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Cruise Agencies Go Bust- So Do Other Businesses – Protection is Available

Written by: Kuki

Earlier this month travel agencies Cruise Value Center, and affiliate Cruises of Distinction ceased operations, leaving thousands of people who thought they had booked, and in some cases who had made final payments on future cruises, stuck, ready to pack their bags, with no actual cruises booked. Sadly, many were left literally “holding the bag”, with millions of dollars of their money entangled in fraudulent actions by the travel agencies involved.
In reaction we’ve seen many cruisers posting on the message boards that they plan to end their relationships with travel agencies, booking directly with the cruise lines instead, to insure the security of their cruise bookings. On the surface, with a tertiary look, this seems to be a reasonable response; a means of giving yourself peace of mind in regard to taking care of your vacation in uncertain economic times.
However, in most cases these actions also ensure you’ll pay a higher price for that peace of mind. If you’re willing to pay extra for that security and peace of mind, by all means do so! But know there are ways to have that peace of mind about your cruise vacation, and yet still save $$$.

1. Pay With a Credit Card – pay both the initial deposit, and your final payments with a credit card.

- paying with a credit card offers protection between the customer and the retailer (in every circumstance)

- be certain your credit card payment is billed directly to the account of the cruise line. You can check this with online access to your credit card account.

2. Assuming you’ve followed Step #1, within 24 hrs. the travel agent should send you your cruise line booking reservation code (either by mail or email).

- you can then verify your booking confirmation on the cruise line’s web site.

The two simple steps above are all that is required to allow you to feel safe, knowing your booking is officially on the cruise line’s books.

Don’t Do It Under Any Circumstances
Regardless of circumstances, DO NOT make any cruise purchase by writing a check, or by handing over cash dollars. If you do not have a credit card to use, make your deposits, or final payments by using a money order, or bank draft, or even Traveler’s Checks, made out in the name of the Cruise Line you are booking with. This will eliminate any opportunity for the travel agency to “float” your funds (even for a short time), before passing your payments on to the cruise line.
These basic steps hold true when making any major purchases that aren’t purchased directly from the supplier/manufacturer.

For example, if you use a credit card to purchase a home appliance, and while you’re waiting for delivery the retailer closes it’s doors, having paid by credit card, the credit card company protects your purchase price should the retailer be unable to deliver the appliance. The Credit Card Company becomes your advocate and your protection.

And advocacy on your behalf is what I believe is a major component of a good travel agent’s job. Anyone can sell us a cruise. It’s what actions follow that separate the good agents from those who just happen to be working at that job.

The majority of those working for the cruise lines booking centers know very little about their products, having sailed on few, if any, of the line’s products. There’s no minimum training required of them, as there is for those who earn the CLIA designations of Cruise Councillor, or better yet Master Cruise Councillor.

Booking directly with a representative of the cruise line may make you feel more secure in your booking, but the simple fact is they work for the cruise line! So, while booking with them, you’re not only going to be paying the “blue book price”, if something goes wrong during your cruise, you return, with no advocate (other than yourself), to carry your issues to the cruise line.

 

Booking with a less illusive than you think GREAT travel agent, will almost certainly save you money on the cost of the cruise, or at the very least earn you an Onboard Credit (for shipboard spending)… and if the situation arises that warrants advocacy on your part, your travel agent is there to work for you.

But, no matter who you chose to trust to handle your cruise bookings, it’s imperative to follow steps 1. And 2, which I described above, but which are so important I’ll repeat them

1. Pay With a Credit Card – pay both the initial deposit, and your final payments with a credit card.
- paying with a credit card offers protection between the customer and the retailer (in every circumstance)
- be certain your credit card payment is billed directly to the account of the cruise line. You can check this with online access to your credit card account.

2. Assuming you’ve followed Step #1, within 24 hrs. the travel agent should send you your cruise line booking reservation code (either by mail or email), and NOT their own agency confirmation number!!

- you can then verify your booking confirmation on the cruise line’s web site. And you should do so as soon as possible.

For whatever reason there are those people who want to make partial payments against their cruise accounts along the way. Rather than put any of that money at any risk, I highly recommend you make those payments directly into a separate cruise savings account at a bank, where you’ll earn at least some interest. And when your final payments are due, make those payments on your credit card, and withdraw the funds from that cruise savings account and pay off the balance of your credit card.

You may feel better giving it to the cruise lines, knowing you are slowly owing them less, but there’s no benefits (and some dangers) allowing them to earn interest on your monies, rather than collecting it for yourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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