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Old January 2nd, 2008, 11:28 PM
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Default Booking online vs with a travel agent

I'm planning my 2nd cruise on HAL (Alaska in June) but I booked thru a travel agent last time. I've been calling around and looking online and notice there are some websites (SmartCruiser, Cruise Value Center) that are cheaper to book online than over the phone. My fear is that if any problems arise, I may not have a person to assist me. Also, I'm concerned about hidden fees.

Does anyone have any experiences, good or bad, with booking online?

Thanks for any info!
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 10:10 AM
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I have only booked online once, and I prefer to use a TA.
The time I did book online wasn't a bad experience, but I had to play phone tag several times.
However, it was not with HAL. It was with another line.
It just isn't worth the hassle for me.

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Old January 3rd, 2008, 03:44 PM
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I have booked online for every cruise I have been on. I have never once had a problem. There is no question that some agents are better than others but, none have been a "problem" during the booking process. For me it has always come down who is offering the lowest price for what I am looking for! Just be sure that you are comparing apples for apples when comparing prices!
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 04:21 PM
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Hi there. We tend to do everything on line and have for many years primarily for price. We originally booked our summer cruise on Vacations To Go but found the exact same trip on Cruise Value for $600 less. The trade offs: the Cruise Value rate is internet only. If you call and ask questions, I believe you end up paying a TA commission for their assistance; there is a fee to make changes (basically any changes including name, dob, etc so be careful when you are filling out the on line booking info); there is a cancellation fee on Cruise Value ($75PP- there was not one on Vacations To Go provided you cancel prior to the deadline); final payment is due earlier on Cruise Value (by a week or two) than on Vacations To Go. I concluded that if I end up needing assistance, I'll be where I was originally with Vacations to Go rate wise. If not, I will come out ahead, and if I need to cancel, the charge wasn't enough to scare me. There is so much info available on sites like this to answer any questions (by people who have actually taken the same trips), I am comforable without a TA. Hope this helps. Best of luck with your plans.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 05:40 PM
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When I booked my cruise for October on Eurodam, I did it through their website. After a few weeks I saw that the price has dropped for my cabin category, and a phone call to HAL was enough for the new price. So it was a good experience
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Old January 4th, 2008, 07:07 AM
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I am English and live in the UK, I have booked the Eurodam for October and have done so via an American Online Travel Agent, americandiscountcruises, and have saved a small fortune, in comparison to the UK, and that is taking into account the flights too. Every contact with them to date has been professional and helpful.

My first cruise was done over the telephone to cruise specialist in Scotland and again they were very professional.

I don't think there is a great deal of distinction nowadays between an online travel agent and a face to face agent or phone agent. With the honourable exception of the new breed of agents "the specialists". I know people who have used this service and are very pleased with it but it does come at a price. Price wise, online booking takes some beating, in my humble experience.

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Old January 4th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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Well, technically speaking, most cruise agencies like CruiseValue, Cruises-n-more, America's Vacation Center and Vacations to Go are all travel agents. most of them were selling cruises long before the Internet came along, many of them selling cruises exclusively.

It was my belief that all of them would give you the same prices and service whether you booked over the phone or online, but I admit I do not test this theory. I have been aware that CruiseValue charges a non-refundable fee if you cancel, but their prices aned esepcially add-ons (like free tips if you book a balcony cabin) make them a real bargain. Just make sure you know exactly what you want before you book.

Some of other advertisers - CruiseDeals for example, has incredibly low prices.

I received an email from someone recently who asked me where I would shop for cruises and said the answer is simple - go to the link above that says "cruise shopping" and you will instantly be in our virtual cruise shopping mall where most of the major internet sellers post their best bargains daily. You will also find links to our weekly newsletters there.

The emailer's reply to me was "I think our travel agent believed she had found a sucker for life in us." - after he saw the prices these cruise-specialist agencies have on cruises.
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Old January 8th, 2008, 10:20 PM
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Thank you, everyone, for the tips!

I did end up booking our cruise online and got a great deal with SmartCruiser!! Their prices were significantly lower than anywhere else, even with the $15 online booking fee, the cancellation fee is only $35 per stateroom (before final deposit is due), and their reps answer the phone right away (though not the friendliest people in the world). And for a peace of mind I did see that my booking showed up on HAL's website.

