Hi all, I'm fairly new here and I'm hooked on CruiseMates message boards. I have a question maybe someone can help me with. If I already know which ship and which itinerary I want, why not just book directly with the cruiseline? Is there any added value to using a TA? I'm sure someone has asked this in the past.
Yes, almost always a TA can beat the price that the cruiseline offers by booking direct. The reasons for this is that TA's usually rebate at least some portion of their commission and they may actually be able to save even more if they have purchased a block of cabins. They do this by selling say ten cabins and the cruiseline gives them another cabin for free, they then take the savings and divide that up among the rest of the cabins which makes all the cabins able to sell for $50- $100 less. In addition the TA is there to run interferance for you and help you with questions and any problems you may encounter. What I like to recommend is look at the cruisline web sites and that will give you a base idea of the going rate for the cruise. The advertise in the "Bargain Finder" are being very specific about what you want. Then it is just a matter of picking the agent you wish to use. Also any of the Cruisemates cruises are a good deal and you can also look in the bargain areas and advertising areas for great deals.
I have to totally agree with Robo, its always nice to have that travel agent available by an e-mail or phone, and the good ones will be a lot of help. You may also want to read through the section here about taking your first cruise, lots of good tips:
Donna and Robo are absolutely correct. Also a travel agent can help you find the cruise that is the right one for you. They always know questions to ask you about your likes and dislikes that you would never have thought of.
We have already booked our 3rd cruise, and in each case we did the research and picked what ship and where we wanted to go. We've tried a couple different TA's but have not found one of the Good Ones that people talk about. Our TA's pretty much take the booking, then you never hear from them again. We've always had to monitor the rates for our cruise, then call the TA if the rate drops. We don't want to deal with a faceless, online, distant TA, we want to deal locally, but have yet to find one that is as excited about our cruise as we are. Maybe that isn't reality, but I can always hope :-)
There is no advantage in booking directly with the cruise line, but every reason to book through an agent.
First of all, it helps if you have narrowed down the ship selection process when calling the agent. In the end, you're responsible for picking the right ship.
The average cruise booking takes about 20 minutes of phone time. There are so many variables to discuss: air from cruise line or get on your own, first/second seating, transfers to ship, help in getting the best cabin for your money. Frequently you can get a better price with an agent than you could from the cruise line -- agents' faxes run 24 hours per day with discounts, most you wouldn't be aware of.
With an agent, you can ask any sort of question, and get special requests taken care of. And, the agent can give you good advice as well. In most instances, an agent will bring up items you may have never thought of.
You don't pay most agents, they work on commission from the cruise line.
I noticed in your e-mail you mentioned "monitoring the rates" of your cruise. We have not heard from our travel agent since we booked either and I would like to also monitor the rates. Where do we go in order to do that? If the rate drops at any time after booking, can you ask for the discount? Thanks for any help you can provide.