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What is the advantage of a travel agent vs the cruise line direct?

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I've also only booked direct and am thinking about using a TA.  If you use the search bar in the upper right hand corner, and search this forum or all of CC, you'll find some very informative posts.  

 

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Some use a TA because of perks and discounts/OBC. I use a TA for peace of mind. If anything goes wrong, I know I can just make one phone call (24/7 almost) and she'll take care of me. 

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Simply put, IMO, working with a TA gives you discounts and freebies. Working with the cruise line direct gives you total control of your reservation. (And I was a TA many years ago).

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For us a TA.   We get a great discount and don’t feel any loss of control over our booking with our  agent.   

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Having taken  80+ cruises ,we have always booked with a travel agent .  Reasons for doing this is one I bid out all my cruises to get the best pricing . the two ,we get extra perks like mostly extra on board credits ;which you can't get  booking directly .  We mainly use one agency & one person with whom we have a  close relationship . Example we just booked 6 new cruises ,get got extra OBCs ,cabin upgrades  & easy & personal  communicating:classic_biggrin:

 

 

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3 hours ago, RW_MI said:

I've also only booked direct and am thinking about using a TA.  If you use the search bar in the upper right hand corner, and search this forum or all of CC, you'll find some very informative posts.  

 

I was running out the door when I posted earlier, but here are a couple threads that I found really helpful.   

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2602969-transferring-future-cruise-to-our-travel-agent/?tab=comments#comment-56146037

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2589501-advantages-of-travel-agents/?tab=comments#comment-55843111

 

 

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We have always used a TA.  Love the perks and discounts.  If there are any problems -- we can just give her call -- we even have her home phone number and had to use it only once in 26 years we have had her.

 

I feel that by using a TA, you have more control of your cruise than dealing with HAL.  JMO

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We found a wonderful TA and wouldn't book anything (except lone air travel) without her.  Although most trips don't require her assistance, she was amazing when we have had problems on cruises or land trips (getting much better solutions than we're able to negotiate).  Although we don't expect extra perks, we're often surprised with extra OBC (from her parent company) or specialty dinners (from her).    

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Love using our long time TA because we never have to deal with the cruise line because she does it for us. :classic_smile:

 

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If you book directly with a cruise line and there is any problem, you will have to deal with the problem yourself.

 

If you have the same problem when using a TA, the TA is an advocate for you and has the contacts necessary to have the problem properly resolved.

 

However, you can't just use any TA. Look for one that:

a) has no extra charge for booking with tnem

b) has no extra charge for making changes to your booking

c) has no charge of their own if you need to cancel (cruise line cancellation policies still apply)

d) has a backup contact if your primary contact is on vacation or otherwise out of the office

e) is experienced in booking cruises

 

How do you find such a TA? Well the best way to to ask fellow passengers when on a cruise, especially if you attend the Meet and Greet with your roll call.

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TA for me!

Case #1- For our upcoming HAL cruise, used an online TA after receiving an email that free grats were on offer. Called to book and not only did we get the advertised perk but the price pp for a veranda GTY was $105pp lower than on HAL's website and via the warehouse club we usually book through which would have given OBC albeit @$45 less than the cost of gratuities.

Case #2- Yesterday noticed that pricing for an upcoming repositioning cruise on another line now included 1 free perk, which is rare for that itinerary. Turns out it was a glitch in the website and shouldn't have appeared. The warehouse TA (it's luck of the draw who answers your call, but every agent we've gotten has been excellent) worked up the chain of command and ended up getting us an OBC that covered the perk I wanted.

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We've done both and prefer using our preferred online TA.  They can always match and usually beat the direct rates as well as any of the discount websites.  We know our TA by name and he will search different rate structures for the same cabin to see what is the best deal for us since he knows which perks we look for.  The best part is that the reservation is immediately available via the cruise line's website.

 

On the other hand, we always book airfare, hotel rooms, and excursions direct.

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12 hours ago, OCruisers said:

Love using our long time TA because we never have to deal with the cruise line because she does it for us:classic_smile:

 

 

22 hours ago, dobiemom said:

...  I use a TA for peace of mind. If anything goes wrong, I know I can just make one phone call (24/7 almost) and she'll take care of me. 

 

These 2 Posts pretty well sum up our reasons for using a TA - we know that everything will be handled expertly and to our exact preferences (which she knows from having dealt with us for over 25 years) without us needing to check & re-check on arrangements.

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A Travel Agent can be more convenient If you travel on more than one cruise line.  In that case, you deal with the same agent regardless of which line you're booking.

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13 hours ago, caribill said:

If you book directly with a cruise line and there is any problem, you will have to deal with the problem yourself.

 

If you have the same problem when using a TA, the TA is an advocate for you and has the contacts necessary to have the problem properly resolved.

 

However, you can't just use any TA. Look for one that:

a) has no extra charge for booking with tnem

b) has no extra charge for making changes to your booking

c) has no charge of their own if you need to cancel (cruise line cancellation policies still apply)

d) has a backup contact if your primary contact is on vacation or otherwise out of the office

e) is experienced in booking cruises

 

How do you find such a TA? Well the best way to to ask fellow passengers when on a cruise, especially if you attend the Meet and Greet with your roll call.

If I might, I'd like to add an "f" to your very good list.

f) Always make sure the T/A gives you the HAL booking number on the phone or by email, and that your card shows the charge to be from Holland America and not in the  travel agent's name.

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55 minutes ago, Poulsbo Cruisers said:

If I use a TA can I still use HAL’s Flight Ease?

