A group of us are planning a cruise on the Conquest for next year since it will be our 30th wedding anniversary and our 50 th birthdays. It is better to use a TA to organize a group (approx 20 people) or go through Carnival? Also, how far in advance do people normally book a cruise? I have only cruised once in 2002, Inspiration. I believed it was the best vacation I had ever been on and can not wait to do it again. Thanks in advance!
Once you have a pretty good idea of how many, what ship, and when. Call Carnival's 800 number and price it. Then call again and talk to group booking and price the same thing. Then talk to a Carnival PVP [personal vacation planner] and price again.
Then click on ALL the various TA's with adds on the board. Some have online booking engines and some don't, but for multiple cabins you will have to call them anyway. Call them all and shop, shop, shop. Then talk to your local TA's and/or visit websites of other TA's you have heard about. If you want the best deal, it takes some effort.
Frank.. I highly recommend booking with TAs. The cruise lines are basically selling direct to you at "retail". They are NOT discounting the price to you based on what they would otherwise being to an agent for commissions.
The agents can get the exact same price, which includes their commissons. MOST are willing to discount their commission portion some, in order to offer you a lower price, and get your business.
With a group the travel agent should also be able to negotiate some perks for your group, if it's large enough. Champagne in the cabin, cocktail party or similar.
It is also quite possible to book directly with Carnival, then shop your bookings amongst TAs to find a better price, and simply have Carnival transfer your bookings to the TA. Carnival does not mind doing this at all.
Being a TA and having been on 3 cruises, I highly recommend a good TA. Only because a good TA can give you some really good tips and advice and should be cheaper then going through Carnival. Not to mention reality, like saving chairs is not allowed, O it is not enforced at all. So where do you go when you can't find a seat? My husband and I could not get one on deck either days at sea, even though 50% of the chairs were empty. Well, they had a sandle on it or a towel and had been empty for a couple of hours. So we found a nice quiet spot to sit and would recommend it to all our clients along with how to get a chair there. Not to mention how to get excursions cheaper etc.
So what ever you choose, have a great time and enjoy!!!