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Assuming cruises are happening again, I will be getting married on a Princess cruise in March.  We think we'll have 40-60 guests.  Based on old posts here, it seems like there are good benefits to getting a travel agent to book the group (free berths, group amenity points, etc.), but I am having real trouble finding a travel agent to do this.  I've contacted four different Commodore Certified TAs, and have yet to get a reasonable plan.  Only one of them has had the follow through to get us rates and information about how this would work.  Those rates are 30%-50% higher than what can be booked on Princess's site right now.  Is that normal?  To make sure there wasn't a misunderstanding, I asked if these rates were ones that included drinks/wifi/gratuities, because that's what they were close to (and even higher in some cases).  The TA said no, that these are just the base fares plus taxes and fees.  She also informed me that she would be retaining the credit for any free berths based on the number of people.

 

To those of you who have had good experiences with TAs booking for groups, how did you find them?  Or is there any way to get the benefits dealing directly with Princess?

Sorry if this isn't the right place for this post.  Just frustrated and looking for guidance.

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It doesn't sound like you've connected with very helpful TAs.  The one that I've used for over 10 years does do groups and still discounts the fare for all other cruises by 8 - 9% off what you would find on the Princess website.  It may actually look higher because the TA will add in the port fees whereas Princess lists them separately.  Could it be that the TAs you've talked to are doing the same thing?

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2 minutes ago, azbirdmom said:

It doesn't sound like you've connected with very helpful TAs.  The one that I've used for over 10 years does do groups and still discounts the fare for all other cruises by 8 - 9% off what you would find on the Princess website.  It may actually look higher because the TA will add in the port fees whereas Princess lists them separately.  Could it be that the TAs you've talked to are doing the same thing?

You'd think it would be something like that, but it's not.  She's telling me an IB interior rate would be $604 per person (including taxes and fees).  When I find an IB room on the same cruise on Princess's site, it is $316 per person, plus $115 in taxes and fees, making it $431 per person.  I can add on the drinks/wifi/gratuities, and it's still slightly cheaper than the rate she's giving me.

 

For cabins with 3rd or 4th passengers, it's just at bad.  That same room would be $1,590 for 4 people, but the TAs rates would make it $2,256.

I'm mainly confused as to why it's been so hard to find someone who seems interested at all.  I would think travel agents would jump at the chance to book 20-30 cabins, but I don't claim to understand the industry.

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31 minutes ago, Mahewa said:

You'd think it would be something like that, but it's not.  She's telling me an IB interior rate would be $604 per person (including taxes and fees).  When I find an IB room on the same cruise on Princess's site, it is $316 per person, plus $115 in taxes and fees, making it $431 per person.  I can add on the drinks/wifi/gratuities, and it's still slightly cheaper than the rate she's giving me.

 

For cabins with 3rd or 4th passengers, it's just at bad.  That same room would be $1,590 for 4 people, but the TAs rates would make it $2,256.

I'm mainly confused as to why it's been so hard to find someone who seems interested at all.  I would think travel agents would jump at the chance to book 20-30 cabins, but I don't claim to understand the industry.

 

TAs have been rocked by the pandemic and many have been working for over a year for virtually nothing so you may have found one who is tired and stressed.  But I still think there are good ones out there, I know mine is a gem.  Unfortunately the rules of this forum don't allow TA recommendations on these boards so your best bet is to keep looking - or if you have any friends who are frequent cruisers, ask them.

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How many of the group are new Princess cruisers?  

 

1.  You can get on board credit for referring all of these passengers....BEFORE they begin the booking process.

 

2.  New Princess passengers have a different rate than Captain Circle members.  If a new member is paired with a loyal member, they will receive the loyalty fare.

 

3.  Keep looking.  I have a fantastic travel agent but she rarely discounts cruises.  But she has pulled off miracles for me.  I prefer her service to any price cut.

 

4.  You are correct.  Trying to coordinate this many cabins can be a nightmare.  Find a TA that is patient and will to work with you.

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5 minutes ago, cr8tiv1 said:

How many of the group are new Princess cruisers?  

 

1.  You can get on board credit for referring all of these passengers....BEFORE they begin the booking process.

 

2.  New Princess passengers have a different rate than Captain Circle members.  If a new member is paired with a loyal member, they will receive the loyalty fare.

 

3.  Keep looking.  I have a fantastic travel agent but she rarely discounts cruises.  But she has pulled off miracles for me.  I prefer her service to any price cut.

