I wasn't saying don't book with an agency who is brick & mortar and also has an online presence. And yes, I have a website, also. But I much prefer people to call me so we can take care of business on the phone. I don't like doing business through my website - too impersonal.
What I meant to say is don't book with a company that is solely/mainly online. These types of companies want you to book online and don't want to deal with you on the phone or in person, so it becomes a very impersonal service. Alot of these companies don't even bother to put their mailing address on their website or any personal information about themselves or their business. Definitely a distinct difference between them and a reputable agent for sure. They want your money; a good agent wants your business.
When you call these online sites, you're dealing with someone who is not a certified travel agent, works in a call center, has worked there less than 6 months, and has never been on a cruise or to any of the ports. They are only there to sell you something, not to provide service. And their assistance in time of need can be nonexistent. It's when you really need help that you understand the importance of a good agent, especially if you problems with the cruise line. A reputable agent can be worth their weight in gold in situations like that!
As for your cruise, the information the agent provided is not right. While they can put a complimentary hold on your cabin for up to a week without any money and the deposit is $250, final payment is not due December 1, 2014. Don't know why they're requesting final payment two weeks earlier, but that's another red flag being sent up and another reason to be careful with a company like that. Also, if they're going to charge your credit card instead of the cruise line charging your credit card, I would definitely be running the other way.
Also, I would be asking about any fees they charge, such as a fee if you cancel prior the final payment due date or a fee if you have to change anything. There should be no fees for either of these. I know one company in particular that we've heard alot of complaints about because they don't tell you they have any fees. You have to read it in their fine print and you don't find out about them until you make a change and then it's "surprise!"
But as for booking now or waiting, I always suggest booking as soon as possible. Save up the money for the deposit and then book it. Right now may be the cheapest rate ever offered for this cruise and prices could continue to go up. So if you wait, you may pay more. Plus, you have the best choices of cabins by booking early, whereas later your choices may be limited, especially if you want a certain type of cabin. And if the prices go down, your agent can get the rates lowered provided final payment has not yet been made. There are alot of benefits to booking early and no good benefit to waiting.
Let us know if you have any questions about all this.