises if you’d like.)

At Fora, we have partnerships with tried-and-true favorites like Royal Caribbean, as well as up-and-comers like Virgin Voyages. If you’re passionate about more eco-friendly cruises, you’ll be pleased to know that we also work closely with brands like HX/Hurtigruten as well as Lindblad Expeditions. For the luxury cruisers, we’re a Four Seasons Preferred partner, and we’re eagerly awaiting the soon-to-come launch of their yachts. This is just a sampling of our 5,500+ partners worldwide!

Once you have made your first booking, we're willing to bet you'll find that it's a little addicting. Start building your book of business by continuing to book cruises, and you're well on your way to a successful career as a travel agent.

Now you know how to become a cruise travel agent. It's time to set sail...

As you’re researching a career as a cruise travel agent, it might feel daunting (there is a lot of information to take in, after all)... But, the easiest way to get started is to dive in. Remember: the more you learn — and the more you book — the easier these water-bound bookings become.

At Fora, we’ll be with you every step of the way. From training to community, tech and more, we’ll set you up with everything you need to succeed. When you’re ready to get started, become a Fora Advisor to earn your Cruise Badge and build your dream job in cruise travel.

More cruise travel agent FAQs

Have more questions about becoming a cruise travel agent? We’ve outlined some frequently asked questions and what you’ll need to know. 

What qualifications are needed to become a cruise travel agent? What degree do you need to become a cruise agent?

Technically speaking, you do not need a degree or certification to become a cruise travel agent. It’s worth noting that many cruise travel agents opt to become certified through Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); however, this step is not technically necessary. However, we highly recommend investing time into a training program to set yourself up for success. 

With Fora, you can earn your Cruise Badge to showcase to your clients that you’ve participated in a comprehensive training program focused on cruises. Benefits of obtaining your Fora Cruise Badge include: public recognition of an advisor’s knowledge and expertise booking cruises, marketing assets, priority consideration for cruise industry events, FAMs and programming through Fora.

Our cruise travel agent training is flexible and you can do it remotely (and at your own pace) via webinars. We’ll teach you everything you need to know about building a successful business as a cruise travel agent, including the cruise booking process, how cruise fares work, navigating onboard dining, group bookings, embarkation and disembarkation, shore excursions, cruise match-making best practices, cruise commission and more. 

Over time, your years of experience and hard work as an advisor will pay off in helping to establish yourself as a reputable cruise travel agent.

How much do cruise travel agents make on a cruise?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution on how much cruise travel agents make on a cruise because each cruise line is unique. However, we’ve broken down some of the basics so you can get a deeper sense of the payment structure for a cruise travel agent’s career.

Cruise travel agents earn money based on commissions.

When travel agents book a cruise vacation, the cruise line pays a commission — a percentage of the cost of the cruise vacation booked. And remember, this commission-based model is ideal for your clients, since they won't have to pay extra to enlist your expert services. Everybody wins!

The commission rate varies across the travel industry and between cruise lines (every brand is unique), but typically is anywhere between 15–25 percent. Your commission is split between you and the host agency. It's best to check with the cruise line directly to discover what their commission split looks like (or, at Fora, we showcase this information in an easy-to-view overview in your Fora Advisor Portal).

A career as a cruise travel agent is flexible, and the more you book, the more you earn.

You can work part-time or full-time. When you work with a host agency, you are an independent contractor, and this flexibility allows you to build a career on your own terms. You can be a home-based travel agent (learn more about how to become an independent travel agent).

With a commission-based model, the more you book, the more you earn. You'll collect a larger chunk of commission if you book, say, a luxury travel, multi-family cruise vacation than you would for a couple's weekend anniversary trip. (Disney cruises are popular for families. Read more about how to become a Disney travel agent.)

Most cruise travel agents are paid by their host agency.

Remember, you’ll likely want a host agency to make the payment process easier. Host agencies have an IATA number (a unique identifier issued by the International Air Transport Association), which allows them to collect and make payments on commissions. At Fora, we handle all of the commission tracking and payments so you can focus more on the fun part (booking cruises, that is).

Want to learn more? See our guide on how travel agents get paid.

What types of cruises can agents book?

The short answer is that the sky is the limit! Most cruise lines work off a commission-based model that is travel agent-friendly. All major lines like Carnival Cruises, Disney, Viking, Norwegian, Celebrity, MSC, Virgin Voyages and more are commissionable. There are also luxury travel lines like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Crystal. Even smaller cruise companies like Ponant and Cunard work with travel agents.

You’ll be able to book a variety of cruise ships, and there’s a ton of opportunities to plan dream vacations for your clients. Whether you’re planning a cruise vacation out of Florida or Europe, there’s plenty of opportunity. Fora’s cruise training program covers all of the numerous available cruise options, and how to match-make each to certain clients, in greater depth.

How does a cruise travel agent book a cruise vacation?

The process for booking a cruise for a client as a travel agent is not too far off from booking a cruise as a traveler yourself. So if you’ve ever booked a cruise for yourself, you’ll be able to learn how to book a cruise for your clientele once you become a travel agent.

When learning how to become a travel agent, you'll learn the specifics of how to book for clients. Every cruise line is a little different... On many cruise websites, you might notice that there’s a designated tab or link labeled "Travel Professionals," "Travel Agent Portal" or something similar. These are the sections that will allow you to register client information as well as your host agency’s IATA number. Coming soon, Fora Advisors will be able to book directly via our integrated booking platform. Additionally, we cover all the details and intricacies of cruise bookings (including more complicated group and event bookings) in our cruise travel agent training.

It’s worth noting that building relationships goes a long way. By simply asking for extra perks (like onboard credit), you can often level up your client’s vacation at no extra cost, helping to build loyalty with your clientele by giving them the best possible travel experience.

Can a cruise travel agent book more than just cruises?

Yes, absolutely! As a travel agent, you can book everything from weekend staycations to bucket-list trips with in-depth itineraries and travel experiences. Learn more in our article about different types of bookings you can make as a travel advisor.

Ready to get started? Join Fora to become a cruise travel agent today. 

We’ll get you set up with everything you need to launch your cruise travel agent business, including access to our comprehensive training program to earn your Cruise Badge. Apply to become a Fora Advisor today. 

Are you the go-to person for travel tips?

Transform your passion for travel into your dream job. We'll set you up with everything you need to succeed as a travel advisor. From training to top-notch tech, marketing assets, community, commission tracking & payments (and more), we've got you.

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