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Booking direct vs Travel Agent


Danides
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I've always booked directly with the cruise line but am curious about those who use travel agents, what are the advantages? Did you get a better deal moneywise? Extra perks? Upgrades? I have seen some comments about this topic before but not from Canadians. I usually try to compare and never seen advantages. I always go back to the cruise line website after I book (before final payment) and have been mostly successful in having a better deal (just need to call the cruise line and they adjust the price). Would a TA go through that trouble?  I will soon book a cruise once I get my FCC from NCL and was wondering if I should go through a TA or do as usual. Thanks

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I do my own reservation online when booking a Princess cruise however, in some cases I have used Princess Cruise Planner and she was able to reduce our deposit by half. I have never used a private Travel Agent.  One thing to watch for is that cruise prices do come down and if that the case, I just call Princess 1-800 and they adjust our cruise price.  I have in the past used Princess chat line and have been very successful with any question I may have or changes. I cancel my cruise 2 weeks ago through the chat line and within days I received my deposit (credit card). 

Edited by DHP1
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Over the years, I've booked directly with cruise lines and left the booking there; I've booked directly with cruise lines and transferred the booking to a TA; and I've booked directly with a TA. After learning the ropes with our first few cruises, I've found myself quite happy doing all the research myself and using the cruise line or TA simply as a tool to make and manage the booking. I don't expect my TA to jump on a price drop and make the necessary adjustment automatically, but I do expect the TA to do so when I notice it and let the TA know. And I've done that a number of times without any difficulty.

 

Ever since the big box store opened its travel arm in Canada, I have used it it for all of our bookings. At the time that they announced their opening, we had decided on a 14-night cruise with Celebrity. The Canada-wide travel agency with whom we were dealing at the time offered no price incentive to book with them, but would give us their usual perk of bottle of wine, usually the cheapest on Celebrity's wine list. On the other hand, the big box store  was offering a $500 cash card, in addition to which we would receive a 2% refund as part of our annual cash back. I total, that worked out to just over a 9% saving versus a cheap bottle of wine! Typically, my savings run in the 8-10% range.

 

To date, we have booked, cancelled and modified cruises with no problems using the BBS TA. While you don't get the same agent every time you call, I've yet to come across one who was unable to help me to my satisfaction. While it sometimes necessitates being placed on hold while they contact the cruise line, they have also at times offered to call me back if they knew that the wait time would be excessive.

 

As I said before, when I contact my TA, I generally know in advance exactly what I want, so I don't know how the agents might be working with a newbie cruiser or someone who simply doesn't have the time, interest or experience to do the planning themself.  Based on my interactions, they seem very knowledgable, but I've never really tested them. 

 

The BBS's TA website will let you get a good idea of both the pricing (usually the same as the cruise lines') and the perks. You can decide whether or not it's worthwhile booking through them, but you can always try and revert to booking yourself in future if you aren't satisfied.

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Our TA has been doing it for a 40 years she knows all the tricks 

she was only TA that was able to L&S the Reflection TA in 2021 to the Apex TA in 2022 , even if you book with Celebrity they wouldn’t let you L&S 

Her group prices are just as good as the big box store 

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Historically I've done all the research and planning and mostly do it online myself, I enjoy that part of the trip.  I may or may not get all the hidden perks a TA or cruise line rep might be aware of, but to be honest have never really had an issue regardless.  We've tried a couple of local TA's, but in both cases keeping a clear and timely line of communication with them was horrible and we were just another number.  I've had a couple of cruise line agents who were very helpful and went the extra mile to get us every deal they could.  One actually placed us on a watch list and if the price of our cruise went down or extra perks were offered would automatically give them to us.  But she was the exception, not the rule.  During these times I would encourage anyone to get a reputable local TA or cruise agent to help guide you, alert you, and take care of you with all the changes to rules and regulations.  As airbalancer stated you get one who knows the tricks and has the experience is priceless right now.  

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We have always used a Travel Agent and our personal experience is that she has consistently responded quickly to our requests, worked on our behalf with the cruise line especially during Covid cancellations and rebookings, etc.  Sometimes, we are offered complimentary gratuities or other promotions but, that is not the reason we use her.  She is extremely experienced and quickly passes on required country information (distance to port, visas, recommended sights to see, transfers, insurance etc.) and we always check what her wholesaler can provide for airline fares.  We do all of our own research (enjoy this part) for  cruise selection, independent shore excursions however, we welcome all expert advice on new destinations. When we do book another cruise while onboard (best value), we have the booking transferred to our TA and she takes care of the booking from then on. If you do have a problem or issue pre cruise or, during your cruise, we think it is best to have someone advocate on your behalf that knows the business.

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4 hours ago, Danides said:

I've always booked directly with the cruise line but am curious about those who use travel agents, what are the advantages? Did you get a better deal moneywise? Extra perks? Upgrades? I have seen some comments about this topic before but not from Canadians. I usually try to compare and never seen advantages. I always go back to the cruise line website after I book (before final payment) and have been mostly successful in having a better deal (just need to call the cruise line and they adjust the price). Would a TA go through that trouble? 

