Booking through Cruise company or travel agent?

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#1
Raleigh
82 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
What are the pros and cons of booking directly with the cruise company vs. booking with a travel agent? I just don't see the benefit of including a middle man, so I must be missing something here.
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#2
Greenville, SC, USA
51,508 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
If you check around you will find TAs that eith discount the fare or offer perks (OBC, free insurance, free tips, etc.). We usually get 10 to 20% off the cruise line fare, plus some OBC.
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Paul
#3
Southern California by way of Kentucky
19,112 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
Originally posted by Midiana
What are the pros and cons of booking directly with the cruise company vs. booking with a travel agent? I just don't see the benefit of including a middle man, so I must be missing something here.
I agree...no reason to give up control for a few perks..and the possibility of that third party dropping the ball as has been well documented on these boards
#4
Carolina
8,695 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
I always book directly with the cruiseline. Guess I'm just a control freak
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#5
Greenville, SC, USA
51,508 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
With the discounts and the perks, we save anywhere for several hundred to a thousand or more by finding a good discount TA. I have never had a problem with not having control of my reservation. No question or delay in getting an answer has been worth $1000.
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Paul
#6
Mississippi
4,383 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Originally posted by paul929207
With the discounts and the perks, we save anywhere for several hundred to a thousand or more by finding a good discount TA. I have never had a problem with not having control of my reservation. No question or delay in getting an answer has been worth $1000.
We've always saved a bundle with a TA too. A few hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at and I get excellent service from my TA.

But, for those that want to believe that they have better control over their booking (and don't mind overpaying for the same product), go right ahead. If you do your research, get referrals, and find a really good TA, you'd quickly see the benefit.
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#7
NJ
6,415 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
We use a TA; we get OBCs in the hundreds $ usually. Have never had any issue at all booking this way. That said, I do all the research down to the specific cabin I want.
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#8
Greenville, SC, USA
51,508 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Originally posted by Tralynn
We've always saved a bundle with a TA too. A few hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at and I get excellent service from my TA.

But, for those that want to believe that they have better control over their booking (and don't mind overpaying for the same product), go right ahead. If you do your research, get referrals, and find a really good TA, you'd quickly see the benefit.
Since I am a shareholder of Carnival Corp., I like it when people pay top dollar to one of the Carnival lines. It helps the earnings and therefore the stock price. Keep over paying, so we can get dividends and the Shareholder OBC on our cruises.
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Paul
#9
Toronto, Canada
4,018 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
If you can get a recommendation for a good travel agent, especially one that handles a lot of cruises, it can be well worth it (with respect to money and hassle), but a bad travel agent can be worse than none at all. Crystal requires a travel agent to do the booking, but I wasn't going to do anything until I got a recommendation for a good one (not whatever one picked up the phone). I think that the more complicated your itinerary, the more advantage a good agent can offer you (i.e not a big deal if you live in the port city, but a bigger deal if you need connecting flights at each end and you want to add on a week's car trip or something).
#10
Mississippi
4,383 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Originally posted by paul929207
Since I am a shareholder of Carnival Corp., I like it when people pay top dollar to one of the Carnival lines. It helps the earnings and therefore the stock price. Keep over paying, so we can get dividends and the Shareholder OBC on our cruises.
Brilliant strategy!
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Tracy & Tony

Celebration, 1998 - Carnival Destiny, 1999 - Carnival Destiny, 2000 - RCI Serenade of the Seas, 2004 - Crown Princess, 2007 - Carnival Fantasy, 2008 - Ruby Princess, 2008 - Carnival Sensation (Abbie), 2009 - Carnival Fantasy, 2009 - Caribbean Princess, 2009 - Carnival Triumph, 2010 - Emerald Princess, 2010 - Golden Princess (Alaska), 2011 - RCI Voyager of the Seas, 2011 - NCL Spirit, 2012 - Emerald Princess, 2012 - Carnival Freedom (Girls' Trip), 2013 - NCL Sun, 2013 - NCL Jewel, 2014 - Celebrity Summit, 2014 - Emerald Princess (Girls' Trip), 2015 - RCI Oasis of the Seas, 2015 - Royal Princess, 2015 - NCL Dawn (New Year's Eve), 2016/2017 - Liberty of the Seas, 2017 - NCL Pearl, 2017
#11
NH
125 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
I used to always book through the cruiseline. Now I always book through a TA.

