Travel Agent Vs. Cruise. Line Who has the better deal?
Hello Everyone! I have sailed with Carnival and I booked with one of their booking agents. I am planning on taking another cruise in November and I am wondering if I would get a better deal through a travel agent. It seems logical that Carnival would give me a better deal, but it seems like most people book their cruise with an agent. Any suggestions? I truly appreciate your help!
Hello Drawchris, I think most use a TA because you have a middle man to help with disputes,good cabin selections,credits you might recieve,pricebreaks,and avoiding pitfalls. Have a great cruise.........MD
It does seem you should get a better deal from the Cruiseline but that is not always the case. A Carnival PVP can do anything for you a travel agent can as far as problem resolution. At times I have gotten the cheapest deal from Carnival using Military or Past Guest discount. Other times the agencys have been able to give a better price. Do your homework and check online prices at Cruisecomplete ,VTG or other reputable websites before you talk to Carnival and then make your decision. I get all the info from the web and then call a real person. Some people book online but I prefer talking to an agent.
Going on my 11th cruise in two weeks. I've sailed with several lines and have used a TA for about 4 of the 11. I will not use a TA again, as they've not been able to get a lower rate for me than I get direct, and when booking direct w/the cruiseline...should the price go down they will refund you the difference. You TA won't call the cruiseline to ask about lower rate/refunds!
Also, if you have a question about the cabin, ship, ports of call, etc ... the cruiseline mans their call centers 24/7...but won't give you info except through your TA who is open regular business hours....not 7 days a week.
The couple of times I've had a less than great experience on a ship, problem w/the cabin or service...I've written the cruiseline's customer complaints/service dept with detailed information and gotten large discounts on future cruises (500.00 pp). No middle man needed.
A lot of general statements seem to be made about TAs, they will only do this, or they won't do that. Each TA is an individual, and what they can and can't or will and won't do is based on the individual TA. Don't lump all TAs into the "TAs won't do this or that" pile, it depends on the TA. If you find a good TA that is an ACC or MCC from CLIA (which you can do a search and find on CLIAs web site), you can find the kind of TA that will get you the best deal and answer all your questions.
Majesty of the Seas - 10/03 & 02/07 & 11/08
Enchantment of the Seas - 10/04 & 10/11
Mariner of the Seas - 10/05
Vision of the Seas - 10/06 & 09/07
Carnival Liberty - 10/07
Adventure of the Seas - 9/08
Ruby Princess - 12/09
Voyager of the Seas - 9/10
Carnival Spirit - 11/10
Oasis of the Seas - 9/13
Personally, I like to do business with a travel agency that only deals in cruises like Cruise Planners out of NC. They check all the possibilities,
and are always looking to get us the best value. Also, many of these
agents have personal experience with the different cruise companies and
ships and itineraries. I have had very good luck with mine getting me the
most for my $$$. Of course, I watch all the offers on the internet as well
and when I see something that may give us a better price - I do not hesitate to contact my TA about it.
I use two biggie cruise only TA's the rate was the same as calling the cruiseline direct however these TA's also add Insurance at no cost.
Also my cruise rate went down and I called the TA and she got me the credit no problem.
__________________ CQ's Cruise Resume
Vision Of The Seas
Independence Of The Seas
Allure Of The Seas
Oasis Of The Seas x3
Liberty Of The Seas x4
Freedom Of The Seas x3
Navigator Of The Seas x2
Explorer Of The Seas x2
Voyager Of The Seas
Enchantment Of The Seas
Rhapsody Of The Seas
Majesty Of The Seas
Monarch Of The Seas
Sovereign Of The Seas
On a Carnival cruise a Travel Agent should ALWAYS be able to beat the cruise line price. The PVP can only sell the cruise for the cruise line price. An agent can discount their commission but cannot advertise this discount unless you contact them directly. They can also add in other perks that the cruise line agent cannot.
If the agent is selling the cruise for the same price as a PVP then you need a different agent.
If the cruise is a Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Azamara cruise then the price will be the same because the agents are not allowed to discount.
__________________ Cruisemates Community Leader/Moderator
"There is a great difference between being well traveled and just having been to many places." ~Me
TA's with major booking engines have the same exact live quotes as the cruise lines. A good TA should always ask if their clients are past passengers, military, teachers, union members, over 55, etc. in order to get the best rate when calling the cruise lines.
If a TA is with a large agency, that agency will have better purchasing and buying power in order to get discounted blocked or group space. The TA then forwards the savings onto the client.
Discounting is allowed on some cruise lines, however, in the cruise line industry, it is frowned upon. Incentives are not, however...(OBC, added amenities, etc.)
Clients receive the value of SERVICE from a TA that a Cruise Line can't offer. You never know which agent you'll get when calling the CL. The fact that you can call your TA whenever you have a question or a problem is very beneficial. It might even be worth a couple of extra dollars if that TA goes the extra mile.
Depending on the agency, the particular blocked or group space, and promotions, rates will differ everywhere you go. One place might be cheaper than another, and then the next time, it might be the other way around. I would focus on finding a good TA that you trust and is an expert in the industry.
A good TA is also available 7 nights and evenings...it's the service they're providing that is what you're looking for. One that will do your online registration for you, and even check regularly for upgrades. They also should honor lower prices if a client has found them elsewhere.
Re: Travel Agent Vs. Cruise. Line Who has the better deal?
