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Old Jul 30, 09, 10:39 am   #1
 
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Are there advantages to booking directly with Princess rather than an agency/site?

From what I can tell, prices are comparable between directly booking through Princess and through "discount" sites I've found. Booking direclty with Princess seems "safer"...but I'm just wondering. Also, I hear talk of surprise upgrades -- do those go only to travelers who booked directly?

Thanks! First time cruiser here...
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Old Jul 30, 09, 11:07 am   #2
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Your best bet is to actually inquire with an online TA, they'll probably end up significantly beating the price directly from Princess. The easiest way is to try your seletced cruise on www.cruisecompete.com . I bet you'll find significant savings.
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Last edited by SRQ Guy; Jul 31, 09 at 7:01 am.
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Old Jul 30, 09, 4:59 pm   #3
 
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I generally book directly with the cruise line and keep control of the booking until shortly before final payment. That way I can watch for price reductions, senior pricing, better cabin location etc. (Most agents don't have the time to do this for you on a regular basis -- i.e. several times a week) I start hunting for offers of paid tips, OBC (Onboard Credit) and other amenities offered by most online agents, and then transfer the booking to them just before the final payment is due. Once you have made final payment you are locked into your reservation -- either with the cruise line or the agency. Watch out for agencies that charge cancellation fees, change fees, etc. before final payment.

I also highly recommend www.cruisecompete.com Agents will make their best offers to get your business, even if you have already booked.
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Old Jul 30, 09, 10:48 pm   #4
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Hi kathylynn99.

As a travel agent I know there is no disadvantage at all to booking through a travel agent versus with the cruise line direct. All the upgrades, special OBC (On Board Credits), discount booklets, etc available from Princess will also be available through your local travel agent, though they online sites will appear less because the deal in volume and do rebate some of their commision as a discount. Weigh those savings as knowing who you're dealing with is always a good thing and dealing with a live human being should be worth a small premium. Be upfront with a local agent and tell them you'd like them to match an online price and if it's a choice between getting something versus nothing I'd wager most TA's will take the former rather than the latter.

Princess is very supportive and committed to working with rather than against travel agents and right from their site you can search for agents in your neighborhood:

http://www.princess.com/book/agent/index.jsp

Special preference is given in the search to those agents who like me have completed Princess study courses and are well versed with the product and can make recommendations and provide details about the cruise no anonymous website ever could, especially for a first time cruiser such as yourself. These are identified as "Commodore Certified Travel Agent" in this search mode, by the way.

Happy sails to you!
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Old Jul 31, 09, 10:42 am   #5
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I also recommend finding an agent who specalizes in cruises who will probably beat the price you are getting through Princess, and offer you all the same advantages.

Not sure what you mean by "safer" by going direct with the cruise line, but if you go with a reputable agent, and you ask how they handle their bookings (you want one that passes the credit card info to the cruise line, not that processes it in house and holds the money), things like that.

My cruise agent (we have been using them since 1994) has provided invaluable information for us, has been there the one time we had some major problems on a weekend (and came through for us) and has never offered a higher price then going direct would be.
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Old Aug 1, 09, 6:35 pm   #6
 
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On a related note, we took our first cruise as well last year.

We chose Princess (booked directly, although I have no experience booking cruises through TAs so don't read anything into that - all I can tell you is we got exactly what we wanted, although we wondered if we paid a bit of a premium for that. I also got some free "advice" from a former TA, who's been on countless cruises).

My point is we had an amazing time. We were on the Crown Princesss, which is newer (refurbished maybe) and huge. Really huge. And it was pretty full. Even so, we hardly waited in line for anything. We got great service, and loved all the amenties onboard.

This was a Caribbean cruise, from PR to Aruba and back. We are well travelled in the Caribbean, so we had little interest in getting off in port - except for a couple islands we had yet to visit, and even then just for an hour or so. So we spent a lot of time on the ship and loved every moment of it. We spent Christmas Day in "The Sanctuary".

One last thing - we found it was well worth the extra $20 or so to eat at the speciality restaurants. There were two, one a beef house, another Italian, and we loved both.

So we hope you enjoy your first cruise on Princess. We were so happy we would be hard pressed not to try Princess on our next cruise, and probably the Crown again.

Cheers,
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Old Aug 3, 09, 6:50 am   #7
 
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FWIW, I read this thread and used the link for cruisecompete. As I wrote in another thread, we are planning our first trip to Greece and our first cruise.

Three TAs have answered so far. The prices ranged from $16,000 to $28,000 per couple! BTW, the fares, directly from Silversea, were just over $7,000 per person or $14,000 per couple. That included a 60% discount and free airfare.

