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MSC cuts special promotions with Travel Agencies

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3 hours ago, psmarkle said:

My 2 cents...we mostly sail NCL and I would book thru their Casinos At Sea department as I was a frequent casino-goer. However, with MSC, we've gone back to using a big-box TA for the last 2 years and they give us 10% of the cruise rate back as OBC.  For this cruise, we have $600 obc coming (sailing YC w/ party of 4). That will cover our gratuities and one of our shore excursions (we are booking it thru the ship to use up our obc).

 

That's why I request a rebate check rather than OBC.  I don't want to have to buy something I didn't want to use up my 'bargain.'

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Not only is it prohibited to mention a TA (or cruise line sales rep) by name, it is also prohibited to hint or to ask for off-line information about them.  [I don't make the rules, I just enforce them.]

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53 minutes ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

That's why I request a rebate check rather than OBC.  I don't want to have to buy something I didn't want to use up my 'bargain.'

Certain cruise lines prohibit travel agents from rebating/discounting the actual cost of the cruise. That is why most agents have gone to the OBC/perks model. While the cruise line will likely never know about this outside arrangement, if the agent gets caught they can be banned from selling that cruise line. 

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1 hour ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

That's why I request a rebate check rather than OBC.  I don't want to have to buy something I didn't want to use up my 'bargain.'

 

Couldn't you just apply the OBC to the gratuities payable at the end of the cruise?

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I get 3% rebate on my credit card so I prefer to charge them.  [Between the 10% civil servant discount, my TA rebate, and the credit card rebate – the cruise is practically free!]

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It’s nice that this thread has evolved into the discussion of pros and cons of using a travel agent.. could the focus be more on the OP’s (baseless?) claim that:

 

“spoke with my TA today, and got some shocking news. My TA is part of a large national reputable vendor. MSC has cut all TA promotions (such as OBC, free gratuities, free perks, TA incentives) with this and other vendors.  MSC is looking to go it alone and focus on in house corporate marketing and bookings. “

 

My TA is also a part of a “ large national reputable vendor” and knows nothing about this? 

 

 

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1 hour ago, slei15 said:

Certain cruise lines prohibit travel agents from rebating/discounting the actual cost of the cruise. That is why most agents have gone to the OBC/perks model.

 

As I've said this is our first cruise with MSC so I don't have much experience with their practices.  On the other hand I have lots of experience with Princess and know that TAs are not allowed to advertise/publish discounted fares, but they are allowed to discount cruises when asked 'what fare can you give me?'  My usual method is to do the research myself and go to my TA with whatever Princess is quoting on line (including promos) and ask her what she can do for us.  I've never had a response of less than a 7% discount and on some cruises it has been as high as 12%.  I've never asked her but as I understand it, that discount comes out of her (and the company's) commission.  She (and the agency she works for) are high volume Princess TAs . 

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15 minutes ago, GratefulRIC said:

It’s nice that this thread has evolved into the discussion of pros and cons of using a travel agent.. could the focus be more on the OP’s (baseless?) claim that:

 

“spoke with my TA today, and got some shocking news. My TA is part of a large national reputable vendor. MSC has cut all TA promotions (such as OBC, free gratuities, free perks, TA incentives) with this and other vendors.  MSC is looking to go it alone and focus on in house corporate marketing and bookings. “

 

My TA is also a part of a “ large national reputable vendor” and knows nothing about this? 

 

 

 

Maybe you missed the OP's response in post #25?  " I’m pretty upset about my current TA guys. I really think I was lied to. They sometimes think for cruises they’re the ONLY Cruise TA." 🤨

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15 hours ago, capriccio said:

We prefer a discount on the cruise fare any day over OBC, specialty dining, etc.

 

99.9% of OBC is fully refundable at the end of the cruise. If you are disciplined and don't spend the money, they will give you cash or credit back to your card for the unused portion of TA given OBC. I'd rather had 10% back at the end of the cruise than 8% upfront but that's just me. 

 

Caution: Not to be confused with cruise line OBC which is 99% non-refuntable. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, BermudaBound2014 said:

 

99.9% of OBC is fully refundable at the end of the cruise. If you are disciplined and don't spend the money, they will give you cash or credit back to your card for the unused portion of TA given OBC. I'd rather had 10% back at the end of the cruise than 8% upfront but that's just me. 

 

Caution: Not to be confused with cruise line OBC which is 99% non-refuntable. 

 

 

Whenever we have a substantial amount of obc we've gotten it back (usually in cash the last day🙂).  They usually use any cruise line obc first.

 

 

Edited by mafig

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14 hours ago, slei15 said:

Certain cruise lines prohibit travel agents from rebating/discounting the actual cost of the cruise. That is why most agents have gone to the OBC/perks model. While the cruise line will likely never know about this outside arrangement, if the agent gets caught they can be banned from selling that cruise line. 

 

The cruise lines are fully aware of this arrangement.

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23 hours ago, thetaro said:

I am okay with this as I never use a TA on principle and I don't care how much they can offer me. 

I am a software engineer so I am all for cutting the middle-man and offer a direct sale web model. Improve the website and provide online customer service though. 

There is no reason I should pay for someone's TA commission only because some don't know how to do research and rely on a TA. Most obviously use it because of the bribe they throw at you. I just hope people who actually need TA service can pay for it themselves.

 

What principle?  Not liking money?  You don't seem to have a grasp of how this works.

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18 hours ago, slei15 said:

Certain cruise lines prohibit travel agents from rebating/discounting the actual cost of the cruise. That is why most agents have gone to the OBC/perks model. While the cruise line will likely never know about this outside arrangement, if the agent gets caught they can be banned from selling that cruise line. 

