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Old April 3rd, 2012, 02:59 PM
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Default More People Booking Direct with Cruise Line

A new report from Travel Weekly says the percentage of cruises sold by regular travel agents (not counting online agencies) may be down to as low as 65%.

Bottom line is this - far fewer travel agents are thinking of cruises first and foremost when it comes to making a living.

The commission cuts - combined with making more things non-commissionable has made it much harder for agents to make living selling cruises alone. Many are transitioning to all-inclusives, etc.

How do you feel? Are you loyal to your travel agent or do you prefer to go direct these days anyway? Do you see little difference?

What if you came to believe prices would go down if everyone booked direct? (I don't know if it is true, but it is certainly arguable that cruise lines would be able to save money of they didn't have to support marketing specificaly to travel agents, run their booking tools and pay out commissions).
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 03:29 PM
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The cruise lines would sure have to offer me alot, to not use a travel agent. To me they have always been order takers,and many have not even cruised. Someone being pro active for me if need be, is important.

I hate to see Mom & Pop anything, being phased out, by the Walmart Effect..I would support my ta, for as long as I could, before I would even consider the thought of switching.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:20 PM
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Default Interesting thread

When we were on our cruise last week we booked a future cruise while on board .I asked the cruiseline representative if there is an advantage booking direct with him . He urged me to use a TA stating that the TA can offer perks that he could not .

We had an excellent TA who retired in 2002 . Since then we have tried 5 TA's none of whom were comparable to our initial TA .

We are now going with a very highly recommended TA .Based on just 2 days of communication he seems to be great .
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:37 PM
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I stopped using high street travel agents as I found their knowledge somewhat lacking, often confusing and conflicting information as they got all their cruise line info mixed up.
What I really did not like was them saying just stop the tips, that's part of someone's wage they work hard, you chip in your whack if they do a good job.
I booked my cruises last year through an on line agent however one of the big on line cruise agents in UK (Gills) went bust, ok people got the cruise they had paid for as here if you book a fly/cruise together then you are covered by a government backed insurance, however there is only your travel insurance if there is no flight involved and that takes time as I have booked my next two cruises from Southampton I have decided to book direct with the cruise company that way less in the line.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:39 PM
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I have to be careful what I say here as my TA is Cruisemates Group TA

For anything expensive, I would definitely go through her. I have booked the occassional Coastal by myself as I know the savings to me and the commission to her will be peanuts and I kind of like controlling it online myself. We saved just over $700 and received some OBC by booking through a TA with Group Space for Royal Princess's Transatlantic...you won't get that booking through the cruise line.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:45 PM
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I do think it is important to point out that one danger of using a travel agent is that you may encounter a bad one.

I really doubt an American agent would ever recommend stopping the staff tips, but I can see a Brit agent telling a customer that, since British society is less tip-oriented than American's.

But you are correct that it was wrong for that travel agent to say that - however, I would not be surprised to hear that he told a number of clients the same thing and they were glad to hear him say it - part of the reason some cruise lines had to make services charges mandatory in Britain.

As Linda says - it is also possible to get a bad cruise line "agent" - not all of them have been on cruise ships or are deeply trained in cruises. I know NCL has a call center here in Phoenix, and while at least it isn't in Bangalore, Phx is not a city known for having a high concentration of cruisers. For the most part, however, I feel NCL does a good job in traiing its "order takers".

I was glad to hear about an onboard cruise rep recommeding using a travel agent. That is EXACTLY the kind of thing that travel agents need to hear about more. The cruises really should continue to support the travel agent community, or else they are going to find more people suddently trying all inclusives.

Bottom line - travel agents are valuable - because the hard part is converting that first-time cruiser (it is easy to sell a cruise to an experienced cruiser,. but a first-timer, well, there is a reason they call then "cruise virgins." That first step is always the most important one - the one you never forget, the one you wait for, the one who ....(oh shut up already....)
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Trackypup View Post
I have to be careful what I say here as my TA is Cruisemates Group TA

For anything expensive, I would definitely go through her. I have booked the occassional Coastal by myself as I know the savings to me and the commission to her will be peanuts and I kind of like controlling it online myself. We saved just over $700 and received some OBC by booking through a TA with Group Space for Royal Princess's Transatlantic...you won't get that booking through the cruise line.
Last year I contacted a TA that was very highly recommended by a lot of CM people .To them it was as though the TA "walked on water."
I called her and said my wife and I were interested in a specific cruise and were recommended to her . We gave our names ,home and cell phone numbers .We were never called back . We called again and she did not apologize but said she would get back to us ,she never did . We tried e-mailing her ,no response .
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:57 PM
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Well, really you are not doing a cruise agent much of a favor by booking a three-day cruise with them unless you make it during a three-minute phone call.

The amount of work they have to do is not worth the commission.

In the old days a cruise agent would work for hours with a first-time cruiser booking a three-days and lose money (basically) on a per hour basis but they knew they had won a new client - and the money was in the future cruises they booked.

The one bad thing cruise lines have done is in "stealing" leads from cruise agents by contacting the cruiser directly after that first cruise. NOW - if they do that and say "we see you booked through XYZ, and I trust you were happy with the service she provided," that is one thing. But I don't always hear or see the call to action to the original agent, and that is not good.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Motter View Post
Well, really you are not doing a cruise agent much of a favor by booking a three-day cruise with them unless you make it during a three-minute phone call.

The amount of work they have to do is not worth the commission.
My feelings exactly. She's a very high volume agent, I'm not going to bother her with piddly stuff and I can grab a cabin online in two minutes.

