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Old July 4th, 2013, 07:57 AM
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Question Self-Booking

I'm confused...(some say that's normal for me). I've read in several posts that people book cruises directly with the cruise line so "I can have control over my bookings". I don't have a problem with that, but I'm not sure what it means.

I have used the same TA for years, and she is always on top of my various bookings. In fact, she just called me this week to see if we wanted to switch from the cabin we have booked to a balcony guarantee (and save $500). This is the second time in two months she has done this.

I'm not advocating for booking with an agent, but I just don't understand what "control over my bookings" means. Can you help me out?
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Old July 4th, 2013, 11:11 AM
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I know our last cruise we wanted to change our cabin location and had to have our TA do it, it was still an OS we just wanted to move a cabin over but when I called they told me the TA had to make the change. As far as changing dining time or bed set-up you can edit it yourself with Carnival on their website. I'm thinking any type of major changes need to be through your TA.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 11:20 AM
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You have more control of your cruise if you book with a good TA. It's easier for a TA to make changes and to get you the credits that you are entitled to.

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Old July 4th, 2013, 01:33 PM
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As was stated, you have as much control over your booking whether you book with an agent or directly through the cruise line. However, sometimes an agent is able to take care of things right away for you, whereas if you call the cruise line, it can take more time and be more of a hassle. So let your agent do the work for you.

But when the agent is invaluable is if you have any problems. If you book directly with the cruise line and have any problems, who do you think the cruise line represents? Your agent represents you and they have contact information and resources not available to you.

Now, as far as your booking goes; if an agent calls you up and says you can change cabins and still save money, I'm always a little leery about it. If you can move up and save money, then I would definitely ask the question; if I stay where I am, can I save more money?

In other words, if a reduction in price comes along, very rarely does it affect just one type of cabin - it usually affects all types. Yes, occasionally they can have a 'balcony sale', but that doesn't happen all that often.

One of the biggest things some agents like to pull is to call up their clients and say they got them an upgrade and a price reduction. I see it all the time. In reality, what happen was that a price reduction was offered for all cabin types. For example, let's say you're in an oceanview cabin and the price went down $700. Instead of the agent saying they got you a price reduction of $700, they say they got you an upgrade to a balcony cabin along with a price reduction of $300. So, they actually made the choice for you instead of giving you the choice as to what you want to do. That way they don't lose as much commission, but it's wrong not to give you the choice.

I would want to check the going rate on my cabin before I decided whether or not I wanted to move up. May turn out to save even more money.

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Old July 4th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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Default Self-Booking

I strongly recommend using a travel agent. Some years ago, I self-booked a cruise with Princess. Everything went fine until the end, meaning the agent at the cruise line went on her own vacation and left our cruise documents sitting on her desk instead of sending them to us! After several calls to Princess, they finally followed up by send the docs directly to the check in place at the dock.

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Old July 4th, 2013, 03:52 PM
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Well, that's the one good thing about the way it is now; everything is done electronically. In fact, you can show up at the pier with nothing more than your ID and a credit card, and you can check-in. There's no need for any paper documentation anymore.

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Old July 4th, 2013, 05:40 PM
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I agree that booking with a good TA is very important, but making sure you have a good one is also very important.

The only truly bad cruise we ever had was not booking with our local agent. I saw a TA on line that everyone raved about. I decided to go with her. As it turned out she was to busy, or her customers weren't as important as the volume of customers. She also called us with a good deal. I picked the right ship, but she picked the wrong cabin. Within 3 hours of boarding, we were so sick, we couldn't keep anything down. Went to the infirmary, and after testing, nothing showed up. Went back to the cabin, and it started again. Within a day, the doctor was ready to medevac us off the ship. We decided to sleep in the boys rooms for the night, and never had a problem.

Come to find out there is a room on one of the smaller ships that is usually not booked, if the ship isn't full, because it is next to the engine room, and the vibrations are to great. That was what was upsetting us.

She had booked us in a room, that my regular TA showed me doesn't even show up on the diagram. The good thing is it was only five days. Another is both Jim and I spent very little money, and we both lost weight.

I learned a very valuable lesson that week. I always know where my room will be. I never leave it up to the cruise line or a TA to assign it. There are to many cruise web sites, where all you have to do is type in your room number and you will get tons of old responses on how the room was for someone else.

Bottom line, know your TA, but also know what you are doing.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 06:06 PM
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My blog post last week was basically on this topic...
Cruisemates Blog The Pitfalls In Cruise Booking ? Kuki
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Old July 4th, 2013, 07:43 PM
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I definitely agree with finding a good reputable agent, but then again, I am a bit prejudice on the matter.

I read your article, Kuki, and you have stated it very well; call and talk to the agent. Find out about their credentials. How long have they been doing the job? How many cruises have they been on? How many different cruise lines have they sailed with? Etc, etc.