 

This is not true. If agents get caught discounting the actual cost via the lines that prohibit it, there may be an issue. Agents offering OBC/perks is 100% legit. No issues will ever come to an agent who participates in this widely used practice.

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19 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

 

That's why I request a rebate check rather than OBC.  I don't want to have to buy something I didn't want to use up my 'bargain.'

 

If the OBC is refundable you would never be forced to buy something you didn't want. Simply go to guest services and ask for the cash. Non-refundable OBC is different, but refundable OBC is super easy. Guest services does this every day.

 

Usually they will ask you if you want cash or to apply $$ to the credit card on file. We've done it both ways. Sometimes if we are getting lots back and don't want to travel with cash, we opt for the card. Most times we just get cash right there. Little note here, if the card on file is a cruise line card (example a RCL Visa), you want to get cash. If you send the money back to the card as a credit, you actually lose out on CC points. 

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48 minutes ago, BermudaBound2014 said:

 

This is not true. If agents get caught discounting the actual cost via the lines that prohibit it, there may be an issue. Agents offering OBC/perks is 100% legit. No issues will ever come to an agent who participates in this widely used practice.

That was what I was trying to say. OBC/perks are 100% legit, which is why many agents have gone to this model over discounting/rebating. I was in no way trying to imply that perks are not ok. 

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5 hours ago, Toofarfromthesea said:

 

What principle?  Not liking money?  You don't seem to have a grasp of how this works.

 

I don't care about the OBC. I am just not interested in subsidizing middle-man. If you need middle-man to help you, pay for it yourself.

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28 minutes ago, thetaro said:

 

I don't care about the OBC. I am just not interested in subsidizing middle-man. If you need middle-man to help you, pay for it yourself.

Using a travel agent costs you nothing. You get the same rates and deals that the cruise line offers, plus usually more perks and the expertise of someone who deals with the cruise lines day in and day out. You aren’t subsidizing anything by using an agent, and most cruise lines encourage it. 

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10 minutes ago, slei15 said:

Using a travel agent costs you nothing. You get the same rates and deals that the cruise line offers, plus usually more perks and the expertise of someone who deals with the cruise lines day in and day out. You aren’t subsidizing anything by using an agent, and most cruise lines encourage it. 

 

You pay for it one way or another. Nothing is Free. With enough customers not using a TA, the company would have more incentive improving the website and online customer service. 

People obviously use TA for the perks and I am not discouraging people to use one. I am just stating my reason for not using one. I don't care about the perks and found it a hassle having to deal with a middleman.

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1 hour ago, thetaro said:

 

You pay for it one way or another. Nothing is Free. With enough customers not using a TA, the company would have more incentive improving the website and online customer service. 

People obviously use TA for the perks and I am not discouraging people to use one. I am just stating my reason for not using one. I don't care about the perks and found it a hassle having to deal with a middleman.

^^^^^ This and the one and the one and only time I used a TA for a cruise ended up being a waste of time. No OBC, no communication, had control of my booking and all she did was print our luggage tags. Never again and not for any small amount of OBC ..... Their expertise is no more than mine, probably less. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, tallnthensome said:

 Their expertise is no more than mine, probably less. 

 

I agree with this.

 

I can't possible find a TA knowing more about cruising than me! At least not about the cruises I might be interested in.

Edited by sverigecruiser

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5 hours ago, sverigecruiser said:

 

I agree with this.

 

I can't possible find a TA knowing more about cruising than me! At least not about the cruises I might be interested in.

That has been my experience. You might find an agent who has cruised a lot, but these folks are not typical of the ones you find at many agencies, both in person and online.  Many of us enjoy researching and the folks on CC have collected a wealth of knowledge.

 

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I don't think it's an issue of either/or, as in "you should always use a TA, or you should never use one." It depends. When it comes to booking flights or hotels, I often do it myself because it's pretty straightforward. OTOH I always use a TA for cruises, because a) he's a personal friend and b) he can devote his time to looking at all cabin types for all cruise lines for multiple dates and destinations. He also gives great advice. For instance, we're thinking of taking a cruise to Northern Europe next May, and he was able to find several good options on several different lines for us-we scored a YC suite for $1000 each. Same with a Caribbean cruise we're taking this December. I don't have the time to do all of that research, but when it comes to airfares and hotels, I just plug in the dates we're traveling and take it from there (although I usually have my TA do the booking, so he gets a commission). Many people on this site have complained about the wonky MSC website or long times on hold with customer service. I never have to worry about that due to our TA, and we STILL get any promotions MSC is offering. In addition to that, he sends us lovely gifts like restaurant gift certificates and baskets of fruit at Christmas. I'll never go back to doing all of that on my own again. 😁

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On 7/25/2019 at 1:09 PM, BermudaBound2014 said:

 

99.9% of OBC is fully refundable at the end of the cruise. If you are disciplined and don't spend the money, they will give you cash or credit back to your card for the unused portion of TA given OBC. I'd rather had 10% back at the end of the cruise than 8% upfront but that's just me. 

 

Caution: Not to be confused with cruise line OBC which is 99% non-refuntable. 

 

 

That’s not my experience.  When we book via a US travel agency the obc has always been non-refundable. We have $700 obc on a 14 night Seaside cruise in October 2020, so just contacted the TA and yes it was confirmed to be non-refundable. 

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1 hour ago, mickey89 said:

That’s not my experience.  When we book via a US travel agency the obc has always been non-refundable. We have $700 obc on a 14 night Seaside cruise in October 2020, so just contacted the TA and yes it was confirmed to be non-refundable. 

We have a cruise in October booked through a US online travel agency and it is confirmed that it's 100% refundable, in writing.

Not a whole lot but $600 is $600.

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