You make a strong statement for the "Brick & Mortar" TA. However, in my personal experiences, I could not disagree with you more. I went the conventional TA route for my Horizon cruise a few years back. I used a very large nation wide chain & was told that there would certainly be discounts & upgrades offered by them (the TA) prior to my trip (we paid list Celebrity prices). I was not counting on any of their promised "Perks" but was thinking it would be nice. Not only did we never receive any of the promised perks prior to my trip, but she also ignored my phone calls. We are a family of 3 (8 year old at the time) & she made my air arrangements (through Celebrity). I was beyond shocked to find that when we finally received our documents (3 days prior to leaving) we all had different seats on the airplane. When I asked her to change this, she told me she was unable to do so & that we will have to ask people on the flifgt to switch seats. This was ludicrous! I got home & called Celebrity myself, they resolved the problem immediately.
My next cruise on the Millennium, I did a lot of homework using these boards & other sites. I knew how much I would like to pay & the exact room number I wanted. All the TA had to do was take my reservation. This time I went to a local TA who only booked cruises. His price was $250.00 higher than I had hoped to pay. I really wanted to use a local TA because I like to patronize local businesses. I had a $50.00 captain's club coupon so I figured that with using the coupon I knock off a few dollars & would let the local TA get the business. Boy was I shocked when he refused to honor the coupon. He told me that he does not honor coupons because it cuts into his profit (hard to believe huh?) & he works too hard for my business to cut into his comission. Pretty bold statement that he works hard for my business, especially because I came to him with all of my information, he just had to make a phone call to book it. Well, needless to say we walked out. When I got home I called the agency that I found on line and booked my cruise. They were not only cheaper than the local TA, but they honored my coupon. Furthermore the cruise later became discounted again & they adjusted my price. About 2 weeks prior to my final payment being due I received another coupon which they also honored much to my surprise. This same "Factory" as you call it also booked my Century cruise which I just returned from and honored all Captains Club coupons without question. They have always been very responsive to my inquiries and are very professional.
As far as information, that's exactly what these boards are for. Tell me what TA can tell me if cabin 7173 on the Millennium has an oversized balcony. When I posted this question on the boards last year, I got an immediate response.
Don't get me wrong, there's a place for your local TA, & good for you if you found a good one. I have found my TA & their Brick & Mortar" is as close as my computer.
Just my opinion.