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Are Travel Agents of Any Value?

Are Travel Agents of Any Value?

Old Mar 21, 14, 12:43 pm
  #1  
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Are Travel Agents of Any Value?

My wife's long-time cruise travel agent quoted us $1639 p.p. for an oceanview cabin on the September 19, 2015 Athens-Rome Princess Cruise (Emerald Princess). On the Princess website, the price of $1649 is quoted, but this is reduced to $1549 when I log in with my Ruby status (my wife is platinum).

The travel agent insists that $1639 is as low as they can go. The travel agent is aware of our travel history, having access to this infomation from Princess.

What's the truth here?
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Old Mar 21, 14, 12:47 pm
  #2  
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The agent gets a commission on the sale. Of course Princess would rather you book direct, so they may give you a better price.

Unless the travel agent can offer upgrades, or onboard ship credit, I'd move on.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 1:20 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Reindeerflame View Post
On the Princess website, the price of $1649 is quoted, but this is reduced to $1549 when I log in with my Ruby status (my wife is platinum).

The travel agent insists that $1639 is as low as they can go. The travel agent is aware of our travel history, having access to this infomation from Princess.

What's the truth here?
Did you link the reason why the cruise line is offering you 100$ discount? The promo is called Launch Savings and it doesn't really pop up when pricing a cruise via Polar Online. It would only show when they actually go in to confirm the booking or make an option with your circle number membership
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Old Mar 21, 14, 1:21 pm
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Originally Posted by Jaimito Cartero View Post
The agent gets a commission on the sale. Of course Princess would rather you book direct, so they may give you a better price.
That would be completely against their established corporate policies....
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Old Mar 21, 14, 4:01 pm
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Originally Posted by ABG View Post
Did you link the reason why the cruise line is offering you 100$ discount? The promo is called Launch Savings and it doesn't really pop up when pricing a cruise via Polar Online. It would only show when they actually go in to confirm the booking or make an option with your circle number membership
I did not provide the actual promo description, but I did provide the agent with precise details of how I found the lower fare, and what it was before and after, and that we have Ruby and Platinum status with Princess.

I would expect the agent, as an expert in the field, to either know about this, or to offer to find out. Instead, we get this attitude of "well, if you want to call Princess, feel free". That doesn't really sound like an expert at work, but rather like someone whose interest is adverse to mine.

For the record, I typically book virtually all my own travel and am quite good at putting together an individualized trip....my specialty. Cruises are something I have accepted, but never did before meeting my wife, so I have tended to defer to her lead on these. But even now, my wife is thinking we are getting a less than optimal deal, and loyalty to the agent's office is waning rapidly.

Does anyone think upgrades are more likely when working an agent? We received an upgrade to a minisuite on one cruise, but it's not clear whether the agent had anything to do with it.

Thanks for the feedback so far.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 6:30 pm
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We now provided the travel agent with the precise name of the promotion, and she called Princess. Princess was unable to locate a lower price.

Now I've sent the agent a screen shot of the lower price.

Our call to Princess went nowhere; as we have an existing TA booking, Princess will not discuss price with the customer, only with the TA.

I took great delight at agreeing to answer a customer survey after the call, and ranked Princess 1, on a scale of 1 to 5, in terms of customer service.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 8:35 pm
  #7  
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agents can have value-added

american express platinum >
$300 shipboard credit (for suites and above) or two-category stateroom upgrade (depending on ship, category booked and availability)

Dinner at Sabatini's (first night only) for up to two guests (guests aboard Sea, Dawn and Sun Princess enjoy dinner in Sterling Steakhouse instead)

Bottle of champagne
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Old Mar 21, 14, 8:50 pm
  #8  
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A good TA who knows you and who knows what you want can get a great deal done for you, particularly on complex itineraries where you have little familiarity. The same TA can often obtain upgrades, discounts and other perks which may matter, such as the late dinner seating, a nicer table and a better cabin within the cabin class.

If you know what you want and it's not complex and you are not only not getting any perks, but actually paying more than if you booked direct --- you have picked the wrong TA.
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Old Mar 22, 14, 5:07 am
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Originally Posted by Reindeerflame View Post
I did not provide the actual promo description, but I did provide the agent with precise details of how I found the lower fare, and what it was before and after, and that we have Ruby and Platinum status with Princess.

I would expect the agent, as an expert in the field, to either know about this, or to offer to find out. Instead, we get this attitude of "well, if you want to call Princess, feel free". That doesn't really sound like an expert at work, but rather like someone whose interest is adverse to mine.
Travel agents do not book through consumer channels. They go directly to the GDS or other such system. If Princess decided to make this rate available only to consumers, then there is no way a TA can find it, regardless of how good they are.
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Old Mar 22, 14, 1:22 pm
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Originally Posted by cbn42 View Post
Travel agents do not book through consumer channels. They go directly to the GDS or other such system. If Princess decided to make this rate available only to consumers, then there is no way a TA can find it, regardless of how good they are.
IME Princess does not make offers to consumers that cannot be booked through a TA.
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Old Mar 22, 14, 4:47 pm
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I've found it both ways, and have seen lots of variety based on the cruise line as well. Sometimes I get a better deal through a TA, sometimes I don't. It always pays to shop around. The other TA benefits are very specific to individual TAs, and if you find one you like, that relationship can pay off in the long run. I'm still looking for someone that good.
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Old Mar 22, 14, 8:56 pm
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To the OP. Your travel agent is a slug....and that is not at all unusual. A good Virtuoso agent can do more for you in five minutes than the average storefront agent could in a week. You need to know how much the agent knows about the product you are booking and the type relationship they have with the supplier. Just ask a couple questions and you will know soon enough.

I've booked cruises through AMEX, Vacations to Go, local idiot (but nice) agent, Virtuoso. I was lucky that the one time a major on board problem occurred, the Virtuoso agent had the booking and saved the day for us during the cruise. Never would have asked any of the others to intervene.
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Old Mar 24, 14, 11:17 am
  #13  
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Epilogue

Finally, after I emailed a copy of the Princess webpage showing the lower $1549 pp fare (oceanview), my TA figured it out. It turns out it was for the OF category, rather than OC, which he had originally placed us in....but still on the Plaza level, just 18 rooms to the front. The new cabin is right next door to a cabin that commands the higher price ($1639 pp). Again, there was no explanation why we would want one over the other, or any other advice. So, we went with the lower-priced cabin, with the final savings being $194.40. Just a bit more than our 1st wedding anniversary dinner the other night!

If I had looked one or two steps further on the Princess website, I would have discovered the various subcategories within "oceanview" myself...including the even lower "obstructed view" subcategory. Indeed, the Princess person could have pointed this out, rather than shutting down our conversation by stating that she couldn't discuss pricing issues because we had an existing TA reservation. Instead, the Princess website initially shows just one price for "Oceanview", even though there are about 5 subcategories within that category. So, both Princess and our TA did not do a very good job.

All's well that end's well.
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Old Mar 24, 14, 1:18 pm
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I wonder if the TA didn't want to be bothered because of the amount of the commission from Princess.

My only experience is booking using a TA for Silverseas cruises. He gave us On Board Credit, advice and most importantly, got us off the waitlist for a very popular cruise. I have no doubt that because he is a luxury cruise specialist that does a lot with Silversea that he got his client off the waitlist first...
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Old Mar 25, 14, 8:01 pm
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Originally Posted by cbn42 View Post
Travel agents do not book through consumer channels. They go directly to the GDS or other such system. If Princess decided to make this rate available only to consumers, then there is no way a TA can find it, regardless of how good they are.
Correct.
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