I guess the only conclusion is that if you use a TA, you better also do your homework! I was pretty stunned.
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Old Aug 3, 09, 7:19 am   #8
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Originally Posted by stevens397 View Post
Three TAs have answered so far. The prices ranged from $16,000 to $28,000 per couple! BTW, the fares, directly from Silversea, were just over $7,000 per person or $14,000 per couple. That included a 60% discount and free airfare.

I guess the only conclusion is that if you use a TA, you better also do your homework! I was pretty stunned.
I'm surprised, but then I've never booked on any of the all-inclusive lines. Yes, it is valuable to do your homework first. Checking the mainstream lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL) it's always been much cheaper for us via cruisecompete than directly through the cruise line.
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Old Aug 3, 09, 4:51 pm   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevens397 View Post
Three TAs have answered so far. The prices ranged from $16,000 to $28,000 per couple!
That was the price variance for the exact same cabin category on the exact same sailing of the exact same ship? Why I ask is because sometimes asking for all balcony classes, for example, will return pricing from the most moderate verandah/balcony cabin category all the way up to the most palatial Presidential/Penthouse/Platinum suite. Comparing BF cabins on the Sea Princess, for example, with PH will yield widely differing prices.
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Old Aug 3, 09, 10:16 pm   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevens397 View Post
FWIW, I read this thread and used the link for cruisecompete.... Silversea, were just over $7,000 per person or $14,000 per couple.
I think cruisecompete for something like Silversea (or Regent or Crystal etc etc) isn't really going to give you anything special in terms of price or insight. You should get in touch with a Virtuoso agent in your area (or check out the luxury hotel forum where a lot of us Virtuoso TAs post). You will most certainly obtain some great value, maybe a free shore event or an upgrade. It all depends on the sailings
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Old Aug 31, 09, 8:34 pm   #11
 
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A couple of advantages of booking with an agent/organization are

as a newbie cruiser you can hound them for answers to all your questions.

I'm still awaiting an E-mail reply directly from Princess regarding embarkation point address

Also I was pleasently surprised to find that an agent (USA AA club) could offer me the same cruise $1000 cheaper since they had reserved a block booking on the ship that we wanted for almost the same dates.

It doesn't hurt to ask.
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Old Sep 2, 09, 6:08 pm   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevens397 View Post
FWIW, I read this thread and used the link for cruisecompete. As I wrote in another thread, we are planning our first trip to Greece and our first cruise.

Three TAs have answered so far. The prices ranged from $16,000 to $28,000 per couple! BTW, the fares, directly from Silversea, were just over $7,000 per person or $14,000 per couple. That included a 60% discount and free airfare.

I guess the only conclusion is that if you use a TA, you better also do your homework! I was pretty stunned.
I would NOT use cruisecompete for a luxury product. The agents who are members of cruisecompete seem to specialize in the mass market. If you want a agent who does A LOT of business with a luxury line, go to that line's website and go the the "Find a Travel Agent" or Travel Agent locater. This will give you their top producing agencies which receive the best deals and have the most clout for their clients with the luxury lines.
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Old Sep 2, 09, 10:39 pm   #13
 
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Originally Posted by cruisr View Post
I would NOT use cruisecompete for a luxury product. The agents who are members of cruisecompete seem to specialize in the mass market. If you want a agent who does A LOT of business with a luxury line, go to that line's website and go the the "Find a Travel Agent" or Travel Agent locater. This will give you their top producing agencies which receive the best deals and have the most clout for their clients with the luxury lines.
That goes for the mainstream lines as well. Most cruise lines have a "find a travel agent" feature on their web sites where you can find a local agent who may specialize in the line of your choice.
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Old Sep 3, 09, 6:01 am   #14
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I know longer use a travel agent in my home area. I use a travel agent and agency that specializes in cruises and high end tours. I don't have time to fiddle around watching for price reductions. I have to trust a professional to do the job properly.

Once in a while I attend a meeting that is held on a cruise ship and book via the meeting. I still get my returning passenger loyalty benefits and points.

I stayed with local travel agencies as long as I could but one after another closed until the only few left had little to offer. I miss having face to face meetings with my travel agent, but time have changed.
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Old Sep 3, 09, 6:54 pm   #15
 
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Originally Posted by oldpenny16 View Post
I know longer use a travel agent in my home area. I use a travel agent and agency that specializes in cruises and high end tours. I don't have time to fiddle around watching for price reductions. I have to trust a professional to do the job properly.

Once in a while I attend a meeting that is held on a cruise ship and book via the meeting. I still get my returning passenger loyalty benefits and points.

I stayed with local travel agencies as long as I could but one after another closed until the only few left had little to offer. I miss having face to face meetings with my travel agent, but time have changed.
So sad and so true. Having been in the cruise industry for over 20 years it saddens me that many of the travel agents that I use to work with are no longer there. As Darwin said, "Survival of the fittest".
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