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Travel agents vs booking direct pros and cons


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On 9/14/2020 at 3:37 PM, drsel said:

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

My guy does. He uses a program that gives him updates daily. That is how he retains a loyal clientele. He books and take care of it call. Though the onboard credit he offers will fluctuate if the price drops by a lot as the onboard credit comes from his commission. Either way I still come out ahead so I am happy.  My last cruise back in February he was notified of a substantial price drop I qualified for. Even though he lowered his onboard credit I did very well.

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I know how enamored every one is with the fantastic Royal website.  It functions so perfectly.  I can see why some people just accept it will always display the best rate every time for everyone's individual circumstances.  

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We booked our first few cruises through an agent but after a few issues with getting price drops applied and other issues, we now book on our own.

 

As others have said, there are good agents and there are also some bad ones.  For a cruise, I strongly recommend finding one that specializes in cruises.  

 

When we booked our first cruise, our travel agent was a great resource.  We were young, had very little travel experience and were overwhelmed with all the different cruiselines, ships & itineraries.  Unfortunately she went part-time and that is when we started having issues as we were often stuck dealing with her coworker who was terrible.

 

One of my friends booked a Med cruise and one of the itineraries the agent suggested was out of Rome with a flight arriving at noon the day of the cruise.  I pointed out that the ship sails from Civitavecchia, which is an hour away from the airport and also mentioned the risks of a same day flight.  Apparently the agent had no idea the port was that far away and didn't even think of the issues with a same day flight.  Turns out it was an agent that booked mostly Disney and AI resorts and very little experience with booking cruises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I've used TAs ,.booked myself, online TA (can't say website) and a big box TA with toilet paper. For me, I want price and value, but their time when things go south. A local TA always put the cruise I booked on his web page a day or two later, as he made it a group booking to give us price discounts.  While pregnant  and cruising, my flight got cancelled- he was no help, in New Orleans on a Saints game day at 8pm. Never used him Again! No help after either trying to get hotel paid for.

 

Online TA messed up booking and had to call back and ask us to pay more by $100 per person. Since they messed up we spilt the difference, but didn't use them again. Another online TA had cancel penalties, so I didn't book with them.

 

Big box TA, saved me money and when RCCL gave a refund and not FCC they went to bat for me and got it resolved to my benefit. I was surprised and happy, but it took two weeks of them calling me back every few days. I couldn't resolve it myself.

 

Direct, I can call and change and do everything, no waiting. 

 

Your mileage may vary and it depends on how much power you want in a problem, if you want to handle it book direct, but if you want someone else to do it, book with a TA.

 

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I've used TAs ,.booked myself, online TA (can't say website) and a big box TA with toilet paper. For me, I want price and value,
Big box TA, saved me money and when RCCL gave a refund and not FCC they went to bat for me and got it resolved to my benefit. I was surprised and happy, but it took two weeks of them calling me back every few days. I couldn't resolve it myself

Wow, did the big box actually call you back to keep you posted on the progress of your case ?
that is fantastic service!
Unfortunately, those who live in cities or countries where there is no big box cannot use their store coupons.
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Yes , they actually did call me back!  Several times too ,as it took several calls to get it resolved, on their end. RCCL returned the wrong cruise refund and we lost the FCC, which was substantial so we were quite mad as I had called every two weeks check on it. I would have had a great rate on an Alaska July 2020 cruise, that we would have been able to lift and shift so we lost out on that, but luckily their agent took great detailed notes so we were able to get it resolved in our favor. The best part is I didn't have to do all the calling.  

 

If you buy online, they may have things available to be mailed that may make it worth it.  We use ours as we have several in California, and in gas alone it is worth it for us.  They have a level up membership that gives perks that sometimes on it's own will provide enough cash back to pay for memebership, but you have to spend it in their store. Its not cash, but a store credit.

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While we sometimes book direct, we find that if we book through a certain Store (think large white building) that has a membership fee we not only get money back through their CC but they also send out a store card when we return.  In addition to this, we usually get a good OBC.  They are now so big with booking cruises, that they have a lot of clout in getting anything we want.

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Have been using this big discount store headquartered in Kirkland Washington from our first cruise. You get a shopping card when the cruise is over for about 8% of your cruise fare. To bad they went away from giving you OBC about 2-3 years ago.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk

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On 9/14/2020 at 3:37 PM, drsel said:

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

My TA checks for price drops.  Yes it comes out of their commission, but it makes for happy repeat customers.  I am very happy with our TA who knows what we like and helps compare options from experience.