Absolutely!   Once you have booked your cruise you can use the online Flightease option which you access from your booking which will show up on your HAL account.  For those who have not used the HAL online Flightease system, it is pretty decent and allows you to explore many different options including different flights, dates, airports, etc.  Once you learn your way around the online system it is much better then sitting on the phone with an agent for an hour why one explores all the options.  In our case,  when we are going out of the country we can use 5 different International airports.  By exploring the options for each airport we can often snag a great deal on Business Class.  Since the cruise lines contract for x number of seats on specific airlines at specific airports, the more you look at options the better your chances of finding a great deal.  When it comes to Business Class, a change in airport can change the fare by hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

 

Many other cruisers will simply let their cruise/travel agent deal with the air.....but we prefer to choose our own flights.

 

Hank

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Funny, I’ve not had the same experience with using a TA.  Didn’t receive any price benefit vs HAL website. The only freebie we got was a bottle of cheap bubbly once, and a $25.00 casino voucher once. (We don’t gamble). Every price drop or perk received was obtained by me checking HA website, then calling my TA.  Oftentimes it’s more of a hassle.  Fortunately we haven’t experienced any issues.

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9 minutes ago, trixiee said:

Funny, I’ve not had the same experience with using a TA.  Didn’t receive any price benefit vs HAL website. The only freebie we got was a bottle of cheap bubbly once, and a $25.00 casino voucher once. (We don’t gamble). Every price drop or perk received was obtained by me checking HA website, then calling my TA.  Oftentimes it’s more of a hassle.  Fortunately we haven’t experienced any issues.

 

Indeed not all TAs, or PCCs for that matter, are created equally.   Luckily we came across our present TA based on the recommendations of a couple of fellow cruisers.   We feel like we’ve struck gold.   Now we’re what I would consider low maintenance clients and we don’t ask for much support.   By the time we contact our TA we have picked our cruise, the cabin category down to specific cabin numbers,  have researched flights, etc.   All we really ask her to do is book the cruise.  That’s not to say she doesn’t or won’t give us assistance and indeed she’s suggested and has booked things like pre-cruise hotels and transfers for us.   Best of all she consistently gives us 10-12% cash discounts and sometimes a small OBC, no funky bottles of wine or tray of chocolate covered strawberries.   Managing our booking?  Well with the advent of the Internet and the ability to now book things like ship tours, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, download cruise documents, etc. on line we rarely contact our TA after the initial booking.   Again finding a good TA is sometimes a matter of luck but they are out there.   

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I just book direct on all our travel, cruise or not.  I think the main reason is when I was working, I booked travel and arranged conferences and events, so I'm very comfortable doing on my own.  I have also found that calling HA direct when I've booked, the price comes in lower than what I see.  

 

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2 hours ago, trixiee said:

Funny, I’ve not had the same experience with using a TA.  Didn’t receive any price benefit vs HAL website. The only freebie we got was a bottle of cheap bubbly once, and a $25.00 casino voucher once. (We don’t gamble). Every price drop or perk received was obtained by me checking HA website, then calling my TA.  Oftentimes it’s more of a hassle.  Fortunately we haven’t experienced any issues.

100%

 

I think a lot has to do with your TA's state of life. My highly recommended TA was nearing retirement. He was "bothered" by my changes.  I like to look around, change my mind and often have to many and over lapping cruises booked. It is easy for me. Something goes wrong, all my fault, nobody else to blame. The HAL phone people are easy to work with and do not care about my changes. Not many professionals think it is "fun" to make and cancel reservations. 

I never worry about upgrades as I book the room I want. Last cruise the wife bought a $400 purse to burn off OBC.

 

I believe that if you have A TA that you have worked with and like you should stick with it. If you are board and have nothing better to do, take control. Reap the benefits and take the blame.

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Cruisers (especially HAL cruisers) are an interesting breed :).   Consider that a person will shop till they drop to save a few dollars, but have no problem paying hundreds or thousands of extra dollars so they can say they book direct with a cruise line.  I do not get it, but would assume its just human nature that some folks are not capable of changing old habits.

 

As to booking with HAL and transferring, we have done it a few times (not with our PCC but with onboard Future Cruise Consultants) and its sometimes a good option.  But when we do it onboard it is because there is some kind of special promo (such as double OBCs) that make it worthwhile.  Otherwise, we see little incentive to go through the extra steps involved in transferring bookings.  Consider that the last time we did a transfer we spent 15 minutes waiting to even talk with the Future Cruise Counselor (her previous customer would not leave) and then 20 minutes at her desk while she had to deal with a lousy Internet connection (it even happens to the crew).  And once home we had to shop (among a few of our favorite cruise agencies) around our booking to find which agency would offer us the best deal (which was an extra $1050 in OBCs).  Then we had to telephone that agent and notify her that we were transferring our booking.  The next step was that we had to call HAL, sit on hold for about 10 minutes, and explain to a reservation person that we wanted to transfer a booking and give them all the appropriate info.   In most cases this is all unnecessary as we can simply book with our favorite cruise agencies with a few clicks of the mouse.  No time on hold, no time on the phone, no hassles, and we get paid in real money (OBCs).

 

As to our PCC, we have told her that we will happily give her all of our bookings if she can match what we get from cruise agencies.   Her answer is that she can not match those deals, but would happy to handle the bookings and transfer it to any cruise agency.  And my answer to her is that once I book with her I have lost some of my leverage with cruise agencies who will often "sweeten the deal" to encourage a new booking (in sales they would call that "close the deal").

 

Hank

P.S.  65% to 80% (depending on which study you believe) of all cruises are booked by Cruise/Travel agents.

 

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