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Apart from our first few cruises, we’ve always booked with a well known cruise specialist. Our usual cruise consultant knows our requirements and has always provided a great service.

 

We’ve never booked on launch, but who knows this time around! My question is this. Would It be ‘safer’ to book direct now rather than use a TA? I would appreciate any comments from you knowledgeable and experienced lot! 

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I booked our Enchanted Princess cruise the other day directly. No deposit to pay due to FCC and loads of OBC as a result of two previous cancellations. The cruise is £1,340 cheaper too.

Now whether it actually happens next July is another matter!

Previously I always booked with Bolsover.

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11 minutes ago, Ardennais said:

Apart from our first few cruises, we’ve always booked with a well known cruise specialist. Our usual cruise consultant knows our requirements and has always provided a great service.

 

We’ve never booked on launch, but who knows this time around! My question is this. Would It be ‘safer’ to book direct now rather than use a TA? I would appreciate any comments from you knowledgeable and experienced lot! 

 

Just my own personal take on this is ... Ok you have used your well known cruise specialist who has given you great service .

Do you stand by them and back them ,they rely on you and others to keep them in a job ?

 

Or do you book direct to save any hassle should the company do a "Tommy Cook"  as happened to one of my 

relatives leaving them with nothing 48 hours before they were due to fly home .

Booking direct would be a safer option providing that company did not go under as you talk to them ,no middle man .

I have booked both direct with P&O and other Travel companies and both have served me well .

If things improve in the travel industry then I would use my travel agent again but if not I think I would then book 

direct just so ,should anything go wrong I would be speaking to them and not a middle man .

No easy choices , you have to do which you feel comfortable with .

 

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With the protection offered by using a credit card, I doubt there’s any difference in safety between going direct and using an agent.

 

There is a discount to be had from one particularly good agent that we always use, though, and their service has always been impeccable. I can’t say that about the earlier direct bookings I made.

 

Additionally, the only way to be reasonably sure of getting specific suites or cabins at launch is via an agent. That clinches it for us, and they’ve always secured what we wanted - even though it was limited to just two suites.

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We have no intention of moving away from the TA we have used for nearly 10 yrs. Although the majority of our cruises are now with P&O, we like the benefit we receive from booking all our cruises with the same agent and agency.  We also enjoy a reasonable discount with the TA which is not available from P&O, and receive all the normal benefits available from P&O.

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There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Personally, I book direct, but I have a great relationship with a P&O employee who I have dealt with for years and always gets us our first choice cabins. For historical reasons I also get a discount that equates to the best TA discounts out there, so there is no benefit for me looking elsewhere. If my contact left, or they stopped my discount, I would probably still book direct with P&O as the discounts available through TA’s or cruise specialists are too small to make me engage a middle man, especially when the trade off is usually having to pay the balance earlier than if you book direct. 
 

I can, however, understand why (discounts aside) people are drawn to cruise specialists if they don’t have knowledge of all the P&O ships. Having been on all of the ships and scouted out the best cabins and suites to suit our requirements and preferences, I don’t need any advice from a cruise specialist. When we eventually return to cruising we may well try some different companies and as we have zero knowledge of them and wouldn’t qualify for any discounts I would probably try a cruise specialist at that stage. 

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We have always booked with a TA or direct depending on the deal.  We had our February cruise cancelled, the cruise was with MSC and we booked through a TA who went bust. I approached my bank first who suggested I try my insurance for a refund, I insisted the bank refund me under section 75 or chargeback. I contacted ATOL as there was a flight involved. They advised that I claim the deposit back from the bank which I paid by credit card and the balance from them, which I paid by cheque. I put in an ATOL claim. The bank sent me a letter stating that I may not be able to claim under section 75 as I had used a third party (TA) to book, when I looked into this there is indeed a loophole, however it is a grey area and even Martin Lewis didn't seem 100% sure as to how it worked. I went back to the bank stating that in my opinion the TA was the retailer selling the goods, anyway after a bit of toing and froing my bank paid my deposit as chargeback and the balance under section 75, I then cancelled my ATOL claim. I am not aware of a bank using this tactic to avoid a refund but I would now consider booking direct unless section 75 clarified that a TA wasn't classed as a third party. 

Technically there   be a direct link between the debtor (that's you, the customer), the creditor (the credit card company – eg, American Express, Lloyds, Withyds, Barclaycard) and the supplier (the retailer selling you the goods or service). If that relationship is deemed to be broken by the involvement of an intermediary or third party, Section 75 protection WON'T apply.

The trouble is, deciding whether or not a third party breaks the debtor-creditor-supplier chain is a fiendishly complex and technical matter, and in some cases seems somewhat arbitrary.

