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Travel agents vs booking direct pros and cons


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Considering using an agent for the first time as there’s a discount. What are the pros and cons? Do you have a good agent? Particularly during Covid, have thee been horror stories either way, getting credit, refunds, or lift and shift?

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Pro agent but make sure the agent is accessible. Mine is awesome, though I'm sure he is tired of changes.

 

The only horror stories are from people they couldn't get in contact with later when they needed the agent.

 

I wouldnt do it for a discount, pick a good agent who will save you money by being there when you need them.  With all the changes and cancellations a good agent is priceless. Mine is.

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Direct booking has always been the most reliable way of booking. In case of any circumstances, you can always talk to the company directly avoiding all those third party application and companies. The cons are that there are rarely good deals when booking directly, while third parties are always looking for ways to attract you 

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I'll probably be in the minority here but since cruising from the early 90's I have always preferred to book everything myself directly.

 

I have rarely if ever after many cruises had any concern or problem I couldn't handle myself. I'm a bit of an OCD and am always on top of any detail my booking's may have. Having one client (or my extended family) makes it easy to be proactive.

 

Not interested in any OBC or so called "deals" they may offer.

 

JMHO and a personal response to the asked question...not looking for a debate.

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I used to be one who advocated for booking direct.  My one experience with using a TA was negative.  Then I found my current TA and my opinion flipped on its head.  Particularly in a time when things are uncertain, the value of a good agent can't be understated. Cancelations, FCC, refunds, L&S, KSF and the myriad of other special considerations unique to you that might come into play in your booking is hard to keep straight at the best of times and in an era were there is great uncertainty a good agent is really valuable.  

 

Booking direct puts you at the mercy of a Royal CSR. We have all read the posts of all those Royal CSR's who know less than the average Cruise Critic poster. I don't want the aggravation of having to work my way up the food chain until I get a someone at Royal who sees it my way.  

 

Another benefit of a TA is the discounts you might receive by buy into their group space. Same cabins... better price.  You are never getting that booking direct. 

 

Other folks have commented that they get extra OBC booking with their TA.  As I understand it, in order to do this TA's are giving back to you some of their commission in the form of OBC.  I'm not a big fan of this personally.  A small amount is fine.  I'll gladly take $50 or $100 but some of the numbers I read posted here on CC are quite surprising. In my way of thinking they are giving up on their own income in order to attract your business.  If someone is that quick to give up on their own money how quick will they be to give up on yours should they need to fight on your behalf.

 

I'm sure that others will argue that last point but it's always been a thing for me regardless of what type of transaction I'm making.  When I choose a real estate agent to sell my house I didn't choose the guy with lowest commission offer.  I chose the one that demonstrated the best local knowledge and had a history of having his listings sell as close to asking price as possible.  I want the same in a TA.

 

My TA is great. He has expertise in the line I want to sail. He takes the time to continually update himself in all the many variations of programs currently on offer and he communicates with ridiculous speed and seems to be available at almost any time. I'll not be going back to booking direct, that's for sure.

Edited by Tree_skier
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16 minutes ago, Tree_skier said:

I used to be one who advocated for booking direct.  My one experience with using a TA was negative.  Then I found my current TA and my opinion flipped on its head.  Particularly in a time when things are uncertain, the value of a good agent can't be understated. Cancelations, FCC, refunds, L&S, KSF and the myriad of other special considerations unique to you that might come into play in your booking is hard to keep straight at the best of times and in an era were there is great uncertainty a good agent is really valuable.  

 

Booking direct puts you at the mercy of a Royal CSR. We have all read the posts of all those Royal CSR's who know less than the average Cruise Critic poster. I don't want the aggravation of having to work my way up the food chain until I get a someone at Royal who sees it my way.  

 

Another benefit of a TA is the discounts you might receive by buy into their group space. Same cabins... better price.  You are never getting that booking direct. 

 

Other folks have commented that they get extra OBC booking with their TA.  As I understand it, in order to do this TA's are giving back to you some of their commission in the form of OBC.  I'm not a big fan of this personally.  A small amount is fine.  I'll gladly take $50 or $100 but some of the numbers I read posted here on CC are quite surprising. In my way of thinking they are giving up on their own income in order to attract your business.  If someone is that quick to give up on their own money how quick will they be to give up on yours should they need to fight on your behalf.