Make sure you are comparing apples to apples my TA always explained to me because this is where the communication always break down.
My TA explained to me most average agencies out there always quote TBA or guarantees to the public when my TA always quote cabin assignment because this where the public gets the best values afloat for selecting the cabin they want and the location.
Carnival is the easiest until now because they are leaning to Royal Caribbean and Norwegian to resegment their cabin based on deck and location.
Carnival is book early, get the cabin you want on first come, first serve and prices were based on deck. Until the end of this year, Carnival is using deck and deck location to add the difficulty for the public not to book early to get the best cabin assigned.
My Cruise Planner Certified Cruise Counsellor in Brooklyn did everything from rate monitoring without having me to pick up a phone call.
He did the hand-delivering cruise documents and I was happy about his treatment for everyone.
Think having your Certified Cruise Counsellor on your side if everything goes wrong. Cheap and average agencies cannot match this feat.
Throwing $1,000 investment in the trash to get nothing?
I would not ask him like a surgeon to give me surgery for free? That's insane!!!
You the customer will pay the same price whether you go with a travel agent or directly with a cruise line. Most major lines depend heavily on travel agents to handle their bookings. In fact some lines are slowly starting to do away with call centers and in house reservations. Paying a commission to a travel agent is cheaper than paying for the overhead, hourly wage, commissions and benefits from call center reservation agents. To keep these agents happy, most lines have level playing field pricing policies that give all agents access to any rates available direct from the line. They also prohibit agents from undercutting both the cruiseline's rate and competitor rates. They may not discount a cruise or rebate money back through incentives up to a specific percentage of the fare. This ensures that you will receive virtually the same price no matter where you book.
What the difference will be is the service you receive. When you book through a line directly, you call an 800 number or book on the web site. Either way you deal with a nameless, faceless agent who does not know you or your needs. When you have a problem, you have to call the 800 number, explain the problem, give your booking number every time. You do all the leg work and they make the commission.
When you book with an online agency or big cruise planning agency, you still have the warehouse problem of too many cooks in the kitchen. You still have to relate problems to nameless faceless customer no service reps. I want to make it clear that there are some very knowledgeable and competent persons at these companies, but from my experience a MAJORITY are not. Most have never even taken a cruise. You want to take advice on a $2000 vacation from someone who has never even done it? OK so they offer to throw in cruise insurance or a free hotel? Read the fine print. Some of the insurance is not really what you expect. The restrictions on it makes it almost useless and will usually accomplish about the same thing as the regular cancellation policy from the cruiseline. The free hotels are usually not convenient either and some even have the gall to send you to time shares where they want to you buy in. None of these freebies replace good solid customer service. We as Americans have only one or maybe two vacations a year. You sure you want to trust them to a stranger?
A certified cruise agent (ask if they have their own CLIA card) is the best bet. CLIA is the Cruise Line International Association. A cruise agent working under the card of a CLIA agency may be competent but unless the agent has their OWN card you cannot be certain of their qualifications. All CLIA card holders have taken a minimum number of cruises, booked a minimum number of cabins each year and most of all has completed a specific amount of cruiseline educational credits. You will not pay more for using a CLIA agent, but you will reap the benefits in terms of service and advice. Should a problem arise, they will become your advocate. These agents have a vested interest in you having the best possible vacation because they rely on your repeat business and referrals. You can find out more about CLIA at www.cruising.org
I received my own CLIA card a few years ago but I have never made my living as a travel agent. I took all of the classes and seminars as part of my research as a travel writer. I write promotional materials and features for many small agencies throughout the country. I met the other requirements due to my own travel ( about 40 cruises) and so many friends, family and readers have asked me to book their cruises that I had no problem meeting the last requirements. I constantly keep up with cruiseline news, ships, itineraries, polices and such as part of my job. Due to the massive amounts of information to keep up with it is more important than ever to utilize these trained CLIA agents for your own benefit.
As someone said, All TAs are not alike. A-men! Just like anyone else they are individuals.
We have a TA that we have been cruising through for 15+ years. IMHO, she has gotten us the best deals cruise after cruise (Several times I have gotten other quotes and she was able to beat those - both from other TAs and cruise lines). Once we book, she watches for price drops and gets us the lowest price. She has stepped in an became our supreme advocate in dealing with issues from the cruise lines. But probably most importantly, she knows our tastes and wants and is able to watch for cruise deals that she thinks we may like (we just turned down a unbelievablly low rate on a 10 day Med. Solstice cruise that was cheaper than many 7 day Carib. crusies we have had).
And last but certainly not least she is a very good trusted friend. And believe me, as most of you know, good friends are worth thier weight in gold.
Bottom line is that folks do what they believe best for them. I agree! If the direct booking with crusie lines work best for you , by all means do it. We personally prefer and have had excellent service for great people who happen to be TAs and CLIA cruise specialists.
Ron and Lee
RCCL C & A Platinum Members
10 total cruises on Carnival, Princess & RCCL
2009 - Undetermined yet, but looking
2010 - April 17 - Oasis OTS
2011 - Asia - THE 14 Day Big One...
Neither. You can get the exact same price from both. The only difference is that a travel agent that has a good longstanding relationship with a cruiseline, and you should only use a CLIA member agency, is they can sometimes negotiate a free stateroom upgrade or some extras. Don't count on upgrades or extras, but it never hurts to ask.