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How to find a good travel agent?


mdmc
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I hear use a travel agent. I have used 3 different ones but did not see an advantage. I just contacted another one ( who was highly recommend) and was told if I didn’t know the exact date and exact cruise line I would be charged for his time. Is this normal? Just wondering what the advantage is if I’m doing all the work. 

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On 7/9/2024 at 3:21 PM, mdmc said:

I hear use a travel agent. I have used 3 different ones but did not see an advantage. I just contacted another one ( who was highly recommend) and was told if I didn’t know the exact date and exact cruise line I would be charged for his time. Is this normal? Just wondering what the advantage is if I’m doing all the work. 

 

Perhaps something in the following oldie but goody Cruise Critic articles will be helpful:

  1. Finding a Cruise Travel Agent
  2. Cruise Travel Agent vs. Online Booking
  1. Secret Agent Deals: How to Find Prices Cruise Lines Don't Offer
  2.  

Please remember no one can recommend or even hint the name of any TA, cruise line "personal cruise consultant" or any other venue by which you purchase a cruise on our message boards. For all the details see the Travel Agent Recommendations and Advertising is Not Allowed sections in the Guidelines we all agreed to follow when registering for our free Cruise Critic memberships.

 

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35 minutes ago, mdmc said:

I hear use a travel agent. I have used 3 different ones but did not see an advantage. I just contacted another one ( who was highly recommend) and was told if I didn’t know the exact date and exact cruise line I would be charged for his time. Is this normal? Just wondering what the advantage is if I’m doing all the work. 

I have booked 80 cruises many with cruise line others with travel agency , never heard of being charged for there time , definitely find another agent and don’t ask the people who recommend him. 

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When I first started using a travel agent, they would charge me a deposit for their time. As long as I booked with them, that deposit was applied to the costs. My guess is the TA you contacted didn't want to waste their time doing all of the research for you, and then you telling them to pound sand. But, I don't have an issue with a TA asking for a fee, and then applying that fee to the fare once you book through them.

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1 hour ago, 1025cruise said:

When I first started using a travel agent, they would charge me a deposit for their time. As long as I booked with them, that deposit was applied to the costs. My guess is the TA you contacted didn't want to waste their time doing all of the research for you, and then you telling them to pound sand. But, I don't have an issue with a TA asking for a fee, and then applying that fee to the fare once you book through them.

Whatever works and it's an individual decision, I guess.  But in 32 years of cruising and using several different TA's over that time I have never heard of that practice nor would I agree to it.  I have heard of them charging fees not charged by the cruise lines for modifying or canceling a cruise.  But I would not agree to that or do business with them either.  JMO

 

As to finding a good one, most cruise lines will refer you to one if you ask.

Edited by leaveitallbehind
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41 minutes ago, leaveitallbehind said:

Whatever works and it's an individual decision, I guess.  But in 32 years of cruising and using several different TA's over that time I have never heard of that practice nor would I agree to it.  I have heard of them charging fees not charged by the cruise lines for modifying or canceling a cruise.  But I would not agree to that or do business with them either.  JMO

 

As to finding a good one, most cruise lines will refer you to one if you ask.

I wouldn't use a TA that charged me a fee to book a cruise. But, I have no objection to paying someone for their time. In my case, the fee was in place so if I didn't book with the TA, and they did all the work, they were recompensed for their time. As long as I booked with them, the fee was applied as payment to the trip, so no additional charge. 

So, in the case of the OP, I'd want more details. Was the request for a payment a deposit to assure that they wouldn't "dine and dash", similar to my scenario, or an additional fee?

 

I'm at the point that I just book direct and bypass a TA. 

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Nobody has actually answered your "How do I Find a TA" question.  The basic answer is by word-of-mouth from friends who travel a lot or whom you meet on the ship.  You ay go through several bad ones before you find a good one.  When you find a good one stick w them and do not use them to do TA shopping.

 

We found ours from a friend who does a lot of traveling and who recommended the one that they use.  We stuck w him for years until he died.  His daughter took over the business and we continue to use her.  She has saved our trips several times.  Could I maybe get a better cruise price or more perks - maybe.  Has she ever given us bad crtuise suggestions - no because she knows us,  Could I get the service that she gives us - I seriously doubt it.

 

DON

 

 

Edited by donaldsc
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We have been using cruise/travel agents for our 50+ years of travel.  The agencies/agents we use pay us...we do not pay them.  When we book a cruise, we generally get 7-10% back in the form of On-Board Credit or even a cash rebate!  Since we do a lot of cruising, we save thousands of dollars a year by simply shopping for the best deal among our favored group of reputable cruise agencies.

 

As to how to find decent agents/agencies, the best way is to simply socialize and talk to other cruisers (usually on cruises).  Over the decades we have learned a lot about the industry, travel agents, airlines, and travel, by simply socializing at cruise ship bars, sharing dinner tables with other cruisers, etc.  Some of our best trips (all over the world) have happened because of ideas we got from chatting with other cruisers.

