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Old January 11th, 2010, 01:13 AM
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Are there any tips to booking online? I have never been on a cruise before and I'm a little nervous doing it online. Are there any recommended sites, or perhaps sites to avoid?
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Old January 11th, 2010, 01:54 AM
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I don't know why you are set on booking online. There are many reputable agents who have an online presence but are brick and mortar agencies.

The best tips I can give are to use an agent that is recommended by seasoned cruisers.

Only book with a credit card.
Make sure all charges are made to the cruise line and not the agent or agency.
Keep an eye on pricing and if the price of your exact category of cabin drops then call your agent to see if you can get the lower price or onboard credit.

Last but not least: If, for any reason, you are uncomfortable with what an agent tells you or their attitude, do not book with them.

Take care,
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Old January 11th, 2010, 08:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by forsaken View Post
Are there any tips to booking online? I have never been on a cruise before and I'm a little nervous doing it online. Are there any recommended sites, or perhaps sites to avoid?
Welcome to Cruisemates! I agree with Mike. The best place to book a first cruise is with a dependable Travel Agent (TA), preferably with a Cruise Professional designation. Ask your friends and family with whom they've booked.

You can also go to any "brick and mortar" agency and see what's offered. Don't feel obligated to book. Lot's of people check prices without booking.

Like Mike said, only book with a TA who charges your payment to the cruise line, not to their agency.

Personally, I'm not happy with an online agent . I want someone who'll help me if I have any problems.
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Old January 11th, 2010, 09:06 PM
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Both good tips...

cruising is a very complicated issue. I have an article that i wrote about booking online here: Cruise Specialist: How to Buy a Cruise Online

It says a lot of things like the answers above. It also says "don't book with a big online agency" like Travelocity. What you want is an agency that specializes in cruises, that you can call on the phone and get personalized advice.

Ask them the basic questions like, "this is who i want to bring on the cruise, what cruise line is a good fit for me." Tell them your preferences, if you care about food and sunshine, or if you are more interesdted in the destinations. Ask them what is included in the cruise fare, ask them how many cruises they have been on (that's a real tell-tale sign). Personally i would want an agent who has been on at least five or six ships and four or five cruise lines, the more the better.

Ask them if they love cruising more than any other vacation. You want someone who loves cruising because they will know the details that matter.

Here are a few tips: first decide where you want to go, then decide what cruise line you want. Then start shopping for your cruise by being date-flexible. You can pay as much as 100% difference for the very same cruise by being flexible on your saildate.

Like airlines ships get more expensive as they start to fill up.

There's always more to know, ask questions if you have them...
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Old January 11th, 2010, 10:24 PM
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Except for our first Carnival and the upcoming Carnival (using a neighbor who is a Carnival PVP) we have booked all of our cruises on line. The two on MSC was with a travel agent in Orlando and they were able to answer all my question but I will not book with them again as they were usually slow in answering, and when I informed them of a problem after the last cruise never heard form them at all.

That being said we have never had any problems with any of our bookings. We got what we were told we would get. And from research we always got very good prices.

Don't be afraid to book with an online company, just do your homework first.

I have heard of many problems with booking with your local agent and never getting things resolved, especially near where I am. Just because the agent is brick and morter does not always mean they will be the best for you.

No matter how you book check out everything you can first.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 07:48 AM
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NLB...

I'm glad your experiences booking online were good, and I agree with you. but in this case I believe the OP said they were cruise novices. Booking online is really for people who know cruise ships well enough to decide what to do all on their own.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 10:29 AM
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Paul we booked our first cruise on line, we did go to different TA's in our area and also checked online and found that we did best online.

THe most important thing for anyone especially new cruisers is research.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 11:09 AM
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Well - I think you summed up what we were all saying.

Can I just add something, however? (and I am not saying you did this because you may have found the best price online).

It is considered to be a rude and inconsiderate action to use a travel agent's time and knowledge to do research for you, and then not use the travel agent to book the cruise.

Keep in mind - the agent's commission comes from the cruise line, not from your pocket.

If you pick a knowledgable cruise agent's brain for a significant amount of time then you should at least give them the opportunity to sell you the cruise. Most cruise agents can always match a price you can find online, so at the very least, if you find a better price online, I recommend you go back to the knowledgable agent who helped you do research, and tell them the situation.

