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Booking a cruise directly with MSC - any benefit?


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I have two MSC cruises booked with MSC and one with a TA.  I only every book with a TA if I am going to get OBC.  Otherwise Ibook with the cruise line directly because I hate dealing with a TA.  Such a hassle.  MSC does not give you extra benefits but the TA might give you extra benefits that MSC does not give. 

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For our upcoming first cruise on MSC I booked through the TA I've used for years.  She handled the paper work for our 10% civil servant discount and then added her 7% discount to the fare.  No muss, no fuss!

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12 hours ago, kj_connections said:

Is it better to book an MSC cruise through MSC's website or with a travel agent?  Any benefits to booking directly with MSC (ie. if price drops will they give you OBC or upgrades more easily than with a TA?)?  Thanks in advance

Right now, the Canadian website is a bit of a work in progress.  It is still dealing with growing pains since it opened in May 2019 on top of a cruise line that isn't known for website stability or good customer service.  For that reason, I may recommend a travel agent....though not all agents want to work with MSC.

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26 minutes ago, kj_connections said:

Thanks!  Is the canadian website priced in Canadian dollars?

Yes, as is using a Cdn travel agent.

Also, though one can book via a US online travel agent for some price advantage, things may get complicated when it comes to getting your final documents and online shopping for excursions and add ons as this is done on a website.  It might read your IP address as Canada, boot you to the Canadian site whilst your booking number is housed on the US site.  It's just a rather inconsistent set up at present. 

I haven't done my cruise yet, but I was booked before and after the development of the Cdn website, so yep, was shifted between one and the other.  After I did a change after a price drop, all my info was sent to the Cdn site.

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36 minutes ago, kj_connections said:

Thanks everyone.  If anyone has a TA in Canada they'd recommend that's cheaper than the online price please send me a PM.  The MSC canada website doesn't work...

I don't see the PM system for Cruise Critic functioning yet.  And we can't list it here.  If you google 'Canada Cruise Ship Centres', there should be a hit near the top that relates to one of the large global online travel agencies.  That is the one I use.  Unfortunately, their website doesn't provide solo traveler prices, but enquire by email.  They also have numerous storefronts, so you may want to connect to the website of the storefront closest to you to get an agent.

 

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found using an american  cruise booking site was cheaper for me then booking direct for both times sailing with msc in the past on Divina and currently booked on Armonia in Feb.  i just have to use the msc usa site for booking drink packages or excursions and to do my check in.  

 

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We never book direct, always through a travel agent. MSC's US website is notoriously wonky, and I've heard that the Canadian one (which you would presumably be using since your profile indicates you're from ON) is just as bad. Our TA is a personal friend and does a fantastic job. I never have to make phone calls to the cruise line, so my advice is to use a travel agent. Hope that helps.

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If you read the threads here about poor MSC customer service, you will understand the benefit of using a TA and letting them deal with MSC for you.  They will get you all the deals you could get from MSC direct, plus some will give you back 7-10% of the fare (sharing their commission with you).

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4 hours ago, capriccio said:

For our upcoming first cruise on MSC I booked through the TA I've used for years.  She handled the paper work for our 10% civil servant discount and then added her 7% discount to the fare.  No muss, no fuss!

I've never heard of the 10% Civil Servant Discount.  Could you tell me where I might find out more information about this?  

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3 minutes ago, mumachaz said:

I've never heard of the 10% Civil Servant Discount.  Could you tell me where I might find out more information about this?  

 

This is a post I made in July so I would check the website to ensure that there have been no changes.  Hope it helps!

 

The info below is from the MSC US website (https://www.msccruisesusa.com/en-us/Cruise-Deals/Government-Employee-Discounts.aspx).  My DH is a US federal government retiree.  I just had to submit his annual federal retiree pay form (with all the amounts blacked out of course) as proof.

 

Cruise Deals for Government Employees

 
BIG SAVINGS WITH MSC CRUISES

 

Let us say "THANK YOU" with up to 10% savings*.

 

Must Call to Book! Contact your preferred Travel Agent or call MSC Cruises at 1-877-665-4655.

 

Cruise deals for active and retired U.S. and Canadian government employees:

 

TEACHERS

MSC Cruises is proud to offer these special rates for teachers on select sailings.

 

CIVIL SERVANTS

MSC Cruises is proud to offer special rates on select sailings for civil servants including government employees, police officers, firefighters, Federal Express, DHL Worldwide Express and United Parcel Service (UPS) personnel.

 

YOUR SPECIAL OFFER

  • 5% discount on Interior and Ocean View staterooms
  • 10% off Balcony, Suite, and MSC Yacht Club (Deluxe Suites) staterooms 
  • Book multiple staterooms with your discount
  • Kids sail free on select sailings**
  • Best value in cruising 

*Up to a 10% discount can be applied to the prevailing market and/or promotional rates based on ship sailing date chosen. 10% off is applicable on select Balcony, Suites and YC1 staterooms; 5% discount is applicable on select Interior and Ocean View staterooms. Discount rates apply to all active and retired U.S. and Canadian employed eligible guests, their spouses, parents, parents-in-law and dependent children. Discount applies to all types of government employees, not limited to the list above. Qualifying guests must present an I.D. badge from their respective organization at the time of booking. This discount does not apply to Government Employee Rates issued through a dedicated promotional rate notice. Offer cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion and may be withdrawn without notice. Offer is capacity controlled, subject to availability and restrictions may apply. Not combinable with MSC Club Discount. Government taxes and fees for all guests are additional. MSC Cruises reserves the right to pass on any fuel surcharge without notice to all guests. MSC Cruises reserves the right to refuse to honor any prices/sailings that are erroneously printed or quoted. Ask for "Government Employee Discount" promotion when booking. Ship's registry: Panama and Valletta.
**Kids sail free: Children 11 and under sail free as 3rd/4th guest in same stateroom with two full fare paying adults. Learn more here.