 

4.  You are correct.  Trying to coordinate this many cabins can be a nightmare.  Find a TA that is patient and will to work with you.

Thanks, I hadn't thought of points 1 or 2.  Looking at what a new passenger would pay does make up some of the difference in price, but definitely not all of it.

To be clear, I'm not looking for someone who's going to rebate their commission, offer deep discounts, or otherwise compete with the pricing of the big internet travel firms.  But I don't feel like I can, in good conscience, recommend that my guests book with a TA who will be charging them hundreds of dollars more than they'd pay if they booked through Princess's website.

Given that I'm not asking for discounted fares and am bringing them 20-30 cabins worth of business, it also seems fair to ask that we get the benefit of both the tour operator credits and GAP points, but I'm open to being educated if that's too much to ask based on what's common in the industry.

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4 hours ago, cr8tiv1 said:

How many of the group are new Princess cruisers?  

 

1.  You can get on board credit for referring all of these passengers....BEFORE they begin the booking process.

 

2.  New Princess passengers have a different rate than Captain Circle members.  If a new member is paired with a loyal member, they will receive the loyalty fare.

 

3.  Keep looking.  I have a fantastic travel agent but she rarely discounts cruises.  But she has pulled off miracles for me.  I prefer her service to any price cut.

 

4.  You are correct.  Trying to coordinate this many cabins can be a nightmare.  Find a TA that is patient and will to work with you.

 

+1 on that comment.

 

DON

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Keep looking and asking around on other sites for a good TA. Interview some of the popular ones, like you would for a job. If you have 40+ people cruising- you will make that TA some serious $. They should be prepared to work a bit for it.

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18 hours ago, Mahewa said:

To be clear, I'm not looking for someone who's going to rebate their commission, offer deep discounts, or otherwise compete with the pricing of the big internet travel firms.  

Suggestions:

Do as @franktownsuggested and just call Princess.

or

After you've applied for the "friends" OBC for the never cruised with Princess passengers as @cr8tiv1suggested, have all your wedding party make their own reservations with Princess or with a TA.

You're overthinking this (or are you planning on paying the fare for all of these guests?) If your guests are to be responsible for their own fares, you're better off letting them handle their own bookings. 

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Lest split a few hairs here.  It used to be that for every x number cabins in your group, you got a free berth in a cabin grade of the lowest common denominator.  So if the largest number of cabins booked was inside, that berth would be in an inside cabin.  If you book double that required number, yu would get the second berth in the cabin.  EM

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I had for Dec 2021,  2 mini suites and 4 balconies booked with my CDN agent.  When I asked her about a group price, she was able to get a group price for the Balconies filling the extra cabins needed to make a group from others through her company.

 

I cancelled my Dec 2021 cruise and booked Dec 2022 when it opened up. My agent was able to get group pricing for both Mini suites and balconies.

 

Princess only allows so many group rates for each sailings.  
Princess makes the group price.

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On 5/12/2021 at 4:18 PM, Mahewa said:

I'm mainly confused as to why it's been so hard to find someone who seems interested at all.  I would think travel agents would jump at the chance to book 20-30 cabins, but I don't claim to understand the industry.

Did you find someone new yet?

 

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That makes no sense.  When my friend booked a group cruise through my agent, he got the same rates as the cruise line website and got additional perks (onboard credit) and earned the free berth as well.

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44 minutes ago, Steelers36 said:

Did you find someone new yet?

 

No.  I tried several more people and ended up setting up the group through one of Princess's vacation planners.  I think that will be fine, though I think (and hope) they guy we're dealing with doesn't understand how back-to-back cruises work.  Even though we're in the same cabin for both trips, he said that we would have to pack up our stuff, see if the steward would stow it, and then disembark and come back on the ship through the normal check-in process.  Everything I've read online has indicated that we'll be able to leave our stuff in our cabin and just meet up with the other back-to-back cruisers to clear customs.  That may require us to leave the ship, but it definitely didn't seem like we'd have to do the whole check in process again from scratch.  The Medalionclass app already shows the two cruises as a single trip.

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5 minutes ago, Mahewa said:

No.  I tried several more people and ended up setting up the group through one of Princess's vacation planners.  I think that will be fine, though I think (and hope) they guy we're dealing with doesn't understand how back-to-back cruises work.  Even though we're in the same cabin for both trips, he said that we would have to pack up our stuff, see if the steward would stow it, and then disembark and come back on the ship through the normal check-in process.  Everything I've read online has indicated that we'll be able to leave our stuff in our cabin and just meet up with the other back-to-back cruisers to clear customs.  That may require us to leave the ship, but it definitely didn't seem like we'd have to do the whole check in process again from scratch.  The Medalionclass app already shows the two cruises as a single trip.

