Travel Agents... Should I consider looking at some travel agents, or have you found the best pricing is when you go straight through Carnival? I'd imagine the best pricing is through Carnival since it cuts out the "middleman", but then again the TA's might have block packages from the cruise lines that they can discount?
I have always used a Travel Agent. I have thought about going through Carnival, but I am lucky that I have two TA's who seem to be there when I impulsively e-mail with ideas of the ships I want to be on. I have never been one to do a lot of pricing, and comparing, because I was told that the agencies are no longer allowed to cut prices to much. I have found that if you find a great deal, come to find out, they have not included Taxes and port charges.
As you can see I have been on several cruises I have always used a TA, I liked the fancy little holder they gave me, for my tickets, and I was happy, this cruise coming up, I just happen to find a carnival gal, who answered questions for me and I booked, a few weeks into my booking, I received a call from her telling me my cruise went down and she would send me a new statement, that has NEVER happened to me before. I have called her on a few occassions, and she is always their, my TA I had to track down. I will always book with Carnival now.
Valor again Yahoo!
I always use an agent. Not because I love agents and that they know everything and I can't book a cruise without one. On the contrary, I have a big ego and I "usually" know more than the TA. In most cases that isn't ego it's a fact.
The reasons I use an agent:
1. With Carnival they can't "advertise" the price of the cruise for less than what Carnival is selling it for but they can give me a better price if I call them.
2. If something goes wrong or I have a problem a "GOOD" agent will go to bat for me and get through the red tape and get things corrected. That's why I will book with an agent who does A LOT of business with a specific cruise line. They know the ropes and who to talk to.
3. If something goes wrong during the trip I can talk to them instead of the cruise line. The TA is MY advocate not the cruise lines and has MY best interest at heart.
Having said that: Since almost my first cruise I have known what ship, date and cabin category or number I want.
So the TA does little work on the front end but if something goes wrong I more than expect them to do work on the back end of the booking. If I'm disappointed I will not use them again nor recommend them.
Now: Here is the difference: I'm not average!!! A TA will do exactly the same thing for a first time cruiser as they can do for me. What a first time or an unsure cruiser should expect and if they don't receive it, they should run, is: Help in finding a cruise and answering legitimate questions!!!
This is why a TA is important to experienced and new cruisers and something, I believe the cruise lines will never be able provide. If they have complete control over the sale of their product the loser will be the buyer. Monopolies are always convenient but never cost effective. Look at AT&T. Remember when you rented your telephone and if you broke it a replacement was $60 for an $8 phone.
I never want to see cruising become an AT&T of the Seas.
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"There is a great difference between being well traveled and just having been to many places." ~Me
I always gone through a TA, but only once the same on twice and then he sold his business. (The second cruise was because he called me with a special deal and we booked 9 cabins with 21 people going) Every time I have gone to a new TA I explain that we love to cruise, go on at least one cruise a year and are always looking for great deals. You would think that a least one of those TA would have kept me on a list for a quick call if something came up. Or just to see how we were and if we were ready to book that next one. Something like, " Hi Susan. I was just going through a new brochure I thought of you and how much you'd love this cruise...." TAs take note you are missing the boat, (pun intended) if you're not calling your customers. But then that is just my opinion.
VIKING SERENADE 1993
STAR PRINCESS 2002
NCL STAR 2004
MS OOSTERDAM 2008
I usually use a TA also. One time I didn't, and I played 'phone tag' about 6 times. It was extremely frustrating because I am not a new cruiser, and I always do my homework, so I am not calling with frivilous questions.
Another time, I booked everything myself, (2nd cruise). I didn't realize that repositioning cruises tacked onto another cruise were 2 separate cruises. When we got off in Vancouver, we couldn't get back on.
My TA always gives us alot of really good "gifts" and which we appreciate'
She also keeps in mail and email contact with us.
I will always use a TA in the future.
HAL Statendam 2x
HAL Ryndam 2x
I believe there are both pros and cons to booking through a TA.
My first cruise, I booked through a TA - my boss at the time was a big cruiser and I used her TA. Went with the whole package through Carnival (air & all).
Ever since then, I have done my own research, always booked my own air (for a much lower price), and booked some cruises through a TA and some directly with Carnival. Primarily, it has had to do with price.
One thing I have noticed with Carnival is that I get calls from PVPs unexpectedly, asking if I was interested in any cruises, etc. Although I get a plethora of emails from various internet cruise agencies, I have never had either of the TAs that I booked with contact me to see if I have any interest in another cruise.
One thing I do know about booking a cruise - although the airfare is more expensive through the cruise line, it might be worth considering when booking during active hurricane season. When our cruise was delayed by Hurricane Francis, the Carnival people immediately went to work on rebooking their air program passengers, while those of us who had booked on our own were left to fend for ourselves. It cost me two days - luckily, I had cruise insurance so these costs were reimbursed, but the vacation time had to come out of my bank.
On our forthcoming cruise, I booked directly with Carnival. Early this year, I got a call from a PVP asking if I had any interest. We talked about my interest in the Carnival Freedom relocation cruise and he advised me to reserve a cabin early - he was absolutely right. As of right now, about all that is left available are balcony cabins and above.
I also took the air with them on this booking - their airfare was about 40% what I could find on the internet.
Go either way - you will find good advise either way. One thing that keeps me with Carnival primarily is my wife's concern that whomever we book with will go belly up with our money.
07/99 Smokefree Paradise
03/02 Smokefree Paradise
10/02 Smokefree Paradise
05/03 Smokefree Paradise
08/04 Smokefree Paradise (8 days due to Francis)
01/07 Carnival Liberty
11/07 Carnival Freedom Transatlantic
05/08 Carnival Liberty
12/09 Carnival Pride
06/10 Carnival Glory