For those of you who enjoy researching your own travel and only use a TA to "broker" the deal, there is an extremely easy way to get around this new policy by becoming your own travel agent. I did it about 2 years ago when I had fantasies of quitting my job and selling cruises for a living. I discovered that becoming a TA is extremely easy (it took me less than 24 hours and only $75), but finding customers is very difficult. I gave up after only a few weeks, but I still book vacations for my family and friends at huge discounts.
Here how it works:
You need to find a host agency that is willing to work with you. The host agency is a reputable travel agency that has established relationships with the various cruiselines as well as the proper travel industry credentials (CLIA, ATA, etc.). Basically, you will be working as an independent contractor for this agency in return for a share of the commission. Most host agencies will pay you between 60% and 80% of the total commission earned on any travel you book.
You can find host agencies by searching the terms "host agency travel" on google.com. Here's what to look for in a good host agency:
1) Low cost to sign up: There are alot of scam agencies out there that will try and charge you large amounts for things like courses, materials, insurance, etc. A good agency should cost very little. Mine only charged a total of $75 to add me to there liability insurance (since they assumed I would be selling to the general public).
2) Industry credentials - Make sure the agency you select has reputable industry credentials such as CLIA and ATA certifications.
3) Established with cruiselines - Pick an agency that has a good relationship with the cruiselines and a high enough volume to earn a high commission rate. The agency I use earns commissions of between 16% and 18% with all the major cruiselines.
4) High commission sharing - Agencies typically will pay you between 60% and 80% of the total commissions on any travel you book. Choose an agency willing to share the highest commission percentage so that you will keep more of the total commissions paid by the cruiseline. My agency pays me 80% of the total commission. So if I book a cruise with a commission of 18%, the agency keeps 20% and pays me 80% of that commission, so in effect I will net a commission of about 14.5% of the total cruise fare.
5) Willing to work with beginners - Some agencies will only accept experienced travel agents, whereas others will work with people with little or no experience (I had none).
6) Beware of affiliate programs - There are alot of online agencies offering affiliate programs where they will pay you a commission to refer people to there website. THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING! These affiliate programs generally pay a very low commission and only allow you to earn commissions from a limited selection of travel choices offered on their website. A true host agency will pay you between 60% and 80% of the total commission and will allow you to book ANY travel (hotels, airfare, cruises, land tours, etc.).
Once you select a host agency and they accept you as their independent contractor, you are ready to go. From the time I first started the research on becoming a travel agent to the time I earned my first commission was less than 24 hours! It really is that easy and has alot of benefits including:
1) You will earn commission not only on cruises, but all commissionable travel including hotels, car rentals, land tours, travel insurance (commissions on travel insurance range between 20% and 40% depending on the insurance company, so being your own travel agent can greatly save you on travel insurance costs).
2) You will receive advance notice of any sales or special sailings, as well as "travel agent" only promotional rates and special events.
3) Since you are the travel agent, you can speak directly to the cruiseline without being told to "have your travel agent call".
Like I said above, my dreams of selling travel for a living quickly died when I realized how difficult it was to attract customers, but I still save LOTS by booking my own travel and keeping 80% of the commissions for myself. And this is something that the cruiselines can't take away from me since they can't stop me from "self-discounting" my own fare!
This definitely isn't a good idea for the novice cruiser or anybody who likes to consult a travel professional prior to making vacation plans, but for those of you who don't mind doing the research and planning yourself, I would highly recommend it.