Say you have selected a cruise. Ask the agent for a quote and then tell them where else you may have found it for less. Be absolutely sure you are comparing apples to apples.

We recommend using a travel agent to book every cruise, because a travel agent will be your advocate with the cruise line if anything goes wrong.

If you book a cruise directly and have a problem on your cruise, many people will tell you trying to call the cruise line to solve your problem during your cruise is a really hard thing to do - especially on weekends and after hours (most people travel to cruises on weekends).

But a cruise agent who does $millions in business with that cruise line yearly is not only more likely to pick up the phone when you call on a weekend, they are also going to have the clout and the knowledge in travel problem solving that many cruise line reps may not offer you.

If you have an air problem, a travel agent will be far more help than a cruise line rep. If you have a dispute over a ship charge, a travel agent will have far more clout for you with the cruise line than you will on your own.

Plus - believe it or not, there are times when a travel agent can give you a better deal than the cruise line directly. I absolutely guarantee you most travel agents will match any price you see for booking directly with a cruise line. In addition, large cruise agencies often have points accrued with a cruise line allowing them to offer you additional bargains: pre-paid gratuities, shipboard credit, free transfers, etc.

Many travel agents always leave a bottle of wine as a gift for booking a cruise with them.

I see a lot of people who say "I always go to [cruise agent web site name] to research my prices, then I go to the cruise line and book it directly." Why?

If the price is the same why not build a relationship with a travel agent?

If you work with one agent who gives the same prices as a cruise line, you are building up loyalty points with the cruise line AND with the agent. Some agents give free upgrades to regular clients all the time, just because they can and they appreciate your business. Very few cruise lines will ever do that.

Plus - a travel agent will notify you of special deals from several cruise lines - telling you things you might not otherwise know.

Now, I am not saying it is wrong to book directly. I am just saying that most regular cruisers generally come to realize that a good travel agent is an asset in the long run.

Booking directly can be done, and there is no problem if you know exactly what you are doing. But over the years, I don't recall anyone who could articulate any real advantages to booking directly. Maybe this will be the first time.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 02:53 PM
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I'm definitely an advocate of using a reputable agent now. Before I used to always just book online through one of the "Big Box" travel agencies. While I never had any major issues with them, I get MUCH better service and better pricing using an agent. Now, not all agents might be reputable or provide the best service, but thats where the research comes in. I use one that was highly recommended on this site. I'm not sure if I can say her name, but if you search the group cruises, you'll find it

I remember on our last cruise out of NY, I decided to take a motorcoach (booked through Princess) into NY rather than flying since the pick up location was closer than the airport and its only a 4-5 hour drive. We arrived at the bus station an hour before the scheduled pick up time and the people that worked there knew nothing about the motorcoach, but said to wait in the terminal area and it should come in at the scheduled time. So we waited and by 9:30am there was no sign of any bus. Now I was getting a little worried and went back inside, but they couldn't give me any more info. I tried calling Princess and the rep wasn't really sure about it and suggested I called my agent. (Duh...completely forgot about calling her first). So now its after 10am and I'm panicking and called my agent. She said she would call me back within 10 minutes. (This was a Saturday as well). Not even 5 minutes later she told me the bus is on its way, and should be there within 30 minutes and the name that is on the side of the bus and where they made the pickup.

Now, obviously if I just waited I would have been fine, but I was panicking since no one seemed to know anything and it was nice to have the agent be able to get me all those details. It really calmed my nerves and now I know if I ever run into an even bigger problem, its nice to have a good agent on my side. I know had I booked online through a larger online agency, I probably would have been on the phone with them forever.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 03:00 PM
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When choosing a live agent, one of the red flags I look for are those who try and tell me I won't be happy on this or that cruise line, or that I "have" to try such and such. I am always leery of those who try to push a client in a particular direction. Especially the one young lady who tried to convince me I was too old to enjoy Carnival. Upon further questioning, I found out she had never been on a cruise, but her boss had said to push anyone over 40 to the more expensive lines. HA! Had a bit of fun with her on that one.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 04:00 PM
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We have done a number of articles on how to choose a travel agent. I suggest using the search button on our front page.
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Old February 12th, 2010, 09:27 AM
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I've only cruised 3 times and I am going on #4 this year however ,I've always used a TA .I have heard too many negative things about on line companies.I also prefer to be able to communicate with my TA and know that she will respond to my inquiries almost immediately
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