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In our precruise holiday life we used a very small travel agent who was excellent in getting us the best deals, but unfortunately they had there rent increased and they closed, since than we have booked direct we did try a few travel agents but the deals was no better.

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2 hours ago, Selbourne said:

There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Personally, I book direct, but I have a great relationship with a P&O employee who I have dealt with for years and always gets us our first choice cabins. For historical reasons I also get a discount that equates to the best TA discounts out there, so there is no benefit for me looking elsewhere. If my contact left, or they stopped my discount, I would probably still book direct with P&O as the discounts available through TA’s or cruise specialists are too small to make me engage a middle man, especially when the trade off is usually having to pay the balance earlier than if you book direct. 
 

I can, however, understand why (discounts aside) people are drawn to cruise specialists if they don’t have knowledge of all the P&O ships. Having been on all of the ships and scouted out the best cabins and suites to suit our requirements and preferences, I don’t need any advice from a cruise specialist. When we eventually return to cruising we may well try some different companies and as we have zero knowledge of them and wouldn’t qualify for any discounts I would probably try a cruise specialist at that stage. 

 

Yes I agree with this.  There are a few points in favour of direct booking as an experienced passenger:

 

-- Some passengers from certain occupational backgrounds (for example the health service) are entitled to additional OBC, if, and only if, they book direct and by phone.  It's not very much but it's something.

-- Previously P&O (but not now), used to appear on cashback websites.  This meant that if you made an online booking direct, you could often achieve the same if not a better discount than going to a TA.  For anyone interested, Fred Olsen and Royal Caribbean still offer this and offer a good percentage return which is in addition to any offer they have.

-- In fairness, and re the above, some TAs do offer a notional incentive, such as £10 for a new cruise booking. 

-- Occasionally, the benefit of the above can be doubled up with a spend/cashback offer on a credit card.  If you search your bank/credit card incentives carefully you may find a winner.

-- Paying P&O direct means that your balance is due 12 weeks before, not between 13 and 16 weeks, depending on your choice of TA.  Important in the current climate as P&O announce new cancellations.

 

I agree with Selbourne (welcome back, good to see a post from you 👍), with a little bit of research, you can usually scout out a good cabin yourself.  For us, it helps to be close, but not too close, to lifts, and not on a passenger thoroughfare.  We can work that out very easily ourselves without assistance.  Plus we know the itineraries and are fairly IT literate etc.

 

Although I have made a TA booking before - because on one occasion they happened to provide the best deal including discounts, I wasn't bowled over.  It wasn't that the service I received was bad in any way, it was just exactly the same as what I could do with notional effort on my part.  In fairness, P&O do answer the phone quickly and are polite when you want to pay them some money.  I might think differently when I try a different line.

 

I should add, there is absolutely no way I would give money to any intermediary if it's on its way to P&O.  If you must book P&O my best advice is to keep it between you, them, and your credit card company if/when they let you down.  No cheques in the post that way....

 

Hope that this helps.

 

By the way you will get a collection of differing opinions to this question!!

Edited by No pager thank you
Wording
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At one time, I used to book 3 cabins and linked the bookings and my TA knew exactly what I needed with regard to balconies, insides, number of berths, dining arrangements etc.  Now it’s only one balcony cabin so quite straightforward and I know what I’m looking for. I might really book directly, we’ll see. 

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7 hours ago, Ardennais said:

Meant to ask too, what exactly is pre-registration? Do you register for a particular cruise or provide a shortlist? 

You can pre-register for specific cruises, and indeed give specific cabin requests, which you can't do with P&O direct for some odd reason.

 

It is indeed the only way to have a good chance of getting the particular suite or cabin that you want as soon as it goes on sale - and certain choice cabins and suites do go very quickly.

 

For that facility alone I'd always use an agent, but there's only one I'd use - it's very popular on here.

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We booked with a TA and sometimes direct with P&O and had all good experiences with them no complaints what’s so ever ( we’ve been lucky) but we mostly book through our TA which gives us good discounts , plus wines of the countries we are visiting and then cruise miles gained to come of the price of our next cruise, they have also been quick to sort the refunds out , one point I will make is with our 5 cruises cancelled up to April next year we have enjoyed all the boxes of wine ( free) because we’ve drunk them and can’t send them back 😂

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I usually book direct, not just with P&O ,as I find the incentives  or discounts offered by the TA is minimal compared to the hassle of refunds if things go pear shaped, see 2020! I always travel with a credit card that has a good amount of available credit, so hopefully could always "buy" my way out of trouble/ travel  disruptions. I'm not sure what a travel agent could do at 3AM if you had a problem anyway. HOWEVER, I have booked a cruise  with  a well known solo  site(hubby doesn't fancy this one!) BUT they require the final payment 4 weeks ahead of P&O. I'd rather the money be in my pocket than theirs, but as this is possible a "one off " I will grin and bear it. Personally, I've never bothered with a specific cabin,  only on our first cruise we chose, after that we've had  guarantees and never been disappointed. Of course ,as the USA say YMMV ( your mileage may vary!)

