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Old Jan 18, 09, 9:33 pm   #1
 
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Should I use a travel agent to book a cruise?

Hi Guys

Me and my better half are planning a first time Cruise this summer. I requested a quote from a travel agent. I also took a quote from on-line web site of the cruise company (Celebrity) and found that the on-line quote was a full $300 less than the agent's quote. I was under the impression that for cruises one should book through agents because you don't have to pay the published fares. In my case, my experience has been the other way.
Any advice on what I should do? Should I try to find more agents to see if I get a better deal or just go with the on-line booking? Are there any pitfalls by going through the on-line company web site?
thanks!
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Old Jan 19, 09, 7:17 am   #2
 
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Try getting a quote from Cruisecompete.com . This site lets you find the cruise and agents then send you their best price for the cruise. Also lok at vacationstogo.com . They can have some really good deals and you can see different cruise line prices to get a comparison of prices.

Some agents have better deals with certain cruise lines. Maybe your agent can meet the cruise line price, maybe not. Some agents will also throw in on-board credits and such.

It really does pay to check around and compare the whole package.
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Old Jan 19, 09, 7:30 am   #3
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I would say to ALWAYS use a travel agent for cruises, because they will give you part of their commission as either a discount or as an on-board credit, depending on the cruise line's rules.

As MoreMilesPlease noted, use cruisecompete.com to see what kind of deals you can get. Just read the fine print about any cancellation and change fees.
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Old Jan 19, 09, 10:49 am   #4
 
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The other thing to check is if ALL fees and taxes are included in the on-site quote. A lot of times they aren't until you get to the actual booking - and that can add up to more than the $300 depending on the cruise.

I normally check the prices at several sites then contact a TA and ask them if they can beat it - normally they can - either way it's never a good idea to buy from the cruise company website (like paying sticker price for a car).
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Old Jan 19, 09, 11:53 am   #5
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At cruisecompete.com, all quotes include all applicable taxes, port fees, and fuel surcharges.
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Old Jan 20, 09, 8:37 am   #6
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Old Jan 22, 09, 6:12 am   #7
 
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I've only booked with Royal Caribbean and their fares are all the same. Travel agents are not allowed to offer a lower price - but they are allowed to offer On Board Credit and/or gifts.

Since the prices are all the same, I prefer to book the cruise myself. I have full control of everything - I can speak to Royal Caribbean directly without having to go through a middle man. I can monitor the prices every day and if the rate drops, I call RC directly and get a price adjustment.

On the last cruise I booked, I missed out on about $50 to $100 on board credit, but it was worth it for me. I think I would rather have the peace of mind that everything has been done correctly, then to have my vacation ruined because of a bad travel agent.

cruisecritic.com is a great source for all things cruising...
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Old Jan 22, 09, 3:34 pm   #8
 
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web site fare was lower than the travel agent

Thanks for your answers guys. Here is what I experienced. Travel agent fare was higher than the on-line quote. The travel agent agreed to match the on-line quote when informed and he said he was not aware of the drop in fares this early. I also had an on-line booking that I had made directly. I found some interesting facts. The options for the reservation through the travel agent are much less and no fares are quoted - e.g., for pre and post cruise land tours. The transfer option is also not available nor is the pricing when one books through the travel agent. Booking direct provides more choices and for those willing to do the research on their own making direct booking is a good choice.
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Old Jan 22, 09, 7:25 pm   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upnorth View Post
Thanks for your answers guys. Here is what I experienced. Travel agent fare was higher than the on-line quote. The travel agent agreed to match the on-line quote when informed and he said he was not aware of the drop in fares this early. I also had an on-line booking that I had made directly. I found some interesting facts. The options for the reservation through the travel agent are much less and no fares are quoted - e.g., for pre and post cruise land tours. The transfer option is also not available nor is the pricing when one books through the travel agent. Booking direct provides more choices and for those willing to do the research on their own making direct booking is a good choice.
I have found that the only time I would use a Travel Agent is if it is a group booking and the Agent is going to credit back the extra cabin value to the group as on board credits. I would stay away from any Agent that is willing to "match" or reduce their commission.

