Booking Help: TA, Online or w/Cruise Line - ch Is Best?

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#1
Philadelphia
167 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
I am just off my first cruise and now want to book another.

However, I am looking for options on whether there are advatanges/disadvantages to booking with the following options:

1. Travel agent - this si how I booked my first cruise. I didn't get any extras (OBC, upgrades, etc.)

2. directly with the cruise line via online or phone

3. Online thru expedia or other online agency.

I keep seeing all these extras such as OBC, coupon books, free room upgrades, but when I try to tentatively book them, the extras seem to disappear or all of a sudden don't apply.
#2
GTA, Ontario, Canada
32,521 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Most cruise lines have the same prices as a TA where you may get a deal is with the OBC

Shop around to find the best deal on perks if that is what you want or just book direct with the cruise line

It is all in your comfort level
#3
Ontario, CA (The one WITH the Palm Trees!)
21,002 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
If you do book with a TA or travel site make sure you understand their policies on making changes or cancelling.
#4
St. Paul MN
2,976 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
I have always used online TAs. I get emails from about three of them, and notice of all their sales.
Also your credit cards like American Express and other offer cruise vacations too.
Look around. You can start with the "Cruise Deals" at the top of th Cruise Critic and go from there.

Marion,
You will always know more than a TA about a particular location and cruise, because you are doing the research up front. Good you.
A TA will know about a particular cruise line and the procedures for booking etc.
#6
104,710 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
We have been fortunate to have the same TA for over 24 years.

We like the idea that we can call her any time we want to -- can go and see here any time we want to.

And we have gotten upgrades.
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Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
#8
6,005 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
For me, the advantage of booking direct is that I can pick up the phone and call the cruiseline with any questions, concerns, additions, changes, etc. For example, if there is a price drop on a better cabin, I can call and snap it up anytime. I know what I want, do my own research and like controlling my own reservations. (Once in a while a deal offered by an agent is too good to pass up, and overall, I have been satisfied.)

If you book through a TA (online or brick and morter), you need to call the TA for the above stuff. If the agency is closed or busy, you might experience a delay. A good TA will contact the cruiseline (or make changes online if supported by the softwear) for you. If your agency has limit hours you could miss out on a price drop or a great cabin (a direct booker like me or a faster TA may grab it first). If you take potluck and get a bad agent and need service, you may end up frustrated. If you try to call the cruiseline, the line will explain that the TA "owns" your booking, so the line can only deal with the TA, not the guest. If you get a great agent, they can help and guide you.
#9
Philadelphia
167 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
thanks to everyone for your replies.

One more question, how do you all get notified or find about about price drops after you have booked, paid partially or paid in full?
#10
Florida
7,053 Posts
Joined Nov 2000
Hi Beachpearl ~ I regularly check prices on my own on the cruise line website. I also check regularly here on Cruise Critic, especially on the roll call for my cruises. When there is a price drop, someone always seems to post that information on the roll call.

For the most part, you can only have your price adjusted if a lower price is available before you make final payment. Once final payment is made, the cruise lines won't give you the lower price. Some people prefer to wait until after final payments are due to even book their cruise in hopes of getting a lower price. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't, depending on how full the sailing is.

Hope this helps.
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Host Anne
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#11
Brooksville FL
3,272 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
OP:
The TA you used showed no appreciation
to you for booking with them.
Find one that will thank you with OBC ,
gift or at the very least a bottle of wine.
Ask friends, relatives, neighbors , coworkers
that cruise , for recommendations.
#12
Raleigh NC
24,461 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by LHT28
Most cruise lines have the same prices as a TA where you may get a deal is with the OBC

Shop around to find the best deal on perks if that is what you want or just book direct with the cruise line

It is all in your comfort level
I disagree, we always get 5-10% better price with online TA.
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Kirk


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#13
Philadelphia
167 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
Originally posted by Host Anne
Hi Beachpearl ~ I regularly check prices on my own on the cruise line website. I also check regularly here on Cruise Critic, especially on the roll call for my cruises. When there is a price drop, someone always seems to post that information on the roll call.

For the most part, you can only have your price adjusted if a lower price is available before you make final payment. Once final payment is made, the cruise lines won't give you the lower price. Some people prefer to wait until after final payments are due to even book their cruise in hopes of getting a lower price. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't, depending on how full the sailing is.

Hope this helps.
Thank you -all of that is very good to now. I usually pay off my vacations as early as possible to get it out of the way or pay for it all in advance. I'll definitely be rethinking that now that I know that you aren't likley to get a refund for any price drops.
I am too much of a worrier to wait too long to actual book something. at least with booking in advance you have more of a choice with cabin selection.
And thank for the Roll Call tip!
I only have on cruise under my belt, so I still think I'm a newbie
#14
Philadelphia
167 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
Originally posted by MCC retired
OP:
The TA you used showed no appreciation
to you for booking with them.
Find one that will thank you with OBC ,
gift or at the very least a bottle of wine.
Ask friends, relatives, neighbors , coworkers
that cruise , for recommendations.

