For this type of investment, you really will benefit for using an experienced agent. There is a ship for everyone but not every ship is right for everyone. You have no previous experience on which to base your decision. What many consumers do not understand is that online agencies do not offer significant discounts from regular travel agents. Most cruise lines have level playing field pricing policies these days. Agents, whether they are from a small office or a large online agency, cannot sell a cruise for less than the cruise line nor can they rebate more than a specific percentage of the cruise fare back to the customer in discounts and onboard credit. Every agent on "Cruise Compete" will offer you about the same price. They will throw in free insurance or hotel stays to try to get your business. In most cases these freebies are not what they appear to be. Unless an agent has group space blocked on a particular cruise, any other agent should be able to match the offer. They might be able to match it even if they do not have space. Cruise pricing can change daily like airfares so it may seem that one site has a lower price if you check at a different time. You may also want to read the fine print as often not all fees and taxes are included in the "deals". Pricing depends on the category of room booked as well. It is in your best interest to use a CLIA (cruise line accredited agent) to book your trip. Unlike the home based or Internet based agents, these agents can offer you the benefit of their training and experience. Large numbers of the customer service reps at the big online agencies work in call centers and have never even been on a cruise. Home based agents who paid a few hundred bucks for a start up business are not reliable either as they generally are unaware of all of the ins and outs of booking cruises. When you book online or through an 800 number, you do not establish a relationship with the agent. The job of this person is to close the deal on the first contact with you. If you buy a cruise that is not right for you, who cares, they have their commission and since you do not know them, they do not rely on repeat business. When dealing with a small agency and a live agent, they have a personal vested interest in getting you the best price and also the best cruise to suit your needs. They will also guide you through the entire process should any problems arise. Wouldn't you rather have a name and a direct phone number to a person who knows you by name and knows your details without having to type in a number. To sum up, you should never have to pay more by using a REAL agent than you would booking online or directly through the cruiseline. The person who books it gets the commission. Wouldn't you rather know who that person is instead of giving it to a nameless IP address?