David Alexander Arnold
Travel + Leisure
August 10, 2017

The A-List is Travel + Leisure's annual selection of the world's best travel agents and destination specialists, as chosen by the editors. Rely on these industry experts to plan the perfect cruise. For more about our methodology and how to apply, read How We Choose the Travel Agents for T+L’s A-List.

Adventure Cruises

Mary Curry

In the business for more than 15 years, Curry specializes in distinctive small-ship excursions (all of which she personally vets) to adventure-focused destinations like Antarctica, the Arctic, the Galápagos Islands, and Hawaii.

Best for: families, couples/honeymooners

Extras: Curry’s role at Adventure Life includes negotiating contracts with cruise companies, so you can count on her to secure the best-possible prices.

Other expertise: South America

Minimum daily spend: $200

406-540-1901; mary.c@adventurelife.com; adventure-life.com


Large and Small-Ship Ocean Cruises

Scott Kertes

Travelers who have attempted to make sense of a cruise trip’s fine print—from which restaurants you can access at an all-inclusive rate and how much Wi-Fi costs to what’s considered a premium drink—will understand the value of an advisor like Kertes. Not only has he sailed on nearly every cruise line but he’s intimately familiar with all of those pesky details.

Best for: culture buffs, nature lovers

Extras: Traveling with a company or large group? Kertes is an expert at building theme cruises. He’s also worked with dozens of philanthropic organizations to create fund-raising cruise programs.

Other expertise: Group cruising

Minimum daily spend: None

800-828-4813; scott@vbdusa.com; vacations​by​designusa.com

Mary Ann Ramsey

As president and owner of Betty Maclean Travel, Ramsey thinks of herself as a lifelong partner with her clients. She addresses their long-term travel goals and keeps files on what’s happening in their bucket-list destinations. Since luxury cruising is popular among her clientele, she spends a lot of time on boats, keeping up on the best staterooms and onboard experiences.

Best for: multigenerational families, luxury seekers

Extras: For each port of call, Ramsey creates a personalized itinerary—complete with driver and guide—that might include a cooking class in a traditional Venetian household, say, or a private tour of the monastery in Petra, Jordan.

Other expertise: Safaris

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

800-865-8111; maryann@bettymacleantravel.com; bettymacleantravel.com

Ruth Turpin

Turpin has a knack for pairing clients with the right cruise, a skill she has honed since founding her agency more than 35 years (and some 160 boat trips) ago. She’s especially well versed in Mediterranean cruising options.

Best for: luxury seekers, couples/honeymooners, solo travelers

Extras: Thanks to her partnerships with so many cruise directors, Turpin is able to arrange special, hard-to-secure onboard surprises, such as decorating staterooms for a honeymoon, private dinners with customized wine pairings, and a butler-delivered birthday cake and balloons.

Other expertise: River cruising

Minimum daily spend: None

817-732-6991; ruth@cruisesetctravel.com; cruises​etctravel.com


River Cruises

Liz Sadie Sutton

When Sutton, who is president of Alabama World Travel/Sutton & Associates, takes new river cruises and visits their ports of call, she does so with a highly critical eye, checking such details as the comfort and direction of the bed and the size of the stateroom balcony.

Best for: luxury seekers, multigenerational families, culture buffs

Extras: Sutton’s personalized touches include framing a photo of her client’s family and asking the cruise director to place it beside the bed with a bottle of wine.

Other expertise: Caribbean

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

334-279-8720; liz@awtinc.com; awtinc.com


Small-Ship Ocean Cruises and River Cruises

Betsy Patton

Patton knows boats inside and out—where to find a quiet reading corner, which rooms to book for the best sunrise or sunset views—and is an authority on river cruises. Always on top of industry trends, she notes that river trips are continuing to gain popularity in Asia and South Africa.

Best for: luxury seekers, multigenerational families, adventure

Other expertise: Pre- and post-cruise extension trips

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

239-260-4011; bpatton@dt.com; dt.com

Marcella Rappoport

Rappoport, who books about 150 cruises a year, makes a point of staying on top of cruising news (just-launched sailings to Iceland and Cuba have recently caught her eye), and when a new ship debuts, you can expect her to be the first to board with her critic’s pen at the ready. Rappoport is also skilled at navigating the industry’s confusing price algorithms: she knows how and when to book for the best values.

Best for: luxury seekers, multigenerational families, culture buffs

Extras: Not only are all of Rappoport’s clients personally greeted by name—and met with fruit, flowers, and champagne in their cabins—she can also arrange a dinner with the captain of the ship.

Other expertise: Private-jet travel

Minimum daily spend: $500

212-472-4840; mrappoport@ovation​travel.com; ovation​vacations.com


Small-Ship Ocean Cruises

Valerie Ann Wilson

In her 30-plus years on the job, Wilson has grown her firm to 15 offices around the U.S., she’s written two travel books, she’s chairman emeritus of Virtuoso’s member advisory board, and she’s an advisor for a half-dozen travel brands.

Best for: multigenerational families, luxury seekers, couples/honeymooners

Extras: For family trips, Wilson suggests fun pre-travel research assignments on sports, animals, history, and other topics that will get children excited about the adventure. “Travel is very educational,” she says.

Other expertise: Europe, hotels

Minimum daily spend: $1,000

212-532-3400; valeriew@vwti.com; valerie​wilsontravel.com

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