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  #21  
Old September 9th, 2013, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by 4774Papa View Post
I always check with a couple of online TAs prior to booking directly with X. I have never seen TAs offer anything that makes it worth while.
I also like having control of my reservation. If prices drop, I can call and get the lower price. I have read several posts here on cc of people that could not get in touch with their TA to take advantage of a price drop.
This is the way I feel - and message boards like this one are full of helpful individuals who will give you great advice and suggestions if you have any questions, issues or concerns with your direct reservations.
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  #22  
Old September 9th, 2013, 01:37 PM
Onessa Onessa is offline
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We have a local TA with whom we have been booking for years (pre-internet) and we get great service. She will also research hotels and flights. Once when we did not even book the flight through the TA, our agent was kind enough to help us rebook when one of our connecting flights was cancelled.

A good TA is worth it. But if we did not have a great relationship with a great TA, I do not know that I'd bother.
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  #23  
Old September 9th, 2013, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Onessa View Post
We have a local TA with whom we have been booking for years (pre-internet) and we get great service. She will also research hotels and flights. Once when we did not even book the flight through the TA, our agent was kind enough to help us rebook when one of our connecting flights was cancelled.

A good TA is worth it. But if we did not have a great relationship with a great TA, I do not know that I'd bother.
Completely agree.
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  #24  
Old September 9th, 2013, 02:09 PM
grandgeezer grandgeezer is online now
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I have 27 completed cruises and I have never had to contact my online TA, ASAP. I've gotten every price reduction, cabin change, and upgrade if the price drops within 30 days, I've asked for. I did it all through e-mail. If I would have booked these all through the cruise lines, I figure conservatively, I would have $6,000 less in the bank than I have now. Throw in Choice Air for European cruises and transatlantics, and Priceline.com for hotels and that number is well over $10,000. Why Choice Air? Our last transatlantic, we paid $368 p.p. from Phoenix to London, one way, on Delta. Through Delta, it would have been $1500 p.p. And yes, we did pick our own flights and own seats.
To us, the rewards greatly out weigh the risks, if any.
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  #25  
Old September 9th, 2013, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toronto Guy View Post
You will note that I said that "I" would never use an agent again - I didn't say everyone shouldn't. And for the record, I have done many, many bookings directly on my own and then transferred to a local agency down the street from me so they could get the commission with absolutely no work on their part required. I have also transferred to the larger discount agencies when the OBC made it very worthwhile.
Also....it is not "my" responsibility to make travel agencies or agents relevant. It is "their" responsibility to provide me with a value or service that I deem necessary to pay for. If a price drop or upgrade opportunity occurs on an evening or weekend when they are not open...I want to grab it - not be inconvenienced by having to go through them - and this has happened to me. The Internet has really hurt small businesses in the travel sector, not just those selling cruises. I get that. But unless Celebrity stops allowing direct bookings I'm not going to pay to use a middle man for something I can easily do myself.
Your original comments about TA's would suggest that nobody should. Anyway, you are not "paying" the middle man if you use an agency that doesn't charge a booking fee, if Celebrity's unfair policy of undercutting TA's was done away with (and I hope it is) it would be a level playing field because we do a lot of the footwork plus free services as well as offer OBC's (just can't compete with Celebrity offering large OBC's.) BTW I am available by email nearly all of the time and this booking I lost, well I worked on it and responded on nights and weekends, just want to correct that bit of information, not all TA's are like you mention, and we are useful to people who don't have the time or desire to thoroughly plan their trips. I would suggest if people are going to use a TA to ask if they are available outside of business hours for weekend price drops, etc. Sorry but your comment caught me at a bad time and I feel the need to respond so that people don't believe all travel agents are like the ones you describe.
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  #26  
Old September 9th, 2013, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wednesday View Post
Your original comments about TA's would suggest that nobody should. Anyway, you are not "paying" the middle man if you use an agency that doesn't charge a booking fee, if Celebrity's unfair policy of undercutting TA's was done away with (and I hope it is) it would be a level playing field because we do a lot of the footwork plus free services as well as offer OBC's (just can't compete with Celebrity offering large OBC's.) BTW I am available by email nearly all of the time and this booking I lost, well I worked on it and responded on nights and weekends, just want to correct that bit of information, not all TA's are like you mention, and we are useful to people who don't have the time or desire to thoroughly plan their trips. I would suggest if people are going to use a TA to ask if they are available outside of business hours for weekend price drops, etc. Sorry but your comment caught me at a bad time and I feel the need to respond so that people don't believe all travel agents are like the ones you describe.
They didn't undercut, they matched. Big difference in my opinion - especially if an agent offers the exceptional services you mention and obviously provide to your clients.
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  #27  
Old September 9th, 2013, 02:56 PM
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Wait - I'm wrong...Celebrity actually offered me a little bit less than the online TA for the OBC.