 

I'm sure that others will argue that last point but it's always been a thing for me regardless of what type of transaction I'm making.  When I choose a real estate agent to sell my house I didn't choose the guy with lowest commission offer.  I chose the one that demonstrated the best local knowledge and had a history of having his listings sell as close to asking price as possible.  I want the same in a TA.

 

My TA is great. He has expertise in the line I want to sail. He takes the time to continually update himself in all the many variations of programs currently on offer and he communicates with ridiculous speed and seems to be available at almost any time. I'll not be going back to booking direct, that's for sure.

Agree completely. Another TA couldn't have fixed my bookings I was unhappy with when I changed to him so I'd be happy. Period. ... and continued to fix them even better than before. 

 

TA had plans the night my allure cruises were changed to Liberty but he got in anyway and got early picks on the best balcony cabin, a corner aft facing. I wouldnt have what I have if not for him. Now I'm happy with my bookings he changed and fixed. 

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All of my bookings either start with or get transferred to a TA.  During the melee of this pandemic and the havoc it's caused to my bookings it's been so nice to send one email or make one call and have her deal with the heachaches and long hold times that have occured at times.

 

Sometimes there are tangible perks such as OBC, specialty dinners, spa treatments and so on.   They don't come with every booking.  They are gravy when I get them but that isn't why I use a TA.  The trick is finding a good TA.  My TA knows her way around the systems and gets things done efficiently and quickly.  When it comes to chasing down an errant FCC, moving FCC or repricing a complex reservation that involves Next OBC, FCC and some other weird thing she is invaluable.  Yes I could could eventually get it all done myself but it's so much easier opening another beer and watching the game while she does the heavy lifting.  

 

The only con is when I see a cabin become available and I want to make a switch.  Most of the time that works out fine but one in ten times I miss out because I couldn't call directly to effect that change.  This minor issue isn't enough of a "problem" to stop me from using my TA.  

 

The magic is in finding a good TA as there are lots of duds out there.

 

She also has found better pricing sometimes compared to what is see on the Royal website.  Sometimes she can offer a refundable rate I can't find on the website.  The price that Royal displays isn't always the best rate or maybe the C&A discount isn't the best way to go.  Many people don't consider the Royal website to be very functional or efficient.  What makes anyone think they will always display the best rate?

Edited by twangster
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Always have booked with a Travel Agent, for the reasons listed above.

 

However,  have any of you wondered how stable the travel agencies may be in these uncertain times.  I'd hate to book somewhat far in advance and then find out that my travel agency is out of business.  I know, I know if you book with a credit card your booking is safe and the cruise company will take it over .......but still.🙏

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Most of the time we book our future cruises while onboard. I advise the FCC not to transfer the bookings directly to the TA of record. I'll decide once we are at home if I want to transfer the bookings to a TA based on their offers to get our bookings. We don't use FCCs or TAs for where we want to cruise to, our cabin selections or anything else associated with the cruise.  All that homework is done long before we step foot onboard or call a TA.  

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3 hours ago, twangster said:

The magic is in finding a good TA as there are lots of duds out there.

I'm in that situation. I would love find someone who really knows the in's and out of Royal. I'd love to reach out to a certain person on these boards but I know that is not allowed.

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Always have booked with a Travel Agent, for the reasons listed above.
 
However,  have any of you wondered how stable the travel agencies may be in these uncertain times.  I'd hate to book somewhat far in advance and then find out that my travel agency is out of business.  I know, I know if you book with a credit card your booking is safe and the cruise company will take it over .......but still.[emoji120]
How are you two doing? We are fine and still travelling albeit no cruising. Will be back in Orlando in a month but no cruising. One bright point of this lockdown is all the money we have saved since Feb from not cruising.

See you two in a future cruise and stay safe!

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk

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Just now, frank808 said:

How are you two doing? We are fine and still travelling albeit no cruising. Will be back in Orlando in a month but no cruising. One bright point of this lockdown is all the money we have saved since Feb from not cruising.

See you two in a future cruise and stay safe!

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

Hi, Frank,

So nice to hear from you.

Glad you're all OK.  We are too!

 

Mary Ann

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It depends on the travel agent , I have had some really good ones , but last one I used was useless, I booked direct on my next two cruises. Another negative thing can be if there is a offer for a upgrade which is easier to deal with yourself . Those with a good agent are lucky. 

