"The rate that I got online, direct and through AAA was the same rate."
I haven't the slightest idea what you are talking about. Sometimes, especially on very popular itineraries the rate the cruise line gives you is the same as your storefront travel agent, but seldom the same as the online agencies I've mentioned in previous post. The operative word here is "seldom" not NEVER.
When you speak of online be more specific. What online site, what ship, what dates. Your example is purely anecdotal.
I have listed some rates on icruise.com just pulled down:
6/7 $772.15 Outside Large any deck!
6/14 $732.15 Inside Large
6/21 $679.15 Inside Large - $846.15 Outside Large
These were taken directly from the icruise.com site and INCLUDE ALL PORT CHARGES AND GOVERNMENT FEES. These don't include any Mariner discounts as I don't know whether or not the original poster is a past cruiser with HAL.
I'm well aware that storefront agencies pay their fixed costs from
their commissions (GAWD !! this is Business 101). The online agencies experience much smaller fixed costs and can therefore all other things being equal sell at a lower price. Some online agencies purchase huge blocks of cabins and frequently sell them below the cruiselines quoted price to get rid of them.
Wouldn't think of using AAA, but others do. I stick with icruise, bestpricecruises, crucon, cruisesonly, and cruisequick. Most of these online agencies are aimed at the experienced cruiser that knows what cruiseline, what ship, what itinerary they want and don't need their hand held or a free cup of coffee.
You'll find my opinion about this issue is almost universally held by the posters of all cruise lines that use this board as well as cruise critic.