Last edited by Doug 1029; Jan 22, 09 at 7:27 pm.. Reason: spelling
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Old Jan 23, 09, 4:23 pm   #10
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Using cruisecompete.com, we saved about $300/person (plus we get some onboard credit) over the Princess quote for our upcoming Baltic cruise. It pays to shop around.
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Old Jan 26, 09, 11:44 pm   #11
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To answer OP's thread title question, yes, travellers should use a TA to book cruises, though as a 13-year TA I'm a little biased.

But in all seriousness, please let me dispell some unfortunately erroneous information that's crept into this thread.

First, there aren't any cruise add-ons such as pre or post cruise hotel nights nor tours or shore excursions that are not available through your TA that would be online. Plain & simple. In fact, using a TA opens up more choices beyond the narrow and often more expensive options the cruise line offers. I booked clients pre hotel nights in BCN last summer at the same hotel as the cruise line was using at a fraction of the cost as fellow travellers were horrified to learn while dining with them on the Med. cruise. A good TA is much better because of the experience than some 2-D website.

TA's pricing isn't always higher than online and agencies within chains or consortia often have group cabins blocked at discounted rates that are not only are below online pricing but do offer onboard credits or free upgrades as a bonus.

Some of the cruise lines, such as Carnival, sought online inquiries direct from the public and even offered MyPoints as incentive as was mentioned in this SPAM forum thread but called and emailed repeatedly to the point of annoyance in some cases.

So, while I'm glad to hear many in this thread use TA's for cruising I wish more would for these and other reasons. Happy sailing.
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Old Jan 27, 09, 12:18 am   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upnorth View Post
Thanks for your answers guys. Here is what I experienced. Travel agent fare was higher than the on-line quote. The travel agent agreed to match the on-line quote when informed and he said he was not aware of the drop in fares this early. I also had an on-line booking that I had made directly. I found some interesting facts. The options for the reservation through the travel agent are much less and no fares are quoted - e.g., for pre and post cruise land tours. The transfer option is also not available nor is the pricing when one books through the travel agent. Booking direct provides more choices and for those willing to do the research on their own making direct booking is a good choice.
Those statements require a bit of clarification...

1. Fares from travel agents depend on what kind of volume they send the cruises lines, hence why some can offer better pricing/amenities than others

2. Pre and post options are what the cruise line has contracted out...nothing a good TA couldn't do either...you'll often find that the prices the cruise line charges you are just adjustments to other charges (for instance, most of the time time, I can get better excursions/prices than what the cruise line will offer, especially on board)

3. Booking direct does not provide more choices, in fact TA's usually have a vast poor of other vendors with whom they have a relationship. Certainly I understand those who like the feel of doing it themselves but I've seen clients make mistakes on their end just as well as a TA could do the same, but most cases, a "good" TA won't let this happen or if it does, can quickly take care of the mistake

I echo the same sentiments as tcook052! :-)
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Old Jan 27, 09, 4:21 pm   #13
 
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As another Cruise T.A. I want to add to tcook052's great post. Odds are that the very nice Celebrity agent that you talked to is sitting in Wichita and has never been on a ship. Good agents out there have more than likely been on the ship you are thinking about sailing and can answer all of your questions; no matter how obscure.
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Old Jan 28, 09, 7:37 pm   #14
 
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One of the best reasons to use a travel agent is that you where to find him or her. Often times everything goes well, but as people on this boards know, many times things go awfully wrong.
In those times, it is nice to have some one with a clear head and lots of experience to help with assistance or ideas to get back on track.
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Old Jan 28, 09, 7:58 pm   #15
 
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I have a great travel agent we found using cruisecompete. Cruisecompete is a great service, but as others have said, having a travel agent is invaluable when there are problems.

My TA has also been able to get RC to move on some things that I couldn't get them to move on when I called directly. After that help, I was a convert.

No doubt it makes it tougher to get a lower price if you can't get TA on the phone when the rate drops. But, so far, haven't been stung by that. She's been available when I've needed her.
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