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I was a TA so I am partial. I use a TA who is great (a former colleague). I prefer booking with a TA as they advocate for me, price check daily and advise me of any price drops and best of all I always get an onboard credit on every sailing. I always come out ahead financially when using a TA. I don't understand how people pass up free gratuities or free onboard spending money to book direct  but to each his own I suppose. The price my TA gets is the same a booking direct in addition he has many group sailings so if I book early I tie into those and pay a better price than booking direct. During covid he stayed on hold with Royal to hunt down my FCC which was "lost" for a while. I was thankful I didn't have to do all that leg work.

 

The one time I booked direct,was with Princess. I had just left the travel agent business  and I booked direct with them on their website. I called in to request an early dinner seating and the Princess agent I got made a mess out of my booking. Long story short she was obsessed with "upgrading" my no obstruction ocean view window on deck 5 that I booked on their website to an obstructed view ocean view window on deck 8 that had a lifeboat in front. I said I didn't want the "upgrade" but when I received the confirmation an hour later she "upgraded" me without my consent. With availability limited it was a challenge getting back what I booked, not to mention a complete waste of my time! 

Edited by nycruiser80
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One of the recent cons is that travel agencies are going under leaving those that booked through them in a painful situation working through the cruise line. Some people have been dealing with difficult situations to get things squared away. 

 

I know we booked our transportation and pre-cruise hotel through a service. They are not shuttered, but they are so slow at doing anything. It has been 5 months and no refund yet. They are not doing refunds until the all-clear to completely go back to work. If they go under, we lose our money. It is ridiculous. 

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Wondering how those who use TA's find a good one? 

 

In the good ole days there used to be plenty of brick & mortar TA's but now most are online.  Is it a 'stab in the dark' approach?

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On 9/12/2020 at 11:47 PM, aichambaye said:

Considering using an agent for the first time as there’s a discount. What are the pros and cons? Do you have a good agent? Particularly during Covid, have thee been horror stories either way, getting credit, refunds, or lift and shift?

 

I hope you got all of the info you needed before posts were deleted.

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20 hours ago, nycruiser80 said:

I was a TA so I am partial. I use a TA who is great (a former colleague). I prefer booking with a TA as they advocate for me, price check daily and advise me of any price drops and best of all I always get an onboard credit on every sailing. I always come out ahead financially when using a TA. I don't understand how people pass up free gratuities or free onboard spending money to book direct  but to each his own I suppose. The price my TA gets is the same a booking direct in addition he has many group sailings so if I book early I tie into those and pay a better price than booking direct. During covid he stayed on hold with Royal to hunt down my FCC which was "lost" for a while. I was thankful I didn't have to do all that leg work.

 

The one time I booked direct,was with Princess. I had just left the travel agent business  and I booked direct with them on their website. I called in to request an early dinner seating and the Princess agent I got made a mess out of my booking. Long story short she was obsessed with "upgrading" my no obstruction ocean view window on deck 5 that I booked on their website to an obstructed view ocean view window on deck 8 that had a lifeboat in front. I said I didn't want the "upgrade" but when I received the confirmation an hour later she "upgraded" me without my consent. With availability limited it was a challenge getting back what I booked, not to mention a complete waste of my time! 

I had a great TA in Mass. Now I live in Venice, Florida where they are far and few between. There are two companies in my town and the TA's are part time. Once I was told if I checked a resort on line then why didn't I just book it myself.  she couldn't be bothered.  Another told me they don't do price drop checks and that was my up to me.  But if it's her day off then I may not get it.  I usually book on ship now and am my own TA...  Although I do miss having one that knew what kind of trips we like and would email us with the deals.  Ahhh, the good ole days.....

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I had a great TA in Mass. Now I live in Venice, Florida where they are far and few between. There are two companies in my town and the TA's are part time. Once I was told if I checked a resort on line then why didn't I just book it myself.  she couldn't be bothered.  Another told me they don't do price drop checks and that was my up to me.  But if it's her day off then I may not get it.  I usually book on ship now and am my own TA...  Although I do miss having one that knew what kind of trips we like and would email us with the deals.  Ahhh, the good ole days.....
I don't think any travel agent checks for price drops.
that is one thing you have to do personally.
Because a price drop also reduces the travel agents commission
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I used a travel agent linked to my credit card . I would get extra points if i booked with them. They ignored my phone calls and emails when i checked for price drops so it cost me money to use them. 

I went back to booking direct with Royal and i got several price drops and the service was excellent .

The  credit card TA left and the new TA reached out to me but too little to late .

I will never use a TA again .

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