 

If you have a preferred cruise line you always go with or a couple then that is easy to do.  If you are not, the travel agent has the advantage they are doing that all day long and are getting feedback from past customers on who is good and who is not.   

 

The TA access the cruise product through a different sales channel that the website so they do that at a different price.  If that is better or worse than going direct is going be different from case to case.  

 

I have usually done NCL and booked directly.  However I have also used TA on my first ever cruise and likely would use them again once all the COVID stuff is over in the TA would have a better view of what the new landscape looks like.   

 

 

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As others here, I have done both direct cruise line reservation and through a TA. Although I do a lot of research on my end, my TA is great and does give us additional information that I may have not thought of. However, for my past 2 cruises we had to cancel due to COVID, I would say that maybe next time I would go through the cruise line directly instead of my TA...

 

My TA was encouraged by the regional representative of NCL to go direct to the cruise line agents instead of going through the usual brokers which she did for the first time with our cruise (2 families). She had a few issues I won't list here going through Norwegian reps. Other than errors, they were rude with her and were not cooperating; they even said that one issue was her fault which was not (long story). She said that it was the worst customer service she's ever had and would be the last time she would do business directly with them.

 

Based on this experience with NCL from my TA, I tend to think I might (and I say might without certainty) have been able to have a better service with NCL reps and maybe be able to get a full refund due to COVID; but this I'll never know. Otherwise, I might go through my TA again but she would go through her broker instead.

 

All in all, there's no real gain, price wise, between a TA or direct to the cruise line; unless you use the ***** or other type of larger scale cruise reservation sites (never used them but did request a few quotes). However, in these times of COVID I prefer to have my TA spend 3-4 hours on the line to speak to someone at NCL instead of me 😉

 

Take care!

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I always do my own research first comparing the big box store pricing with the cruise line pricing fir same cruise.  Often they are same price but I can get an additional gift card of ~$300 for booking that cruise with BBS.  This time the cruise line was cheaper so I called BBS and they called Celebrity and the price celebrity was offering was due to a group price and they said BBS could give me that price.  So I got the best price plus the $330 gift card for BBS to be used after cruise.  Other than wait time on the phone, I’ve been pleased using Big Box store TAs to get what I need.  

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17 hours ago, Airbalancer said:

Our TA has been doing it for a 40 years she knows all the tricks 

she was only TA that was able to L&S the Reflection TA in 2021 to the Apex TA in 2022 , even if you book with Celebrity they wouldn’t let you L&S 

Her group prices are just as good as the big box store 

Is your TA local or out of town?  If local are they near the train station, mall, or home plate?  I'm in Cobourg too and would maybe use them in the future.  We had issues with the one near the train station.

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2 hours ago, ALD18 said:

Is your TA local or out of town?  If local are they near the train station, mall, or home plate?  I'm in Cobourg too and would maybe use them in the future.  We had issues with the one near the train station.

She in The GTA now , 

she was a spouse to the person use to own York Super Pharmacy 😉

she has book over 80 cabins on the Apex TA , and has customers all over Canada and US 

If you been Cobourg for awhile , you would have know my wife store from a number of years ago Adventure in Chocolate 

you can send me an email to mlkozlowski@gmail.com if you want her info 

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We first used a TA but they were so inept that we then took over our own destiny.  Over the years we did get a recommendation of one TA that handle cruises.  So we started using her and we are very happy.  She has enough clout to push for her clients to get issues resolved with RCI.  Plus with the group rates it makes it advantageous to use her.  Having her having to deal with all the FCCs, cancellations, L&Ss, refunds, credits and everything in between is priceless.

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I concede my acronym dictionary is limited but growing, but what is a L&S?  Sorry, tried to decipher but failed miserably to figure that one out🤔

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I didnt have much luck getting price adjustments with the TA associated with my  credit card , so i book direct with RCCL  now.

I find a cruise i like and call them direct.

If i see i price drop RC is responsive and handles it right away.

As you can see by the other posters , some have found good TA`s , so you need to research if thats what you want to do.

 

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1 hour ago, ALD18 said:

I concede my acronym dictionary is limited but growing, but what is a L&S?  Sorry, tried to decipher but failed miserably to figure that one out🤔

Lift & Shift.

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1 hour ago, ALD18 said:

I concede my acronym dictionary is limited but growing, but what is a L&S?  Sorry, tried to decipher but failed miserably to figure that one out🤔

Lift & Shift. This was a program whereby Celebrity allowed you rebook a similar cruise up to a year later for the same price and with the same perks, if Celebrity cancelled a cruise. So our cancelled March 2021 cruise we Lifted & Shifted to the same cruise in March 2022. As prices had gone way up and AI introduced, it was a great deal for us. Until we cancelled due to Omicron. :classic_sad:

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I used to have a travel agent but I got frustrated because other then booking flights or other things, I didn't really get a lot more information.

 

I like to plan and I found I was doing a lot of work to make sure my vacation was successful.

 

So for example I used a travel agent to book my first cruise in March of 2018. She booked our cruise and a hotel before and after our cruise.