Well he is a doofus for sure.  Has he completed the training?

 

You are correct - he is wrong.  Yes, Medallion will be a single trip. 

Sorry you could not get a good TA. 

 

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2 hours ago, Mahewa said:

No.  I tried several more people and ended up setting up the group through one of Princess's vacation planners.  I think that will be fine, though I think (and hope) they guy we're dealing with doesn't understand how back-to-back cruises work.  Even though we're in the same cabin for both trips, he said that we would have to pack up our stuff, see if the steward would stow it, and then disembark and come back on the ship through the normal check-in process.  Everything I've read online has indicated that we'll be able to leave our stuff in our cabin and just meet up with the other back-to-back cruisers to clear customs.  That may require us to leave the ship, but it definitely didn't seem like we'd have to do the whole check in process again from scratch.  The Medalionclass app already shows the two cruises as a single trip.

 

If you did find a good TA, could you transfer your cruise from doofus to the TA?  I would suggest that you also contact Princess and request that your cruise be transferred from doofus to someone at Princess who has more than half a brain.

 

DON

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That's a lot of business that some TAs gave up, even if they were mostly inside cabins (lower commissions).  But I'll say it's also a lot of work.  The last large group I booked (as a home based TA under a larger agency) was 17 cabins, 4 spreadsheets, 34 invoices, and a LOT of musical chairs to get everyone booked, moved around to the cabin they wanted, and initial and final payments.  And there were frequent changes almost weekly so I definitely worked for my commission.  For instance,   members of large groups don't always like rooms near each other - 50 year old siblings and their spouses sometimes want cabins to be as far apart as possible 🙂

 

What saved me time was that 3 of the cabins paid for the rest so I was able to run 3 or 4 of their credit cards to get everyone covered.  Sometimes the group rates (if they aren't booked way in advance) aren't any better than published promo rates but there are additional group perks that are given regardless.  Also, some agencies are only allowed a certain number of groups per month and they may have already met that limit meaning all bookings would be individual.  Large groups can get free cabins after reaching certain thresholds but it's risky for agencies to do that because in the event the group has some folks cancel and the number of cabins in the group fall below the threshold, the agent will have to call the group leader and tell them they have to pay for a room that was going to be free.  Usually the agency just takes the "free room" as a bonus commission to avoid that whole issue.

 

It's still too bad you had to ultimately book with a PVP...a jr agent could have really cut their teeth on a commission like that while learning the tricks of the trade.  If you do another voyage like this ask around to see if you can find someone who does it as a side job from home as those folks work under less "agency pressure" and can devote more attention to fewer bookings.  I mostly book for family, friends, and friends of friends and don't advertise because I still have a regular day job. I only have 4-5 clients at any given time and do this work because it's fun.

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1 hour ago, donaldsc said:

 

If you did find a good TA, could you transfer your cruise from doofus to the TA?  I would suggest that you also contact Princess and request that your cruise be transferred from doofus to someone at Princess who has more than half a brain.

 

DON

Transfers can only be made within something like 30 days of the original booking.  Not sure a PVP will even allow it since the commission is either the PVPs or Princess keeps it.  It's their rules...

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15 hours ago, phabric said:

Princess only allows so many group rates for each sailings.  
Princess makes the group price.

 

There are groups and then there are groups.

 

One kind is a group set up by a TA that really does not have to involve any people that know each other or even meet each other on the cruise.  TAs set up these groups usually as soon as bookings open and gradually fill positions in the group until all the slots are gone. These TA groups usually have a discount from Princess. The good TAs share this discount with those in the group and thus those in the group pay a lower fare than if they had booked without being a part of a group. The TAs that have these groups also get "amenity points" that can be used to provide perks (OBC, specialty dining, wine, etc.) to the customers or can be used instead to increase the commission for the TA. This appears to be the type of group that Phavric was a part of.

 

The other kind is a group of people have a relationship with one another. This is the type group that Mahewa has. It is with this type group that a free cabin is awarded for every x cabins booked. This type group might end up being a part of a TA group with the discounts and amenities. Or it could just be a group that pays the Princess price and does not get any discount (other than that free cabin) or special amenities.