The only thing I'm not a big fan of are those CLIA designations. When I first started my own business 11 years ago, I took a few of their courses thinking I had to if I wanted to be considered a professional agent. I found out very quickly that's not the case. Every one of their courses are designed for one thing and one thing only; selling! They want to teach you how to be a better sales person so you can sell more, period.

Yes, in order to get the different levels of certifications one must do some ship inspections and take so many cruises. But the courses themselves are all about selling. While this does help people that aren't good sales people and gives them tools to sell cruises, it does not make that person a better travel agent and especially does not make them a better cruise specialist.

I've talked to many many agents who feel the exact same way - it's basically a waste of their time because it does not provide the information a good cruise specialist needs to answer all the questions cruisers have.

It's like you said in your article about the agent who was pushing a cruise line based on what they heard during a presentation and not by what they knew about that cruise line from first-hand experience.

Unfortunately, there are many travel agents who are just like used car sales people; they pretend to know everything about everything, when in reality they know very little about most things.

We were once on a cruise and we went to the main dining room for lunch. They sat us at a table with a few other people and I began talking to the lady beside me. I asked her what she did and she said she was a travel agent. (I didn't tell her I was one.) I asked her how long had she been doing it and she said 20 years. I said that she must have been on alot of cruises. Imagine my shock when she said this was her first cruise! I asked her how could she sell something for 20 years that she knew nothing about from a firsthand experience. Her partner chimed in and said she was very good at it. I thought to myself that yes, she was very good at lying to people! Upon further questioning, I found she had taken alot of CLIA courses, but needed to take a couple of cruises so she could get her certification. Unbelievable!

Luanne, a good agent would never have done what yours did to you. They should have looked at the cabins that were available, then looked at the deck plans to see what was above, below, and around the cabins, and then discussed all the good points and bad points so you can make an informed decision.

And this is what really irritates me about being an agent. They should NEVER recommend anything to you! If they start recommending, run the other way! If they are recommending, it's because of three reasons: 1) They may have done it and liked it. But we're different people and what they like, you may not like at all; 2) It's the only thing they know. They may not have anything else to compare it to or they went to a class and learned about them, but they haven't learned about anything else; or 3) They make a bigger commission with that company.

Quite frankly, an agent's job is not to recommend anything! Their job is to provide as much information as you can handle and then to point out all the good points and bad points without bias so that you can make an informed decision on what's best for you based on your requirements, budget, lifestyle, likes, and dislikes.

When they start 'selling' you something the way CLIA teaches them to, often times they are encouraging you towards things that may not be the best for you. But the same can be said with alot of professions that involve selling something and some people are alot better at 'hard' selling than others.

As my favorite saying goes, "What one person loves, another will hate." Just because your friend, family member, or agent loved a particular cruise line, ship, or port, does not mean you'll like it. As I said, we're all different people. A good agent will have your best interest at heart and not try to sell you something. They should be more interested in helping you get the information you need so you can make an informed decision.

Pete
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Old July 5th, 2013, 07:41 AM
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I agree wholeheartedly about the value of a good agent. I think we have one of the best. Too bad I can't reveal the name.

But back to my original question......when someone says "I want to control my booking", what is it exactly they are trying to control that a good TA can't? I understand that someone might want to book directly with the cruise line - that's fine. But why would they think they have better "control" over a booking than a TA would?
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Old July 5th, 2013, 02:08 PM
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Don't know why they would think they have better control over their booking, because they actually have less control.

For example, sometimes a special will come along and they'll call the cruise line to get the special and the cruise line rep will tell them they can't get it, whereas there are times when an agent will be able to get the special. There are alot of 'tricks of the trade' that we have available to us that someone booking directly with the cruise line does not.

And again, if any problems arise, that's when someone booking directly with the cruise line will find out how little control they really have. And that's when an agent can be worth their weight in gold!

Pete
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Old July 5th, 2013, 04:43 PM
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In light of Carnival's most recent changes...there seems to be an effort to reach out to the TA community to repair relationships.

A long term relationship with a trusted TA is a great assest for your travel/vacation plans
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Old July 5th, 2013, 05:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by venice View Post

A long term relationship with a trusted TA is a great assest for your travel/vacation plans
I can attest to that. My TA has helped me with many issues over the last 15 years.

TM
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Old July 5th, 2013, 08:55 PM
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Not sure that I agree with the 'less control" statement. I do agree that a good repeatable agent is valuable. I have done both with equal amount of success. In the past I have booked my own cruise (not as a travel agent) and have received discounts when the price was reduced. Cruiselines will work with you. Some will tell you that they are less eager because you don't have an agent. Not always the case. The best advise that I believe you can give anyone is that If you do book your own cruise be prepared, be educated and be aware. Some people enjoy booking their own cruises and the work that goes along with it and that is fine. If you don't like doing it yourself then by all means use an agent. A good one.
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