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My TA checks for price drops.  Yes it comes out of their commission, but it makes for happy repeat customers.  I am very happy with our TA who knows what we like and helps compare options from experience.

That's great!

You must be having a personal land based travel agent, not an online TA.

Does he also give you discount or OBC and if so how much

 

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6 hours ago, drsel said:

That's great!

You must be having a personal land based travel agent, not an online TA.

Does he also give you discount or OBC and if so how much

 

Its an online based company and I get an obc based on cruise fare (its usually $50-100 for me but it can go up to $500).

 

I have a cruise booked for March 2021 that includes 2 separate reservations for adjoining balcony staterooms (i booked this cruise the first week pricing came out so the price was really good).  My TA contacted me that with a new promo, one of the reservations was now going to be $250 less- we were going to loose a RCL OBC of $100 but with some carryover FCC OBC plus the net gain this was great news.  Our TA knew the ins and outs of the promo that for some reason our room with 3 people benefited from this new offer but the room with 2 we left with the current reservation.  All this checking was done without me having to do a thing!

 

Also we had a September 2020 cruise cancelled and our TA asked us if it was OK for her to wait to apply them until closer to final payment.  She said that she had found out that if there is a price drop before final payment, with the was RCL was apply FCC the savings could be lost because FCC was coming off the top price (not really sticking like a "credit").  So she wants to make sure when get the best cruise price and then she will add on our FCC before final payment.

 

Long story, but the bottom line is I like having a TA in my corner who knows their stuff and the OBC is a bonus.

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My TA checks for price drops.  Yes it comes out of their commission, but it makes for happy repeat customers.  I am very happy with our TA who knows what we like and helps compare options from experience.
How much OBC is reduced in relation to the price drop?
for example if the price drop is $100, how much OBC will be reduced by your travel agent?
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26 minutes ago, drsel said:

How much OBC is reduced in relation to the price drop?
for example if the price drop is $100, how much OBC will be reduced by your travel agent?

The OBC is based on the total price of the cruise, ie $2000-2999 gets $50 OBC.  So if the savings keeps the cruise price in the same OBC bracket, there is no change, but if the savings puts the total cruise price in another bracket, there might be a reduction.  So if the total fare was going to be $3100 (which I think is $75 OBC) then the TA found better pricing at $2900, the OBC from the TA would be reduced from $75 to $50.  

 

What I've found is that the OBC offers from RCL vary more with different offers, but my TA takes that into account and she knows my preference for totality of the savings vs having high OBC.

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17 hours ago, frank808 said:

Have been using this big discount store headquartered in Kirkland Washington from our first cruise. You get a shopping card when the cruise is over for about 8% of your cruise fare. To bad they went away from giving you OBC about 2-3 years ago.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

We've had OBC in the past year on cruises booked with them.  Maybe limited on certain sailings

 

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The OBC is based on the total price of the cruise, ie $2000-2999 gets $50 OBC.  So if the savings keeps the cruise price in the same OBC bracket, there is no change, but if the savings puts the total cruise price in another bracket, there might be a reduction.  So if the total fare was going to be $3100 (which I think is $75 OBC) then the TA found better pricing at $2900, the OBC from the TA would be reduced from $75 to $50.  
 
What I've found is that the OBC offers from RCL vary more with different offers, but my TA takes that into account and she knows my preference for totality of the savings vs having high OBC.
I think the OBC you are getting is too low.
it should be nearly 8 to 10% of your basic Cruise fare, because the giant travel agents earn 16% commission
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1 hour ago, drsel said:

I think the OBC you are getting is too low.
it should be nearly 8 to 10% of your basic Cruise fare, because the giant travel agents earn 16% commission

This all goes to the starting question of this thread, and the sub question of if you use a TA, why.

 

I choose to use a TA because I can get the same price that the cruise line will give me with added services some OBC and knowing that my TA will look out for better pricing and spend the hours on the phone to deal with issues if needed.

 

Other people choose to use a TA to save the most money (or get it back in OBC).  Both are valid reasons for using a TA- service or money.  At the end of the day, they are all valid choices and we all choose whatever seems like the best option for our circumstances.  In all reality, this is a very good "problem" to have to decide things like this 😀

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3 hours ago, drsel said:

I think the OBC you are getting is too low.
it should be nearly 8 to 10% of your basic Cruise fare, because the giant travel agents earn 16% commission

They don't earn 16% on the entire fare.  Deduct taxes and fees and also deduct non commissionable cruise fare which is $25 to $35 per person per day.

 

That deal of a cruise for $1000 may pay less than $40 in commission.