Pros - Much better pricing, Cheap deposits, Extra OBCs, great service

I can't think of any cons booking with a TA and am disappointed that I actually booked through the cruiseline before.

The first time I booked through a TA, our cruise was within driving distance and Princess had offered a motorcoach service to the pier for $99/person so we booked this through the TA. We arrived at the bus station early and they had nothing on the schedule anywhere about where the bus was arriving and if it was on time so we waited until the time it was supposed to arrive based on our papers from Princess. Once that time came and went, I called the TA who answered herself and I explained everything and she said she would call me right back. 5 minutes later, she called with the name of the bus, where it was at now, what bay is was going to arrive at and the ETA.

I just don't think I would have gotten that level of service, that fast from Princess.

If you ever have a problem, you will want a good TA on your side.
#12
Fort Collins, Colorado
2,511 Posts
Joined May 2009
Originally posted by calliopecruiser
If you can get a recommendation for a good travel agent, especially one that handles a lot of cruises, it can be well worth it (with respect to money and hassle), but a bad travel agent can be worse than none at all. Crystal requires a travel agent to do the booking, but I wasn't going to do anything until I got a recommendation for a good one (not whatever one picked up the phone). I think that the more complicated your itinerary, the more advantage a good agent can offer you (i.e not a big deal if you live in the port city, but a bigger deal if you need connecting flights at each end and you want to add on a week's car trip or something).
I agree and would add that the best met may be to use a travel agent the ONLY sells cruises. These agents may be part of a large network that can have some pull with the cruise lines in the event of any issues. I use a TA that sells only cruises, but is very knowledgeable with other aspects of the vacations we book. I don't mind booking my own airfare/hotel if needed. Our TA has booked us on some great cruises and steered us away from some that wouldn't have suited us. She knows our likes and wants, and wouldn't book us on a cruise that wasn't suited for us.

At least when you use a TA, you have someone in your corner to go to bat for you if needed. If it's just you vs. the cruiseline, they may not be as accomodating should you need to make any type of changes. Also, some cruise agencies buy blocks of cabins on popular cruises for discount prices. The cruise line sells these blocks because they know that certain agencies WILL sell them. These TA's that do this will generally pass on the savings to you and throw in some OBC, pre-paid gratuities, etc.
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#13
Sechelt, BC & Fort Mohave, AZ
26,708 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
We have a TA that we have now book some 18 cruises through, they operate both online and B&M. They book "group" fares and pass at least a portion of the savings on to the client through lower prices, OBC's or both. For a recent cruise we saved hundreds on the fare, got an OBC and non-medical travel insurance...in total the savings were close to $1k. The other benefits in dealing with a good TA is that they have excellent knowledge and are there for you in the event you have a problem with the cruiseline.... you are not dealing with a faceless voice in the cruiseline's call center in who knows where and has never set foot on a ship or knows what one looks like. I have no idea why anyone would want to book directly with a cruiseline and pay their rack rate.
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#14
Raleigh
82 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
So I shouldn't book onboard for an OBC? The one cruise I did book directly through my TA the price was the same as was listed on the RCI website.

Should I wait until the quarterly cruise-a-thon type open house things with my TA or any time?

I'm very particular about my cruises, I know exactly which ship, sailing date, and cabin I want. Will I still save any money?
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#15
NJ
6,415 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Originally posted by Midiana
So I shouldn't book onboard for an OBC? The one cruise I did book directly through my TA the price was the same as was listed on the RCI website.

Should I wait until the quarterly cruise-a-thon type open house things with my TA or any time?

