I was about to post the link to CLIA, as well. Our TA isn't local, either -- we communicate by telephone (and email, when she has to send us something). A CLIA-certified travel agent knows the questions to ask to determine the ship, itinerary, cabins, etc. that are a good fit for you. We've been cruising for more than 20 years, including several cruises in Europe, and we still seek the expertise of a travel agent with CLIA certification.
Good move on starting the passport process!
And, welcome to our forums (belatedly)!