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Do I really need a travel Agent?

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We have done over 20+ ocean cruises and I have dealt directly with the cruise line and made all the reservations myself.

I read host Jazzbeau article on why I should use a travel agent. The only time I have used travel agents was for a complicated journey.

 

We are looking at taking a Tauck river cruise and was wondering if can set everything up with Tauck or do I really need to go through a travel agent.

Would appreciate comments from those who dealt directly with a river cruise company

 

thanks

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We cruise with Ama and have never used a travel agent.   My Personal River Cruise Specialist with Ama is amazing!  She's available by email or phone and responds quickly. My guess is that Tauck has someone similar.

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Do you 'need' one? No. Should you use one? Probably, yes.

 

I do all of my own bookings for pretty much all of our travel, with the exception of river cruises. We get discounts and freebies from our TA that are unavailable if we book ourselves.

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I book with a big box store that gives significant rebates  that travel agents won't and can't match. They are however limited to only cruise lines that cooperate with them. Uniworld is one that does. I haven't been impressed with the travel agents I have worked with. If you are a seasoned traveler you can do better and using this forum along with a few other well known sites that "advise on trips" (hint) I have been very happy with my decisions.

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We like you have very rarely used travel agents.  We’ve done over 35 ocean cruises and maybe used an agent for 5.  

 

However with a river cruise we are looking at a lot more money....I put out an inquiry’s to 3 agents.  One offered nothing but their experience and advice in return for the booking.  One offered $250.  I’m using the one who offered me $550.

 

i don’t need them.  I booked the cruise myself, called the line directly to book airfare and just before final payment (and less then 60 days from deposit) transferred the booking to an agent.  I like to control my own bookings but $550 was too good to pass up.  I wouldn’t give up control for nothing that’s for sure.  

 

If you don’t know where to go and what line to use then you need an agent.  It’s a big investment.  However some of us like to do our own research and know more then the agents!  I used a “advisor for river cruise” ( hint) for some comparison shopping and feel we got a decent deal and picked the right line for us.

 

My advice is to shop around if you want to use one.  

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2 hours ago, luv2travel90266 said:

I book with a big box store that gives significant rebates  that travel agents won't and can't match. They are however limited to only cruise lines that cooperate with them. Uniworld is one that does. I haven't been impressed with the travel agents I have worked with. If you are a seasoned traveler you can do better and using this forum along with a few other well known sites that "advise on trips" (hint) I have been very happy with my decisions.

My TA gives up to an 8 - 10% discount on Uniworld (the only river cruise line we've used).  You won't see it advertised by the company, but when I ask my TA what is the best she can do, that is usually the percentage discount.  She was also great when Uniworld announced a ship swap due to low water in August 2015 as we were going through security at Dulles airport 2 days before embarkation.  We did receive Uniworld's email but she also called within minutes to reassure us and encourage us to reach out to her for any help necessary (luckily all worked according to Uniworld's plan).  We use the same TA for ocean cruises (Princess) and get a similar discount of the Princess on-line prices.

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I've only dealt direct with Viking on all our river cruises.

 

I'm unaware of any travel agent offering a better price than I can get dealing directly, but .....

Edited by pontac

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I do and would never book direct.

 

Travel agents do not cost anything. You often can get a better deal using a TA - I would recommend one that specializes in cruising and has been on river cruises.

 

If everything goes great, great. Though there were many river cruises this year that did not go great. Having a TA negotiate on your behalf is worth their weight in gold. 

 

The cruise company has the cruise companies best interest in mind. Your TA has your best interest in their mind. They work for you and some of them carry a lot of weight. I know my agent knows has met with many Presidents/Owners/CEO of cruise lines. The chances of me getting a hold of them are minimal. My agent has a high volume reputation and these people will take my agents call. 

 

There maybe better pricing and perks. I got OBC on my last river cruise as they are part of a large travel group. Booking direct doesn't do that.

 

Also, they oven have some great advice. A friend went to an agent basically only knowing of Viking River cruise as a company. It turned out Viking was one of the higher priced cruise companies and they were able to go with Amawaterways for no additional costs and more is included. Plus, they prefer the itinerary better in their opinion. They would not have known about Amawaterways if they hadn't contacted an agent.

Edited by Coral

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Reasons we only book with an agent:

 

Knowledge

They stand behind you, and can negotiate with the cruise line for you

They can sometimes get things done for you that would normally cost extra

Support of a local business

Knowledge, again

Travel Insurance - better rates, etc. than if you buy through the cruise line.

 

Here's an example. On a recent cruise, we were initially quoted a low price for purchasing air fare, but we always book standard rooms, and the sale was for higher fare cabins. Once the cruise line rep noticed the mistaken quote, our agent went to bat for us and got us booked for the low, mistaken air quote - this saved us hundreds of dollars! 

 

And all of the above costs us nothing extra!

 

Jeff

 

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11 hours ago, capriccio said:

My TA gives up to an 8 - 10% discount on Uniworld (the only river cruise line we've used).  You won't see it advertised by the company, but when I ask my TA what is the best she can do, that is usually the percentage discount.  She was also great when Uniworld announced a ship swap due to low water in August 2015 as we were going through security at Dulles airport 2 days before embarkation.  We did receive Uniworld's email but she also called within minutes to reassure us and encourage us to reach out to her for any help necessary (luckily all worked according to Uniworld's plan).  We use the same TA for ocean cruises (Princess) and get a similar discount of the Princess on-line prices.

