Best way to book a cruise

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#1
Southern California
234 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
DH and I are thinking of doing the Carnival Mexican Riviera cruise with our two kids. Where is the best place to book it? Through an agent, or a website?
#2
Wisconsin
6,138 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
Originally posted by laniriveira
DH and I are thinking of doing the Carnival Mexican Riviera cruise with our two kids. Where is the best place to book it? Through an agent, or a website?
Have you cruised before? Do you know the differences between all the different categories of a cruise ship cabin? Do you know the price differences betwen, say, a balcony and a window, and know which would work best for your kids? Do you know which kids programs might be best suited for your children's interests?

All of these questions can be asked of an agent, face-to-face -- without cost, and usually can't be easily answered through a website.

I think unless you're really experienced at travel, and at cruising, sitting down with an agent is the best way to go.
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#3
Central Ohio
16,195 Posts
Joined May 2003
Wherever you go for information, do make sure that the prices that are being quoted are complete prices. All taxes, fees, and agent charges (if any) should be known up front.

Find out the change policy of your agent/agency. Some charge for any change in your cruise including a reduction in rates. (Yes, they may charge you for getting a better price. ) Personally, if an agency has change fees I would avoid them.

Even if your agent is a friend, do your own homework. Nobody looks out for your interests better than you. And Cruise Critic is a great start for homework.

Charlie
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#4
85,848 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
I would recommend finding a travel agent to help you.

I would aske family and friends who have cruised before if they have a recommendation for you.

Keith
#5
Pittsburgh, PA
3,019 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
In order of personal preference, I would;

1. Use a brick and mortar Travel Agent (TA). Go talk with them first. Let them ask questions and make suggestions. You do not pay a TA, although some agencies have fees for services (I would avoid those). Ask about fees up front, even before you tell them where you wish to go. Don't be afraid to compare agencies. Ask if they will track and credit any price drops.

2, Deal directly with the cruise line. But EVERYTHING is up to you, I wouldn't do that until I had at least 1 cruise under my belt. There are too many little nuances you aren't aware of until you have your sea legs. Remember, you are responsible to keep an eye on things like price drops and itineray changes.

3. I would avoid most on-line agencies (unless you know of their repute, via BBB etc.) There have been many horror stories listed here, and elsewhere, about them going "belly-up" with their clients money. If you decide to use an on-line, please make sure the cruise line gets your money in a timely manner.

OK, my two cents worth. Thanks for reading this personal epistle. By the way, we use a TA who has become a good friend, to do almost all our travel planning.
#6
1,245 Posts
Joined May 2010
HI!

I can't really tell you the BEST way to go, but just wanted to state that I recently took my first cruise and we booked everything on our own after doing a lot of research. The reason being, is that I like having complete control of my own vacation and part of the fun for us was the whole planning aspect. From my understanding, once you book thru a TA, everything has to thru that TA, but we personally liked dealing with the cruiseline, hotel, airline...etc...directly and not having a middleman.

If you have the time to do the research and monitor things like itnerary and price changes, then you may be fine booking directly thru Carnival. I do suggest that if you go that route, to pull up their website and call them before you book to make sure what you are seeing online is the same thing they are telling you on the phone. In our case, we were deciding between a few rooms. We called Carnival and spoke with a rep who was able to give us a little bit more specifics on each room which helped us narrow down the choice to the room we actually booked. Even though we booked online, he gave us his direct phone number so that we could call and speak with him directly if more questions arose so we didn't have to keep going thru the main 1-800 number.

If you don't have time to plan or if know a reputable TA that specializes in cruises, then you could go the TA route too...However, I say to still make sure you do some sort of research so that you'll know whether or not the TA you chose is on top of their job.

Have a good trip!
#7
Southern California
234 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Originally posted by uppitycats
Have you cruised before? Do you know the differences between all the different categories of a cruise ship cabin? Do you know the price differences betwen, say, a balcony and a window, and know which would work best for your kids? Do you know which kids programs might be best suited for your children's interests?

All of these questions can be asked of an agent, face-to-face -- without cost, and usually can't be easily answered through a website.

I think unless you're really experienced at travel, and at cruising, sitting down with an agent is the best way to go.

Nope this would be our first cruise. I do actually know the difference between an interior vs. a balcony. I had been inside a balcony room onboard the splendor when my sister got married. So, I kinda know which room we would get but I was wondering the best place to book it at.

I just don't want to pay for an agent and it seems so easy to book through one of those bulk travel websites.
#8
Southwest Florida
6,917 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
I've been using the same TA at "one of those bulk online agencies" and have nothing but good things to say!! She's helpful, happy to help, doesn't charge a booking fee and is patient with me. I sure wish all of these big agencies weren't lumped together. We've been using her for 3 years and never had any problem or issue. She's even worked her magic when I didn't like dinner seating times.
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#9
USA
8,952 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
If you know exactly what you want then direct thru whom ever gives the best total price ( IE price+taxes+fees - OBC and kickbacks ). If this is your first cruise a TA might be useful as a Carnvial ship experience is / can be different then RCCL or Princess.

Originally posted by laniriveira
DH and I are thinking of doing the Carnival Mexican Riviera cruise with our two kids. Where is the best place to book it? Through an agent, or a website?
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#10
Southern California
234 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Well I do know which type of room and approx what deck but I don't know if a TA would be better only because of hidden fees from online booking. But thanks for ur help!!
#11
Jacksonville, Florida
28 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
We have always used out trusted TA I have a 16 year relationship with them. This will be my 5th and the wife’s 6th cruise. I do research on what I think I would like through 2 or 3 sites I like then the cruise lines itself and finally an e-mail with all the stuff I am thinking to my TA and she will call me to give me to lock down the best deal.

I met my TA as result of them being the corporate travel agency we out grew them but I have used them personal especially for cruise as that is their core business. I depend on their knowledge and experience. All the people in the office have been there as long as I have worked with them and the owners are top notch.

Just my thought
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Ed
Life isn't about believing in dreams... it's about living them.
#12
5 Posts
Joined Aug 2005
I find that doing research, you can book on your own through the website or by calling Carnival directly. OUr first cruise we booked through an agent and I completely regretted it. We didn't research much b/c we thought our travel agent was a good source of information, but we paid sooo much more through her than if we had booked ourselves. This was completely our fault for not researching ANYTHING in advanced, but lesson learned so we booked directly through Carnival the 2nd time. Since we were going with another couple, we booked via phone so we could make sure we got dining together and our rooms somewhat near each other. Anyway, you can answer alot of questions just by researching - interior or ocean view or balcony, early or late dining - Some of that is just preference. Do you want windor or not, do you want to spend the extra $$ on a balcony - do you like to eat late or early. I will say to look at the deck plan, b/c it IS noisy if you are underneath the club areas. Of course, the higher up the ship you go, it does seem to get more espensive, but there is usally one deck that has nothing but rooms below and above it, so that is going to be your quietest area. See - you can find out all this information on boards like this and book yourself! You can even ask Carnival agent questions - however, I can guarantee how truthful their answers may be!