I'm very particular about my cruises, I know exactly which ship, sailing date, and cabin I want. Will I still save any money?

I haven't found that "sales" are usually better than the price I've already booked.

If the TA isn't offering any incentive like obc or some other perk, I would call/email another or 2 to see what they have to offer, or book through the cruiseline. We have had OBC even on one or two night cruises though, so I see no reason you shouldn't be getting one.
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-Lori

Up next: Anthem of the Seas

Past cruises:
NCL: Gem & Breakaway many times, Jewel 2x, Star, Dawn
Carnival: Sunshine, Splendor, Glory 5x, Freedom, Miracle 2x, Legend, Dream, Liberty, Triumph, Fantasy, Imagination, Victory (1st cruise ever!!)
Princess: Caribbean 2x, Crown, Emerald, Island Princess through Panama Canal!
Royal: Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas 3x, Quantum of the Seas, Explorer 2x
Celebrity: Equinox and Summit
Disney: Magic
#16
267 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by Tralynn
We've always saved a bundle with a TA too. A few hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at and I get excellent service from my TA.

But, for those that want to believe that they have better control over their booking (and don't mind overpaying for the same product), go right ahead. If you do your research, get referrals, and find a really good TA, you'd quickly see the benefit.
It's all relative, as good as any TA can be, they won't be there 24hrs a day ready to take your call or be accident/illness free.

Doesn't mean I don't get a TA's prices though, but for a few hundred a person at most usually, I don't find it worth it to deal with a TA.

It's not a believe that you have better control, you do have better control direct. Anything you want to change with the cruiseline, you get your TA. No matter how good a middleman, you are still dealing with one.
#17
Mississippi
4,383 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Originally posted by gilboman
It's all relative, as good as any TA can be, they won't be there 24hrs a day ready to take your call or be accident/illness free.

Doesn't mean I don't get a TA's prices though, but for a few hundred a person at most usually, I don't find it worth it to deal with a TA.

It's not a believe that you have better control, you do have better control direct. Anything you want to change with the cruiseline, you get your TA. No matter how good a middleman, you are still dealing with one.
Actually, my TA owns her own franchise and I have her business number, home number and cell number. She also has a couple of employees working for her in the small chance that she is unavailable to assist me. I've never had to contact her at an unreasonable time, but she gave me the number so that I knew I could if I felt I needed to reach her at odd hours.

And in the chance that the cruise line makes an error (which happened to me recently) she is able to handle the frustrations of getting it straightened out with the cruise line. (Which she did and got me a little something extra for the trouble.)

I don't really see how calling the cruise line directly is any easier than calling your personal TA directly. It's still just one phone call that I have to make. And I don't believe that a single cruiser has any better control than a TA that books hundreds of cabins with them a year. She has contacts at the cruise line that she deals with directly and builds a relationship with over the years.

It's a personal choice, but I just rather have an advocate on my side. And for me, hundreds in savings is substantial.
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Tracy & Tony

Celebration, 1998 - Carnival Destiny, 1999 - Carnival Destiny, 2000 - RCI Serenade of the Seas, 2004 - Crown Princess, 2007 - Carnival Fantasy, 2008 - Ruby Princess, 2008 - Carnival Sensation (Abbie), 2009 - Carnival Fantasy, 2009 - Caribbean Princess, 2009 - Carnival Triumph, 2010 - Emerald Princess, 2010 - Golden Princess (Alaska), 2011 - RCI Voyager of the Seas, 2011 - NCL Spirit, 2012 - Emerald Princess, 2012 - Carnival Freedom (Girls' Trip), 2013 - NCL Sun, 2013 - NCL Jewel, 2014 - Celebrity Summit, 2014 - Emerald Princess (Girls' Trip), 2015 - RCI Oasis of the Seas, 2015 - Royal Princess, 2015 - NCL Dawn (New Year's Eve), 2016/2017 - Liberty of the Seas, 2017 - NCL Pearl, 2017
#18
Columbus,Ohio
41 Posts
Joined Apr 2011
I am very impressed with the level of service some of you have gotten using a TA. We are going to Alaska on RCI with a group so this time used a TA. I am a control freak but don't mind turning things over when someone knows more then I do. We used this lady because another couple in our group has used her for all of their cruises. We are flying to Anchorage a day ahead so needed a room there, and are taking the train to Seward. We are also staying over a day in Vancouver so needed a hotel there. Her only help with any of this was to send me a list of hotels with the prices starting at $250/per night, I am not a Motel 6 kind of person but these hotels went to over $450/per night. I made all of my own plane reservations, hotel reservations and the train reservations. We booked our cruise in Nov. and I haven't heard from her since I emailed her about hotels back in Jan. And the icing on my cake was I booked the cruise but she put the reservation in my husbands name. Of course she used my credit card as payment. lol