Yeah, I got no extras and she also did not contact me afterwards to ask about my trip.
I do agree that there was a lack of customer appreciation.
#15
Philadelphia
167 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
Originally posted by KirkNC
I disagree, we always get 5-10% better price with online TA.
I have found that this is the case with land resorts that i have booked online.
I will have to look into tracking cruises this way.
#16
Florida
7,053 Posts
Joined Nov 2000
Beach ~ I'm just like you. Much prefer to book early to get the cabin location we like and enjoy the excitement of looking forward to the trip. I'm sure the cruise lines love that you like to pay early but that's a detriment to you overall. First, they get to use your money that you could be saving until final payment. I'm going to ask my TA if you pay everything up front and the price drops before final payment do you get a refund. I'm kind of thinking you do because you can cancel until final payment without penalty for the most part. I'll ask and report back.

After I make final payment, I never look at pricing again. At final payment, I'm happy with the price I'm paying and understand if there is significant unbooked inventory that they are going to discount it. :-)

I'll be back!
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Host Anne
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#17
Edmonton
2,043 Posts
Joined Oct 2012
Have used the same TA for years and even though she has moved to a different city 90 miles away I still use her. All I have to do now is call her, tell here where I want to go, when and for how long. She knows the line I prefer and the only suites onboard that I will stay in. If she can't get what I want she comes back with options. She will wait list me without asking and has always come up with what she knows we want. We have never had an issue but if we were to have one I am positive it would be delt with promptly to our full satisfaction.
#18
84,547 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
I would go with a TA and ask before you book about amenities that they provide.

Ask friends, work colleagues and relatives who cruise a lot for travel agent recommendations.

Keith
#19
New Cumberland,PA, USA
26,088 Posts
Joined May 2000
We have never understood why folks feel more comfortable booking direct with a cruise line...but some folks do have this mind set. We book a lot of cruises (101 days of cruising in just 2012) and, with one exception on a last minute booking, we have always shopping around among a small group of large reputable cruise agencies. We simply shop for the best deal and do almost all our booking with a few clicks of the mouse. In nearly every case we save significant money by shopping around (sometimes the savings amount to thousands of dollars). With the cruise lines now imposing price controls, there are many times where the savings come through generous OBCs (on board credits....as good as cash), prepaid gratuities (worth about $25 a day per couple), and other amenities. All the TAs we use are directly linked to the cruise line computers and all charges are processed directly by the cruise lines. When we do an online reservation with our various TAs (we currently use 5) we get an immediate cruise booking number and can go right onto the cruise line's web site and check our reservation.

For those that think they get better service by dealing direct with cruise lines we have more then our share of tales about the incompetence, lack of knowledge, and errors made by the cruise line employees that deal with call-ins to the cruise lines. Just because somebody works for the cruise lines (or a TA)...it does not mean they have a clue! On a recent Celebrity booking we were forced to work through Celebrity's air office since our booking (made through a TA) included a generous air credit (only if you book air through Celebrity). The Celebrity employee managed to totally mess up our air reservations (she booked our return air (from Europe) on a date that was actually in the middle of our cruise) and it was only because we later found the error that we got the situation rectified (the error cost Celebrity nearly $500 in penalties and increased air prices). I only mention this to point out that even if you book directly with a cruise line it is wise to carefully check the reservations (several times) for errors.

As to loyalty to a specific TA.....we are always "loyal" to the TA that gives us the best deal. That loyalty does last only as long as the next booking when we price-out our desired cruise with each of our small "short list" of TAs and simply go with the best deal. We do randomly check the lowest deal against other offers (via the internet) and will sometimes add or delete a TA to our "short list" based on pricing and performance (if a TA does not give me great service they are quickly history).

One interesting fact is that nearly all of our bookings in the past 7 years (nearly 30 cruises) have been through only three agencies (although we have more then that on our short list). Two of the agencies are located in FL and the other is in New England. For some reason they are able to constantly offer the best deals (and great service when needed) despite all the newly hatched price controls imposed by the cruise lines.
Hank
#20
georgia
318 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
Have booked with TA, directly with cruiseline and on-line TA. I prefer directly with cruiseline. I can make all my changes (24/7) without having to go to a third person. Had a potential problem on the weekend and couldn't get in touch with TA till Monday. Did not like this. I want to be in control of my own reservation directly with the cruiseline. It all depends on what you want.