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  #28  
Old September 9th, 2013, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Toronto Guy View Post
They didn't undercut, they matched. Big difference in my opinion - especially if an agent offers the exceptional services you mention and obviously provide to your clients.
Money talks unfortunately and they absolutely undercut when there is no way we could offer the same monetary kickback without paying the customer for their business. In this economy or maybe it is just the times but people will go with the cheapest option just about every time, when the difference is as substantial as this was it really is hard to blame them.
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  #29  
Old September 9th, 2013, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sevenseasnomad View Post
We prefer to deal with a local TA who has had our business for 20 years. If a problem arises with reservations, price, or any other concerns, she goes to bat for us. Also, at the last minute before final payment, she has been able to get us drastic fare reductions.

We let her handle the problems; we anticipate the cruise, then enjoy the cruise.

Others may prefer working directly with X, but we prefer our TA who alleviates problems. I would rather not get into arguments with the cruise line which could create hard feelings. JMO.
Quote:
Originally Posted by surrocruiser View Post
All posts above are very true. It can be a bit of a hassle having to go through a TA to make a change, IF you prefer the hassle of sitting on hold for hours at a time trying to get things sorted out if any problems come up. It is simply a trade off. You are given the freedom to do things on your own but when you are on your own, who is in your corner if there is a discrepancy?

On a side note, I am blown away that X would basically bribe a client to stay as a direct booking vs allowing their customers to work with a TA. First of all, carnival did this with agents and now has no telephone support for agents along with dropping commission amounts to almost zero. They charge the exact same cruise fare regardless of who it is booked through. X is just being greedy with your money and not willing to support agents. This is not the majority of the representatives but obviously there are some. If you are comfortable with impersonal service, that is each individuals choice. If you are not receiving "full service" or your agent seems to be less than knowledgeable, move on. There are plenty of good agents that provide port info and more info between booking and sailing. A good agent is just as excited for your vacation as you are.

(Disclaimer, I am an agent but totally agree that some are sub-par and their are some benefits from a clients perspective to book directly. Need to weigh pros and cons of both ways and decide what fits your style better from there)

Happy sailing!

I called Celebrity and was told that if you get free Classic package you can not get the OBC. You're a lucky one Toronto Guy.______

Last edited by allegiant; September 9th, 2013 at 04:08 PM. Reason: error
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  #30  
Old September 9th, 2013, 04:35 PM
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I'm sure they did. I didn't have the conversation in the context of the pick your perk deal though (but i did book under that as well). I specifically enquired about how many days I had after the direct booking I had to transfer to an agent to get some additional OBC. It didn't even occur to me that they would offer...but they did...so if that makes me lucky, I guess I am. To me they offered it to me to close the deal....and I took it.

i didn't share this info to get people upset...or offend travel agents....I shared it to answer the question the OP had through my own experience and reasoning..and to be helpful to others who prefer to book directly. As I said, I will never book through an agent again as I personally see no need to and I get complete control over my reservation - I like that. In the same way I don't need a TA to book a hotel or a car rental etc. That being said I fully appreciate why others like the stress free approach to using an agent. It is personal preference - that's all. I have however had many many agents put down booking directly because they provide "full service" that I won't otherwise get. They then tell me to do things like fill out my cruise docs online etc. which I guess doesn't come under that definition. Not saying all agents do that....but certainly the ones I've dealt with have....and then they wonder why I don't use them.




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  #31  
Old September 9th, 2013, 04:44 PM
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And I really do want to support small business...but as a consumer there still has to be perceived value or benefit. I know exactly what i want and what I'm willing to pay for a cruise. I do all the research, track the prices and promos and then book directly. Why should I continue the practice of transferring to a local agent? No reason at all. That's why I started going to big online agencies. That being said, for others who need advice and assistance a travel agent is a very valuable resource.


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  #32  
Old September 9th, 2013, 09:17 PM
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As someone who works at the pier in New York, I can tell you that the people who do not work with a travel agent are denied boarding more often than those who work with travel agents.

I have encountered MANY cruisers who were told by cruise line vacation planners that they didn't need anything but a driver's license. People have shown up in Manhattan for cruises from Brooklyn, in Bayonne for cruises from Manhattan.

There were non-US citizens who didn't have a visa for Bermuda. I worked one Holland America cruise where the passengers didn't have the needed shots for South America.