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17 hours ago, kj_connections said:

Is it better to book an MSC cruise through MSC's website or with a travel agent?  Any benefits to booking directly with MSC (ie. if price drops will they give you OBC or upgrades more easily than with a TA?)?  Thanks in advance

 

If you book directly with MSC you are spared the worry about on what you will spend the OBC you could have gotten from a TA.

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3 hours ago, kj_connections said:

Thanks everyone.  If anyone has a TA in Canada they'd recommend that's cheaper than the online price please send me a PM.  The MSC canada website doesn't work...

 

This is against the rules here, and is a big reason there are no PMs on this site.  You probably weren;'t aware of that.  

I'm not sure how this might work for someone living in Canada, but I've had success with a site that lets me specify an itinerary, cabin class, and any other particulars I specify and then multiple TAs can quote their best deal.  You might try one of these and specify up front that you live in Canada.  I have no idea what response you would get, but as there is no obligation, and the quoting TAs don't get your email address unless and until you contact them, there really is no downside to checking.

I just booked one of these and got slightly over 10% in combined price reduction and OBC.  And that was after the 5% discount from the cruiselines for being a past passenger.

If you want to pursue this just do a Google search on something like 'getting quotes on cruises' and you will find them.

Hope that helps.

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4 hours ago, Toofarfromthesea said:

 

If you book directly with MSC you are spared the worry about on what you will spend the OBC you could have gotten from a TA.

There is some real truth to your humor :).  We have an upcoming cruise in the YC and were given a generous OBC from our cruise agent plus an additional OBC from MSC (a promotion).  Since the YC includes just about everything, and MSC does not normally allow for refunding of OBCs we are faced with spending lots of money on something.  This happened to us last year and DW bought a nice piece of jewelry in the shop and I used the remainder to gamble (I normally do not waste my time in the casino).  And yes, I won a few hundred in the casino and was able to cash out :).

 

Hank

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3 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

There is some real truth to your humor :).  We have an upcoming cruise in the YC and were given a generous OBC from our cruise agent plus an additional OBC from MSC (a promotion).  Since the YC includes just about everything, and MSC does not normally allow for refunding of OBCs we are faced with spending lots of money on something.  This happened to us last year and DW bought a nice piece of jewelry in the shop and I used the remainder to gamble (I normally do not waste my time in the casino).  And yes, I won a few hundred in the casino and was able to cash out :).

 

Hank

 

I had a quote from a TA of 450 OBC, and when I found out it was nonrefundable the agent reconfigured it by reducing the fare by 200 and reducing the OBC to 250.  And since grats will be 175, and they can be paid from the OBC, a meal at Seaside's Bistro should take care of not 'wasting' any of the OBC.

Nice going on the casino win!

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15 minutes ago, Toofarfromthesea said:

 

I had a quote from a TA of 450 OBC, and when I found out it was nonrefundable the agent reconfigured it by reducing the fare by 200 and reducing the OBC to 250.  And since grats will be 175, and they can be paid from the OBC, a meal at Seaside's Bistro should take care of not 'wasting' any of the OBC.

Nice going on the casino win!

Your cruise agent/agency deserves a gold star for that change.  It is interesting that MSC categorizes cruise agency OBCs as "non-refundable" but such is life.  Last year was our first time on MSC (21 days on the Divina) and we did not even pay attention to our OBC until near the end of the cruise.  I stopped by the Concierge desk and asked how much of our OBC was refundable and was told "zero."  Faced with about 24 hours to spend more then $600 (life is good) was a real hardship :).  I told DW to spend the money in the jewelry shop but she only spent about half the OBC leaving me with a real dilemma.  The casino was a last minute desperate move to get rid of about $300 in OBC.  Since there was no craps game I went to the Black Jack table with nothing to lose :).  I managed to double my money in less then 10 minutes and immediately walked away and cashed out.  On next month's cruise we have even more OBC (for a much shorter cruise) so I guess it will be back to the Blackjack tables.  I am a pretty competent gambler, but generally find casinos boring.   But it makes no sense to just walk off the ship with non-refundable OBC.

 

Hank

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We always book with a travel agent. Whatever benefits that may be obtained by booking directly are also available through a travel agent. Plus, our agent takes care of all of the paperwork, books our flights, prepares a detailed itinerary and more. Finally, our agent can generally find us additional discounts or perks that we cannot get on our own, e.g. OBC. She always has a bottle of wine waiting in our stateroom when we arrive with her compliments. Once, we were stranded in Hong Kong due to a British Airways flight attendant strike. We were assigned another flight 4 days later which did not work for us. Our agent got us out on the same day we were supposed to leave. Frankly, I fail to understand why anyone doesn't use an agetn.

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6 hours ago, cynalan said:

Frankly, I fail to understand why anyone doesn't use an agetn.

 

After 40 cruises, I find that I know a lot more than most TA's.  I hate booking through a TA because I do not like trying to get a hold of the agent, waiting for them to call back, waiting for them to take care of a problem, etc when all of this can be done directly with the cruise line if I book through the cruise line.  Like I said, if there is OBC then I will book through a TA but if there is no benefit to booking through a TA then I will book directly with the cruise line.  There is nothing worse than getting a TA and having to tell them how to do their job.  Been there and done that. 

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