 

I still had to book a shuttle to and from airport to hotel. I had to buy tickets to the Kennedy Space Center. I had to look up piles of info about our cruise, including how the drink package worked (it was not a good deal), how to check in. We also had probably the worse cabin ever. It was on Deck 2, forward. There was grinding/thumping sounds every night and because the ship was full we were stuck 😞

 

In March of 2020 when I had to cancel our California Trip I was happy that she dealt with cancelling the flights, but now most companies have gotten way better at CS.

 

I just cancelled my March Break trip and just went online and filled out a form. I got an email confirmation 24 hours later.

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We have purchased most of our cruises from our former (she retired) on line TA in the US.

 

We do not even bother with the cruise line or worse, the some  cruise line web sites.

 

There are three things we like about a TA vs booking with the cruise line.

 

-our TA would give us a discount in the form of OBC's (on board credits)

 

-our TA would sometimes tell us of better offers on similar dates, ships, cruiselines  than the one were intended to book.   On more than one occasion when booking inside the final payment window she advised us to wait a until the following week to book....and she was right!

 

- She would give us impartial feedback. We called to book one cruise a few years ago and she told us the recent feedback on the ship from her agency customers was poor service and some cabin areas that had experienced no A/C and/ or water leaks for days on end.

 

A cruise line CSR would never have provided any of this information.

 

 

Edited by iancal
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I've shopped around every time -- with the cruise lines and with ****co Travel in both Canada and the US.  And then I've placed a request with a

competitive bidding website based in the US, in which competing travel agencies bid on the request (in USD), just to see how the bids compare to the established quotes. Without exception, I've ended up booking through competitive bidding (in USD), because the 'winning' bids' savings or financial perks end up in the range of 15 - 30% (and once ~40%!) of the value of the cruise.   BTW, when agencies bid, the requester has no obligation at all to purchase -- it's not like eBay.  And the requester remains anonymous until they transact with the selected TA bidder. 

 

 

Edited by lots-of-km2
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30 minutes ago, lots-of-km2 said:

I've shopped around every time -- with the cruise lines and with ****co Travel in both Canada and the US.  And then I've placed a request with a

competitive bidding website based in the US, in which competing travel agencies bid on the request (in USD), just to see how the bids compare to the established quotes. Without exception, I've ended up booking through competitive bidding (in USD), because the 'winning' bids' savings or financial perks end up in the range of 15 - 30% (and once ~40%!) of the value of the cruise.   BTW, when agencies bid, the requester has no obligation at all to purchase -- it's not like eBay.  And the requester remains anonymous until they transact with the selected TA bidder. 

 

 

We do the same to check on our TA's pricing.  

 

What we found  that there were always a few low ball quotes from the same agency or person that we 'not so low' when we actually called.  But....it was booking through a response on this bidding site that we found our former TA whom we dealt with for a long time.

 

There was only one time that a Canadian TA was able to give us a better price.  It also helped that we had a credit card that did not add the usual 2.5-3 percent to the exchange rate.

Edited by iancal
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11 minutes ago, iancal said:

What we found  that there were always a few low ball quotes from the same agency or person that we 'not so low' when we actually called. 

 

Haven't encountered bait-and-switch tactics yet, but some quoting agencies do choose to ignore the details of the request, and won't provide clarifications. They do this repeatedly.  I can't turn off their bids, but I will never, ever transact with them.  The vast majority of quoting agencies seem to be on the level, and most of my purchases have been with one company.  Haven't settled in with one TA though.  

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We have used the same local TA for almost 20 years now.  I do most of the research, but I book thru her so she has to deal with the cruiseline. 
 

With covid, I am SO glad she has to deal and not me.  We've booked & cancelled a number of cruises the past 2 years, and are currently in the middle of rebooking our January Princess departure under their rebook offer.  She is earning her commission on this one with the time its taking Princess to process it.  
 

We get some OBC from her, and she makes the commission instead of the cruiseline keeping it.  She is always one email away, and I never feel like I don't have "control".   
 

I could likely save a few bucks if I shopped around (including big box TA's) but the past 2 years have shown how easy it is for me to deal only with my TA.  One email and our changes are made.  I haven't had to sit on hold with anyone for any amount of time.  Having to do that would drive me nuts!

 

 

Edited by CruisinFinsUp
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One point to consider:  the cruiselines, and yes other aspects of the travel industry, laid off many/most of their experienced staff.  They have rehired, but often with much less experienced staff.  So comparing pre-Covid experiences with today's situation may not be the same. 

 

Our wonderful TA is unique, in that you must be referred and she only deals with clients who are a good match.  She has put together incredible pre-, post- and middle of cruise, land excursions for us that I doubt you could find to do yourself.  Her access to business class airfares is phenomenal.  She regularly meets with cruiseline officials to ensure they know her valued clients will be onboard, and you can surmise what that means.  Her years of experience equate to a vast corporate history, and her colleagues are now found around the world.   I could go on.  The important takeaway is that all TAs are the same, and certainly not comparable to the cruiselines' staff agents - they are not "travel" agents but "cruise" agents.

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