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46 minutes ago, Selbourne said:

Whilst I have no personal experience of them, friends of ours use the cruise specialist that many on here praise very highly (including within this thread). They will not be using them again. It has taken our friends 6 months to obtain a refund for a cruise (not with P&O) and the TA has been no help whatsoever, just palming them off or ignoring them. I was very surprised to hear this, as I thought that they had a great reputation and had we been looking to book a cruise with a different line to P&O we would have considered using them. 

I’ve used them over the phone for years and they’ve been excellent. Very efficient, always secured one of only two suites I’ve given them as options on day one pre-bookings, and nice people to deal with.

 

We called in once to discuss an existing booking, because we happened to be in the area, and they were delightful, producing coffees immediately and making us very welcome.

 

Having said that, when we were looking for cancellation refunds from P&O for a cruise on which there had been changes amounting to what I viewed as ‘significant alterations’ they did nothing apart from forwarding my comments to P&O. It was exactly the same with another refund issue where I was arguing for the return of lost deposits.

 

Both refunds were pursued by me, direct with the company, and both were successful after the usual preliminary exchanges and the promise of action through the small claims procedure. I’d have certainly taken it because they were on very shaky legal ground, but they settled before I needed even to start the process.

 

To be fair to the agents I didn’t need any help, and I didn’t expect any. My experience in the past with all travel agents is that this is very much the norm.  They are after all travel agents. - not lawyers. And I doubt they want to upset the companies paying their commission - even when they’re wrong.

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16 hours ago, terrierjohn said:

We have no intention of moving away from the TA we have used for nearly 10 yrs. Although the majority of our cruises are now with P&O, we like the benefit we receive from booking all our cruises with the same agent and agency.  We also enjoy a reasonable discount with the TA which is not available from P&O, and receive all the normal benefits available from P&O.

I am exactly the same.  The TA I use has been really super, always got us the cabins we want, gives us extra discount over and above the usual P&O benefits.  He has been great during the problems.  I always use a credit card to pay with.  If we cruise again, then I will stick with him.

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1 hour ago, terrierjohn said:

The problem Selbourne was that since all high street TAs closed during lockdown, all the cruise lines took over the role of administering refunds themselves, totally eliminating the travel agents.  So they found they were less able to obtain information than their customers.

In this uncertain time who is to say there might not be more total lockdowns and TA closures either temporary or permanent.

The cruise lines made many TAs useless as we all experienced in trying to get refunds so I am inclined to book direct with the cruiseline in future unless I am offered a deal to good to miss from my contact from TC who is now manager of a branch of the biggest independent TA.

 

 

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I am different...  I have never ever had a good experience with any agent and have always preferred dealing direct with any holiday provider and avoiding any middleman. I have tried a few TAs and have always  been disappointed. I always do lots of research myself  and actually love it and managing holidays myself.  The worst thing for me though is TAs so often getting info wrong and lack of attention to detail. Yes, I am a pedant and a perfectionist lol....... Personal preference.

Edited by Scriv
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I always book direct personally, not had any issues when booking direct.   Only ever booked once through a travel agent & the 1 time I did they ballsed up a transfer, we were supposed to be picked up from hotel and taken to the Cruise port & it never turned up,  had to make lots of stressful phone calls to sort a transfer to the port about 4 hours before the ship was due to sail.

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2 hours ago, Scriv said:

I am different...  I have never ever had a good experience with any agent and have always preferred dealing direct with any holiday provider and avoiding any middleman. I have tried a few TAs and have always  been disappointed. I always do lots of research myself  and actually love it and managing holidays myself.  The worst thing for me though is TAs so often getting info wrong and lack of attention to detail. Yes, I am a pedant and a perfectionist lol....... Personal preference.

Scriv you have just described me!

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First TA I used, I had bad experiences, paid 20% deposit (didn't know any different) and they were useless.  Before that, we cruised on very small cruise ships, one was run by Travelscope who are agents as well.  Then I was recommended to a TA on here and he has been great.  As I don't think we will be cruising any time soon, I suppose I don't know what I will do.

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13 hours ago, jeanlyon said:

 As I don't think we will be cruising any time soon, I suppose I don't know what I will do.

 

Hi Jean... nice to see you. Yup, it's a real game-changer. On Thursday evening I booked 6 shore excursions for our already booked cruise next June then got cold feet overnight and cancelled them all the next morning! Just not ready to tie up more money when we don't know if we will be able to or want to go. Decision time next March.

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