 

My favorite cruise agents (one has been in the business over 30 years and the other about 10 years) are happy to help folks, but time is money, and they prefer customers who really book cruises and do not take-up too much of their time.  I am talking about high volume agents who may handle dozens of booking a day!  These agents have professional designations such as Master Cruise Counselor (MCC) that come from lots of experience and continuing ed from various professional organizations (such as CLIA).  

 

Hank

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All great responses, but I think that many will find that the trend to charge fees is an emerging trend.

 

The trend is emerging because there are many things - air especially - that is either not commissioned, or a very low commission.  If there are problems then the TA can be on hold with airlines for hours to work this out.

 

I am ok with the TA that charges a fee for research but will rebate when you decide to book.

 

I have been in sales my entire career and it does not matter the industry, there are a lot of tire kickers out there that will waste your time and never follow through.

 

To answer the OP's question however here is my finding...

 

Most cruise lines have a education program for their Travel Advisors and the TA's can become 

"Certified" in the cruise line product.  These TA's are often then listed on the cruise line web site as experts in the cruise line product.

 

We wanted to go to Antarctica and this was a big deal to us (we book our own cruises) and so we decided that we wanted someone that knew the cruise line and the destination.  We found this TA on the cruise website, and were extremely pleased with her knowledge and what she did for us.

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Why not ask Senior Managers on Cruise Ships?

We deal with many travel agents every day of the week.

Many are absolute freaks who know nothing about cruising and should not even be allowed to cruise.

Some are wonderful. They seem to know more about our ships than we do.

I cannot recommend the great ones here, but I do often give names to Guests who sail with me.

It doesn’t matter where they are located. Everything can be done through emails.

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1 hour ago, Donald said:

Why not ask Senior Managers on Cruise Ships?

We deal with many travel agents every day of the week.

Many are absolute freaks who know nothing about cruising and should not even be allowed to cruise.

Some are wonderful. They seem to know more about our ships than we do.

I cannot recommend the great ones here, but I do often give names to Guests who sail with me.

It doesn’t matter where they are located. Everything can be done through emails.

Just one addition to your statement. Everything can be done through e-mails OR THROUGH THE TELEPHONE.

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4 hours ago, CDNPolar said:

All great responses, but I think that many will find that the trend to charge fees is an emerging trend.

 

The trend is emerging because there are many things - air especially - that is either not commissioned, or a very low commission.  If there are problems then the TA can be on hold with airlines for hours to work this out.

 

I am ok with the TA that charges a fee for research but will rebate when you decide to book.

 

I have been in sales my entire career and it does not matter the industry, there are a lot of tire kickers out there that will waste your time and never follow through.

 

To answer the OP's question however here is my finding...

 

Most cruise lines have a education program for their Travel Advisors and the TA's can become 

"Certified" in the cruise line product.  These TA's are often then listed on the cruise line web site as experts in the cruise line product.

 

We wanted to go to Antarctica and this was a big deal to us (we book our own cruises) and so we decided that we wanted someone that knew the cruise line and the destination.  We found this TA on the cruise website, and were extremely pleased with her knowledge and what she did for us.

Cruise lines actually pay decent commissions, overrides, and even bonuses.  Many cruise/travel agencies are also part of major "consortiums" such as Signature, which represent hundreds/thousands of agencies, have lots of clout, and also get their members some additional perks.  

 

As to Certifications, there are quite a few different options within the travel/cruise industry.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has several continuing ed deignations including CCC, ACC, MCC, and ECC.  Of these, those with MCC and ECC have an awful lot of knowledge and training.  You also have other travel certifications including the coveted CTA (Certified Travel Associate) issued by the Travel Institute.  None of these are run by the various cruise lines.  Some cruise lines do have internal designations for agencies (Oceania is a good example) but whether this is real continuing ed or more of a marketing scheme is open to debate.  

 

The reality is that the cruise lines really do their best to entice cruise/travel agencies to handle bookings.  Two major mass market lines have told me (I talked to their reps) that approximately 80% of their bookings came from outside agencies.  Although the cruise lines must pay generous commissions to these agencies, they benefit by not having to handle the additional volume in-house...which is very expensive.

 

I might mention that once upon a time, one cruise line (Renaissance Cruises) thought they could operate their company without the help of outside agencies.  They did all their bookings in-house (mostly via the phone and some Internet).  That company only lasted about 12 years (during which they had one major change of ownership) and went bankrupt shortly after the downturn caused by the Gulf War.  Despite having 8 fine (and identical) ships (R1 - R8) they never did well, financially.  Certainly, trying to go it on their own, without using outside agencies, did contribute to their demise.  The legacy of Renaissance is that their 8 ships are alive and well and with lines like Oceania and Azamara.

 

Hank

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22 hours ago, mdmc said:

I hear use a travel agent. I have used 3 different ones but did not see an advantage. I just contacted another one ( who was highly recommend) and was told if I didn’t know the exact date and exact cruise line I would be charged for his time. Is this normal? Just wondering what the advantage is if I’m doing all the work. 

 

I found our current TA the same way I hired/fired employees. Started off with making a list of what we wanted from a TA. Then wore out shoe leather by interviewing them.

 

Not all TA's provide the same levels of service, so TA's recommended by friends/family may not always meet your needs.

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