I've had the same experience as Capriccio.  My TA at a full-service agency is able to offer me discounts and deals with Uniworld that many times aren't advertised.  I believer her agency has some type of affinity relationship with Uniworld, because they often times do cruise shows in conjunction with each other.  

 

She also puts together pre-cruise pkgs. for me at a fraction of the cost of the cruise line's extensions.  When I was in an overbooked situation with Uniworld last year, she got me a good deal for transferring to another sailing.  

 

Roz 

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IDK if it's because we had a group of 6 cabins for our upcoming Danube cruise on Avalon, but we booked through a local TA, who is affiliated with a large service, and our perks include prepaid grats per person, $75 OBC  and 2 cocktails per cabin plus one person's fare free, which we will share the savings among the 12 of us.

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3 hours ago, TMLAalum said:

IDK if it's because we had a group of 6 cabins for our upcoming Danube cruise on Avalon, but we booked through a local TA, who is affiliated with a large service, and our perks include prepaid grats per person, $75 OBC  and 2 cocktails per cabin plus one person's fare free, which we will share the savings among the 12 of us.

Those are group amenities so your TA created a group for your group. The amount of people is less on river cruises than ocean cruises. On ocean cruises it is usually 8 cabins. Your TA was wise to do so.

Edited by Coral

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We have done four river cruises and I always research several river cruise lines.  I do a spread sheet with bottom line price, discounts for airfare, included tours, other benefits, etc.

 

On one of our river cruises, the only line that met our requirements for the dates that allowed us to take our already booked ocean cruise soon after was AMA.  It was a great cruise, however AMA seems to have pushed up it rates since then.

 

Our other three river cruises were all on Vantage World Travel.  Vantage had the lowest price, most free tours etc.  

 

We are looking at cruises of Bordeaux, France and found fewer cruise lines go there.  However, it appears that Grand Circle is by far the cheapest and longest total tour/cruise.  Still haven't booked that one.

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32 minutes ago, 4774Papa said:

Our other three river cruises were all on Vantage World Travel.  Vantage had the lowest price, most free tours etc.  

 

We are looking at cruises of Bordeaux, France and found fewer cruise lines go there.  However, it appears that Grand Circle is by far the cheapest and longest total tour/cruise.  Still haven't booked that one.

If I remember correctly - Vantage and Grand Circle only book by going direct (no travel agents)? Please correct me if I am wrong.

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43 minutes ago, Coral said:

If I remember correctly - Vantage and Grand Circle only book by going direct (no travel agents)? Please correct me if I am wrong.

 

That is my understanding.

 

Roz

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29 minutes ago, Roz said:

 

That is my understanding.

 

Roz

 

That's also my understanding.  

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4 hours ago, Coral said:

If I remember correctly - Vantage and Grand Circle only book by going direct (no travel agents)? Please correct me if I am wrong.

 

3 hours ago, Roz said:

That is my understanding.

 

3 hours ago, OCruisers said:

That's also my understanding.  

 

Which means, when comparing prices on Vantage and Grand Circle against other river cruise lines, you have to add the value your TA would give you.  Another line for the spread sheet!

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Actually, no desire to book a Vantage/Grand Circle river cruise but two of our very good friends do and can't book it with a travel agent.

Considering Viking for a river boat and would certainly use our travel agent to book it.  

 

Edited by OCruisers

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9 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

Which means, when comparing prices on Vantage and Grand Circle against other river cruise lines, you have to add the value your TA would give you.  Another line for the spread sheet!

And the potential savings of using a TA for the other lines.

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I used a TA for a cruise to Alaska because he had helped me with an issue with NCL when I wasn't his customer. 12 days in to a 14 day vacation I fell from a horse on a trail ride sanctioned by Princess Cruise.  I broke 6 ribs, had a punctured lung, and was hospitalized for 5 days.  My wife called the TA at 10:00 PM Alaska time which was probably 2:00 AM where he lived. He arranged hotel stays for my wife, had a rental car company meet her at the hospital door with a rental, got our return air tickets rescheduled at little cost. Had the airline waiting for me at the curb with a wheel chair and changed our seats to front of cabin so no one would be bumping into me on the flight home.  I will book hotels and RT flights by myself but a vacation to a foriegn country or distant state? Never again without a TA

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I used a TA for our first river cruise two years ago. She was a river cruise specialist and had been on river cruises on AMA and Uniworld so it seemed like a good idea. I picked out the cruise and she booked it for me. No problem. But... It drove me crazy to wait for responses from her. For example, I got free air on Avalon and I wanted to know if I could chose seats on the flight ahead of time. I emailed the TA and she finally answered after 3 or 4 weeks. I only had 2 or 3 questions but each time it took forever for a response. There were no price breaks or incentives with the TA either.   This time I called Avalon and booked directly. If I have any questions I can just pick up the phone and call them. No waiting for weeks for a reply. I much prefer it this way.

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I have never waited more than hours for a reply from my TA.  And I have never not gotten some break.  And when we had to cancel a trip, she bird-dogged the travel insurance company until they refunded all our out-of-pocket expenses.  That's what a GOOD travel agent does for you.

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I think there are some excellent TA’s out there. Unfortunately, I’ve never met one. I’ve used TA’s three different times and always had difficulties. One took days to respond to calls and emails (although I did get a nice discount), and two messed up flight seats and hotel bookings. Never again. I’ve taken over 40 cruises and booked all but one myself. I call the cruise line directly. I’ve been able to negotiate $600 OBC on each of my recent bookings. I like having control of my reservation. 

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