You also asked about Loyalty. I think I'm quite loyal. But haven't had to test that by finding a $700 discount elsewhere that she hasn't been able to match. I have found a couple of online places that were a titch cheaper, I'm not willing to switch for "a titch".
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 05:41 PM
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We tend to always use a specialist TA for all holidays, we have always got a better deal in the past but who knows, we think the TA can get the cabin we want on a cruise & take away the work & hassle if something goes wrong.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 05:47 PM
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I would always book with a TA. As of now, it is still cheaper for every cruise I booked and even if the quoted price is the same as booking direct I would still book with the TA simply because of customer service.

For me, good customer service (which is hard to come by...not just in the travel business) goes a long way.

I only had one minor issue/problem and I think if I was dealing direct they wouldn't have been able to provide me with an answer as fast as she did.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 06:05 PM
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The more complicated it is the more you benefit from having a travel agent. A very experienced travel agent will have knowledge you never even thought about considering - for example, optional tour providers in certain ports of call.

If I need a cruise, air and a hotel it is a lot easier just to call a travel agent and ask her to arrange it than to do it all myself. It can take a few hours to set up a simple trip where you are starting your research from scratch - meanwhile, a cruise agent may have booked the identical trip yesterday and already knows where to start for the best deals.

It saves you time amd also possibly money.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 06:22 PM
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Side question to this, do you use a Travel Agent for all your vacations, or just your cruises?
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 07:07 PM
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Years ago, I used a well known agency on the west coast,and was happy with the agent we had. She left, and, it all went downhill from there. On a ships tour in Boston, I connected with a local ta. When I called the old agency to transfer the booking, they never once asked why I was doing it. No, may we inquire as to why? Did we not do something, or, did we miss something?...nada!

If as a business, they don't care enough to find out why they are losing a client, that's sad.& at that point,I knew the decision I made was the correct one.

After so many cruises, many of us just make the call to our ta,and say book it...first timers will get the hand holding, they need and derserve. Travel agents work hard, and, when you find a good one, they deserve our loyalty....having someone in your corner is priceless.

Since the customer is getting their service at no charge to them, for me, I would ask, why not?
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 07:40 PM
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I love my TA. I do a lot of the research online myself and then tell him what to book for me. He ususally finds certain deals and gets me upgrades and bonus $$$ that I would never be able to find on my own. I met him on my very first cruise and have used him ever since.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 08:16 PM
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In Oct. 2010 I wrote this blog
Cruisemates Blog Are More Internet Savvy Cruisers Booking Direct; While Others Book With Travel Agents? – Kuki

I talked about in a blog much earlier, when cruise lines went to flat pricing... saying "the travel agent industry" requested it.

I said then... the travel agents should "BE CAREFUL WHAT THEY ASK FOR".

This was on thing that was not difficult to foresee. It may be taking a bit longer to really set in, but it was easily predictable.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 09:18 PM
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I use my TA for all my travel needs.

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Old April 3rd, 2012, 09:36 PM
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I've used TA's for both sea and land vacations but never for air.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 10:00 PM
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My agent does walk on water; I have seen her do it. Of course, we were in antarctica at the time.

I love my discounts, great service, and someone to help me out when things go wrong. She sells such a large volume with Regent that I have not had any problems when things have gone wrong and things needed to get fixed.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 10:52 PM
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It has been years since I've called a TA and asked to "find" a cruise for me or asked more than four questions.

When I call the TA I tell them what ship, date and cabin I want and ask "What can you add to the current pricing." The cruise lines set the pricing and just about every agent will sell it to you for the same price. Yes: There are agents out there that will sell it to you for more than the going price. If you get one of those run out of the office or hang up the phone. Otherwise, other than some group space, all the prices are the same.

What I look for is what is added. OBC, insurance, on board gift, cocktail party, pre-cruise hotel, transfers, etc. The higher the cruise price the more I expect but I don't expect the agent to give away their commission for my business but I do expect something additional, especially since my booking is a pretty easy one.

I know I will get things done better and faster if there is an airline problem, lost luggage, lost passport or a medical problem. Your travel insurance company's 24 hour hotline is a better contact to call in the event of an emergency, during your cruise, than the person you booked the cruise with.

The time you want to call your travel agent is if there is a problem with your cruise booking. They are the only ones, in most cases, that can talk to the cruise line about problems because they are the cruise line's client and not you. Even though you are the one paying for the cruise.

There are many good travel agents out there but there are also a heck of a lot of bad ones. The bad ones are the ones who know little or nothing about cruises; don't know who to talk to at the cruise line in order to escalate a problem to get a resolution; and basically run the business as a "part-time" hobby.

I do foresee that in ten years the "Concierge Agent" will be the only agents left and cruise line call centers will be doing 90% of the cruise booking. It may be less than ten years.

It's sad but the times are a changing. Renaissance had the right idea but implemented it the wrong way.

Take care,
Mike
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Old April 4th, 2012, 12:06 PM
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I've done a bit of both.

TAs work well for some scenarios and not for others.

My TA is a cruise specialist; but I don't always get the best deals from her, but I do get the best service. I have been known to book directly with the line to get OBC and then transfer it to my agent.

There are sometimes though when she pulls one out of a hat. Granted availability can change over a few months, but before Christmas my TA booked me on a balcony on the Mar2/13 sailing of Disney Fantasy for about $3,600.00. When we were on Disney Dream -Mar 13/2012, we went to the loyalty desk to see if we could get a better deal. The best they could offer us was an inside cabin for $6,000. Had I been on Dream in December, I might have had a better deal, but who knows???

Yes, I can do a lot of research myself, but it takes time. Especially when it comes to pricing, availability, cabin location .... sometimes it is easier to deal wtih an agent.
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