 

 

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They don't earn 16% on the entire fare.  Deduct taxes and fees and also deduct non commissionable cruise fare which is $25 to $35 per person per day.  

That deal of a cruise for $1000 may pay less than $40 in commission.

 

 

 

Yes it's a minimum of 10% and maximum of 16% commission on the basic Cruise fare ( excluding port fees and taxes), depending on their volumes. 

 

The giant online US travel agents are in the 16% bracket and usually give 8 to 10% of the basic Cruise fare as a discount or OBC.

 

So in your $1000 example, if the basic fare is 800 and the port fees and taxes are 200, then the OBC could be between 65 to 80 dollars, which is 8 to 10% of the basic Cruise fare

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, drsel said:

Yes it's a minimum of 10% and maximum of 16% commission on the basic Cruise fare ( excluding port fees and taxes), depending on their volumes.

 

the giant online US travel agents are in the 16% bracket and usually give 8 to 10% of the basic Cruise fare as a discount or OBC.

 

so in your example, if the basic fare is 800 and the port fees and taxes are 200, then the OBC could be between 65 to 80 dollars, which is 8 to 10% of the basic Cruise fare

 

As I said earlier it is off the cruise fare less taxes and fees and less NCCF (non commissionable cruise fare) which can be $25 to 35 per person per day which on a 7 day cruise is $175 to $225 per person that is also deducted from the cruise fare that the agents do not get commission on in addition to the $100 to $150 pp in port fees and taxes.  which in the example i gave brings the commissionable fare down to $125 per person or $250 in total.

 

Trust me I have received commission checks for less than $40 and we get the "16%".  Not all cruise lines have NCCF's but Royal does.

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As I said earlier it is off the cruise fare less taxes and fees and less NCCF (non commissionable cruise fare) which can be $25 to 35 per person per day which on a 7 day cruise is $175 to $225 per person that is also deducted from the cruise fare that the agents do not get commission on in addition to the $100 to $150 pp in port fees and taxes.  which in the example i gave brings the commissionable fare down to $125 per person or $250 in total.

 

Trust me I have received commission checks for less than $40 and we get the "16%".  Not all cruise lines have NCCF's but Royal does.

It's great to have you here !

Just wanted to know what is the discount offered to travel agents for buying OBC in bulk?

 

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I always book with a TA. She gives me OBC and usually some other perk like specialty restaurants or free tips.  I don't understand  why anyone would want to call RCI directly and wait on hold to speak to a random CSR who doesn't know all of your preferences.  When the coronavirus situation happened, my TA reached out to me and asked if I wanted FCC or a full refund.  One email later I knew it was handled and I didn't have to call anyone.    If you are going to use a TA, I would suggest that you check out their cancellation/change policy.    Also make sure that they charge your credit card through the cruise line directly. Then you are assured that your payment went to the cruise line.

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I agree that you have more control over your booking if you book directly with the cruise line.

 

But on the other hand--

 

1. The travel agent is a pleasure to deal with and provides 8--10 % discount or OBC.

 

2. We look & shop for deals and offers from different travel agents on the bidding site--that is also very easy to do on your own.

 

3. The travel agents work 365 days a year so they are certainly not difficult to reach.

In fact there are so many of them in each company that even if one is on leave, you will get someone else.

 

4. Any changes are usually done free of cost in 1--3 days

 

5. It's your money, so why pay more or waste a discount / OBC

 

6. Today's technology helps you to get the best deal from a wide range of travel agents, which you would not get directly from the cruise line.

 

7. Most travel agents are concerned about giving you the best deal, so that they can retain your business.

 

8. They work on tiny margins and high volumes.

 

 

 

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On 9/20/2020 at 6:26 AM, laurenjdaisy said:

Also we had a September 2020 cruise cancelled and our TA asked us if it was OK for her to wait to apply them until closer to final payment.  She said that she had found out that if there is a price drop before final payment, with the was RCL was apply FCC the savings could be lost because FCC was coming off the top price (not really sticking like a "credit").  So she wants to make sure when get the best cruise price and then she will add on our FCC before final payment.

That is what Cruise Critic is for 🙂 This was discussed recently, so when I received my FCC, I hesitated to apply them to my August '21 cruise.  But unless we are in a pandemic for another year, prices will never drop enough to match what I have now, so I went ahead and applied the FCC. Knowing me, I would lose the email or the codes between now and August.

 

On the flip side of pros and cons of adding FCC early, I recently added another person to the kid's suite, and because the FCC had taken the price off the top, the 4th person was added in at the lower price, saving me over $200 over if I had added her without the FCC applied.

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