I know we got a bad TA. I have always gone online and done it all myself with no problem and it just doesn't sit well with me that she is making money from our group of 10 and she has done nothing to help. I know sour grapes on my part but after seeing some of the perks others have gotten who knows what the future will bring.
#19
267 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by Tralynn
Actually, my TA owns her own franchise and I have her business number, home number and cell number. She also has a couple of employees working for her in the small chance that she is unavailable to assist me. I've never had to contact her at an unreasonable time, but she gave me the number so that I knew I could if I felt I needed to reach her at odd hours.

And in the chance that the cruise line makes an error (which happened to me recently) she is able to handle the frustrations of getting it straightened out with the cruise line. (Which she did and got me a little something extra for the trouble.)

I don't really see how calling the cruise line directly is any easier than calling your personal TA directly. It's still just one phone call that I have to make. And I don't believe that a single cruiser has any better control than a TA that books hundreds of cabins with them a year. She has contacts at the cruise line that she deals with directly and builds a relationship with over the years.

It's a personal choice, but I just rather have an advocate on my side. And for me, hundreds in savings is substantial.
So you can call your TA at 3am and make changes?

But it is a personal choice, it's a generation gap more than anything. My mom's generation likes dealing with TA's and middleman, while I avoid them at all cost. I want things done now and fast, one call to TA or cruiseline, latter will be faster for what I need/want, i guess that's why they call the young people the instant gratification crowd! lol But as long as it works for you, that's why PVP's and TA's still exist, even if they are a dying breed.
#20
NH
125 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Originally posted by Midiana
So I shouldn't book onboard for an OBC? The one cruise I did book directly through my TA the price was the same as was listed on the RCI website.

Should I wait until the quarterly cruise-a-thon type open house things with my TA or any time?

I'm very particular about my cruises, I know exactly which ship, sailing date, and cabin I want. Will I still save any money?
I'm the same way. I just email her or call and say I want to book Voyage XYZ. She gives me the price which is always several hundred dollars cheaper than booking directly and I give her my credit card. She asks me what I would like for a cabin and offers suggestions if I need them. I can usually have the cruise booked in less than 5 minutes since she already has all my info.

As for waiting for sales, I usually don't bother as most TAs can already get better pricing. The last cruise I booked, she was $300/pp cheaper plus I got an onboard credit.

Originally posted by gilboman
So you can call your TA at 3am and make changes?

But it is a personal choice, it's a generation gap more than anything. My mom's generation likes dealing with TA's and middleman, while I avoid them at all cost. I want things done now and fast, one call to TA or cruiseline, latter will be faster for what I need/want, i guess that's why they call the young people the instant gratification crowd! lol But as long as it works for you, that's why PVP's and TA's still exist, even if they are a dying breed.
I'm in the younger generation, but still prefer a TA. Other than not being able to call at 3am I still get instant gratification. I don't need to call an 800 number and press 4 for existing bookings and wait on hold. I just call an 800 number and someone that knows me answers by the 3rd ring. And of course, the $500+ I save each cruise is nice to have in my pocket to offset my bar bill a little.