Originally Posted by cruise planner
Think of it this way, if you have a problem and booked with the cruise line, who do you think they represent? If you book with an agent and have any problems, they represent you and they have contact information not available to you, so they can often get things taken care of quicker and easier, not to mention with a whole lot less hassle and worry for you. Not only that, but if you are considering more than one cruise line, then you have to contact each of them and do all the research and comparisons yourself - lots of work and lots of misunderstanding.
There was a report put out that when booking directly through the cruise line or an online agency that stated more than 95% of the time you're talking to someone who; 1) works in a call center, 2) is not a certified travel agent, 3) has worked for the company for less than 6 months, and 4) has never been on a cruise or to any of the ports of call. So their sole purpose is to sell you something.
An agent is not there to sell you anything. Their job is to provide you with as much information as you need so you can make an informed decision on what's right for you based on your requirements, lifestyle, and budget.
As for the price and incentives, anything offered by the cruise line will be offered by the agent and sometimes more. Plus, should the price go down on your cruise, do you really expect the cruise line to contact you to let you know about it?
Bottom line is that when you're working with an agent, you're usually working with a small business person who work hard to make sure you have a good experience because they want your repeat business as well as your referrals. Large business is more interested in dealing with quantity, not quality.
As for shore excursions, I'm definitely not a proponent of excursions offered through the cruise line. Often they are more expensive, more regimented, and more crowded. We much prefer independent companies, like Shore Trips. While the price may be the same, it's always alot more fun, alot less regimented, and much less crowded. We've been dealing with them for years and have sold thousands of excursions through them with no problems. There are several other very competent companies available from which to choose; all much better than what the cruise lines offer.