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I never thought that group travels can be way cheaper than regular travel. In any case, I need to try cruising with a bunch of friends to check it out 

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On 5/12/2021 at 12:51 PM, Mahewa said:

We think we'll have 40-60 guests. 

If the PVP did not set it up, contact Diana Hall at grouponboardservices@princesscruises.com to reserve an extra room for your private group 'meet & greet' in addition to the wedding / reception. Its a simple email. Ppl may or may not show up but IMHO it's a nice touch

 

10 hours ago, Roger88 said:

I never thought that group travels can be way cheaper than regular travel. In any case, I need to try cruising with a bunch of friends to check it out 

They were with my PVP although we were just 14 (7 rooms) so no free berths but we got free specialty dinner + more OBC. Love OBC

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12 hours ago, cruisingrob21 said:

If you do another voyage like this ask around to see if you can find someone who does it as a side job from home as those folks work under less "agency pressure" and can devote more attention to fewer bookings.  I mostly book for family, friends, and friends of friends and don't advertise because I still have a regular day job. I only have 4-5 clients at any given time and do this work because it's fun.

I have wondered about doing this myself, as I have been doing some of it for free already.  Is there a minimum business you need to do with Princess, for example, in order to maintain TA credentials?

 

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1 hour ago, Steelers36 said:

I have wondered about doing this myself, as I have been doing some of it for free already.  Is there a minimum business you need to do with Princess, for example, in order to maintain TA credentials?

 

Yes and no...if you want to create your own agency you can go that way and register with princess, but I'm not sure how hard or easy that is.  Obviously starting a business is a big time commitment in and of itself and it may cost you more in operating expenses than it's worth especially since most cruise lines increase agency commissions based on how many bookings an agency made in the previous year.  The standard is 10% but that's after taking out taxes and non commissioned fare proportion.  It can take several hundred agency bookings to get up to 15%.

 

The other option is to join a home based umbrella agency where you work as an independent contractor which is pretty common in the world of TAs.  Note that many of these agencies charge upfront registration fees, continued membership fees and take a percentage of your commission. 

 

There are others that charge nothing up front but take a larger percentage of commission.  They have some training but most of it is informal.  They may or may not have additional fees or annual booking minimums (ie you must book x number of trips or reach a commission of $y each year or else you are out).

 

Some companies will do a better job of training you than others.  I enjoy doing the work on an informal basis because, even when I just book for myself I have good control over my bookings from the Princess booking system.  My joke with my clients are that I don't always have the best prices, but I have better hold music, am available pretty much all day every day, and changing cabins, dining times etc can be done just with them sending me a text message.  

 

I can't mention my host agency on CC but they are quite big and actually do much more of their business with RCCL brands than Carnival brands, as well as lots of land resort providers.  While sometimes things get very confusing help is found via an online group of other agents or a pretty quick phone call to my team leader.  Learning 9 cruise line booking software is a bit tricky as some are much better than others, and some belong in the 1990s (but do their job just fine once you understand it).

 

If you're interested in learning more, search around.  Since it's more of a hobby for me that actually earns enough for me to pay for a solo cruise every other year, it's worked out well.  I've also learned not to book for some very picky friends who are very frugal, and only only book short inside cabin cruises.  I may only make $20 commission in their booking but it may take 6 hrs of back and forth with them and cruise line to get everything just right for them.  

 

Last thing I'll say, if you don't book with an agent you are leaving money on the table.  For some people, it's worth it to book everything online thru the cruise line website, but every agency has commissions that can be turned into onboard credit.

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15 minutes ago, cruisingrob21 said:

Yes and no...if you want to create your own agency you can go that way and register with princess, but I'm not sure how hard or easy that is.

 

We honestly tried looking into this and it seemed like an impenetrable circle.  Princess seems to require you to have an "ARC/IATAN certificate, CLIA certificate, TICO certificate, or TIDS certificate".  When we looked into each one of those, they seemed to require that you already be an experienced travel agent or have a letter of recommendation from a major carrier.  So if you can't make bookings without one of those certificates and can't get one of those certificates without already being a travel agent, I'm unclear on how anybody gets started.

 

1 hour ago, Ombud said:

If the PVP did not set it up, contact Diana Hall at grouponboardservices@princesscruises.com to reserve an extra room for your private group 'meet & greet' in addition to the wedding / reception. Its a simple email. Ppl may or may not show up but IMHO it's a nice touch

 

Thanks for the tip!

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