Of course, some travel agents have made mistakes too, but the vast majority of those denied boarding didn't use a travel agent.
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  #33  
Old September 9th, 2013, 10:19 PM
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There are general travel agents who really don't know the "ins and outs" of cruise travel but I find most of the cruise specialists are very well versed and do have the ears of some of the cruise lines. I swore off travel agents years ago when they left me stranded in Hawaii and San Francisco but I guess I became more savvy. I know enough about cruising to know if I am getting a good deal or not. I have recently scored very well with them and, lets face it, if they can give me an extra $375 I'll take it. Neither Wind Star or Celebrity would match their offer so I transferred the booking.
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  #34  
Old September 10th, 2013, 01:46 AM
grandgeezer grandgeezer is online now
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There is alot of discussion, on all the boards, about using online travel agents. I am a big proponet of them as they've saved me a ton of money with little to no risk. But it's not for everyone. You have to know what you're doing, who you're dealing with and what questions to ask. If you aren't proficiant in these you should use the brick and mortar travel agent and do the booking in person. The cruise line would be another option.
I think some of the confusion is who people think of when online TA is mentioned. To me, it is somebody who specializes in just cruises. If they do air, hotel, rental cars, or land vacation packages, overall they won't save you a whole lot of money. We're not allowed to mention names, but here's a little hint. Run a search on Google or any other search engine and look for companies that have cruise, cruising or some derivitive in their name. You'll probably come across a couple you might have heard of. After you have a couple of names, do a search asking for reviews on these agents. If you come up with someone you are comfortable with give them a call next time you are in the market for a cruise, and do an interview, asking them all the relevent questions you have.
I have four go to TAs I go to and have never been disappointed with any of them. Great price and great service. In 29 bookings, I have never had the reason to call them with any questions or changes. I do everything via e-mail and have never lost out on any upgrades, price reductions, or cabin changes because of it.
Finally, if you don't feel comfortable going this route, continue to do as you have been, any discomfort it causes probably isn't worth the money.
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  #35  
Old September 10th, 2013, 01:59 AM
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Good advice! One important question to ask is if there is a fee for cancellations or changes.
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  #36  
Old September 10th, 2013, 07:20 AM
grandgeezer grandgeezer is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scrapnana View Post
Good advice! One important question to ask is if there is a fee for cancellations or changes.
Great point.

I should have mentioned that part of my success is that I only chase deals. There are not deals on every cruise line or cruises. Being retired, I have all kinds of flexability. When I decide where I want to go, my window to go, is usually a couple of months, not a spefic week or two. Also I have a target price so I don't see the big price reductions that some people do, except the dreaded after final payment date.
This is a hobby of mine and because of having some success, I do it every day.
Like my wife always says. "Never pay retail for anything".
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  #37  
Old September 10th, 2013, 07:53 AM
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We booked through CCL direct and got what I thought was the best deal possible...and watched the prices after booking I still think that.

For our upcoming X cruise, we used an online TA that had a block of rooms and were selling them $200 less than x.com, plus we got 1-2-3 go, plus we got an OBC from the TA. And their 3rd party trip insurance is cheaper and has better benefits. Since booking - price has only gone up on x.com so I still feel like we got a great deal.
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  #38  
Old September 10th, 2013, 07:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grandgeezer View Post
Great point.

I should have mentioned that part of my success is that I only chase deals. There are not deals on every cruise line or cruises. Being retired, I have all kinds of flexability. When I decide where I want to go, my window to go, is usually a couple of months, not a spefic week or two. Also I have a target price so I don't see the big price reductions that some people do, except the dreaded after final payment date.
This is a hobby of mine and because of having some success, I do it every day.
Like my wife always says. "Never pay retail for anything".
You are lucky. Since my DH and I aren't retired, and he is a professor, we can typically only travel during peak periods. However, I find booking way in advance helps lock us into a better price. If a better rate becomes available prior to the cruise, we change. I have had experience with great TA's, as well as poor TA's, like with shoes, you have to try them and then determine which one fits you best.
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  #39  
Old September 10th, 2013, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toronto Guy View Post
You will note that I said that "I" would never use an agent again - I didn't say everyone shouldn't. And for the record, I have done many, many bookings directly on my own and then transferred to a local agency down the street from me so they could get the commission with absolutely no work on their part required. I have also transferred to the larger discount agencies when the OBC made it very worthwhile.
Also....it is not "my" responsibility to make travel agencies or agents relevant. It is "their" responsibility to provide me with a value or service that I deem necessary to pay for. If a price drop or upgrade opportunity occurs on an evening or weekend when they are not open...I want to grab it - not be inconvenienced by having to go through them - and this has happened to me. The Internet has really hurt small businesses in the travel sector, not just those selling cruises. I get that. But unless Celebrity stops allowing direct bookings I'm not going to pay to use a middle man for something I can easily do myself.
How much do you pay a TA for services? I have yet to find a cruise line that gives me a better net bottom line than a TA when I do the work and book direct with them.
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  #40  
Old September 10th, 2013, 11:03 AM
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First-time cruiser, but I have always booked everything myself in the past for all sorts of trips and never used a TA. I had researched online and knew exactly what cruise line, ship, itinerary, class, and cabin I wanted, and how much it cost. Just out of curiosity, I called one TA that supposedly specialized in cruises, and they had a $50 cancellation penalty, and wasn't helpful at answering questions at all. I then called a large, local full-service agency, and the guy was very helpful, and offered the same rate for the cabin as Celebrity direct, but gave me $450 OBC, lots of tips on hotels in Puerto Rico, airfares, etc. I've since bounced things off of him regarding travel insurance, and other questions. At least for a cruise, I've been very happy that I went this route.
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Last edited by carolslc; September 10th, 2013 at 11:06 AM.
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