I looked at numerous sites and found that in all cases, except one, the web rates were cheaper than booking over the phone, sometimes by a couple hundred dollars!

It was interesting...one guy tried to discourage me from booking on their website, warning that I'd be "on my own" if I booked online vs going thru him - and he was quoting me almost $400 more than their web price! He even admitted it would benefit him (his commission).
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Old January 16th, 2008, 08:39 PM
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As a cruise agent for over 20 years please let me clarify something. Whether you book thru a travel agent or online both recieve a commission from the cruise line. Thats how they make their living. If you have a competitive agency you WILL recieve a discount as they want to be competive. As a home based agent we do a huge amount of cruise business and we don't just offer low rates. We also include personal service, sound advice, available 24/7 and many other services at no additional cost. You won't get that from an online company. If you talk to an online person chances are they have never been on a cruise so how can they advise you. As home based agents we are required by CLIA to sail on the ships, inspect the ships and complete many hours of class room work in order to be an agent. We have the experience to steer you to the right cruise line and ship to match what you want in your cruise. Top that with the fact that we love to cruise and it shows. Just some thoughts and I hope all you will support your community and use your local travel agents or better yet....Your local home based travel agents!!!
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Old January 17th, 2008, 12:10 AM
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Quote:
As home based agents we are required by CLIA to sail on the ships, inspect the ships and complete many hours of class room work in order to be an agent. We have the experience to steer you to the right cruise line and ship to match what you want in your cruise. Top that with the fact that we love to cruise and it shows. Just some thoughts and I hope all you will support your community and use your local travel agents or better yet....Your local home based travel agents!!!
I am a big fan of agents and home based travel agents too. However the statements made here are misleading. I know people can become a home based agent with basically no requirements other than paying a fee to the master agency. If you want to have CLIA certification there are some prerequistes.

On the other hand CLIA itself is not any kind of governing body to travel agents, and has no authority to take any action on behalf of consumers against CLIA agents. In esscence CLIA is just a market tool for travel agents and the cruise lines.

So, getting a CLIA agent is any more a sure road to satisfication than using an online agency. In fact many online agencies are home based, and are members of CLIA. Because they are based online, does not follow or even possible to imply anyone would be dealing with anything but qualified cruise sales agents.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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Kuki I respectfully disagree with you about CLIA...In order for an agent to sell cruises they have to belong to CLIA or IATA. Without these credentials you cannot sell cruises. And in order to obtain the credentials you have to go thru the training. Yes there are many people who slip thru the cracks and call them selves travel agents...but thats true in any profession. There are agents who are in it for the fun of it...not good. And there are agents who have a passion for it and study, get educated, learn the business and keep up with the latest trends in cruising. These are the agents you want to deal with. Anyone can sell a cheap cruise...thats a no brainer. Its the agent that has a good repeat business and knows how to keep good clients...thats the one you want. I believe that most Americans now don't know what good service is cuz all they look at is price. Thats it. But the savvy client who looks at price and service (with a good agent you get both) comes out the winner. If clients actually knew how much a good agent works for them they would not dicker on a few bucks or ask for me to rebate my commission. Would you give me part of your paycheck? I don't think so. Funny story I have a client a couple of years ago that asked me rebate 50% of my commission....I laughed to myself cuz the commission was on about $40.00 cuz he bought a cheap cruise on a bad line. I looked him and asked him if he would donate 50% of his paycheck to the local Salvation Army....he said no he couldn't do that.....and I said neither can I. He left angry and blah blah blah.....saying he wouldn't ever deal with us again...which was fine with me cuz he wasn't worth the time and effort. And hour later I sold a 30,000 cruise to a couple on Oceania. Never once asked me to rebate my commission, wanted the best price and any applicable discounts available which we gladly got for them. Interesting.
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Old January 21st, 2008, 02:39 AM
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Just wanted to add my 2 cents. I am a home based cruise TA too, one of those that are in for the fun of it. Mostly, there is no serious money here anyway. Meeting interesting people, searching and finding the best deals, beating the competition is fun. I am as happy when I get my client the best deal on a cheap cruise as when I sell an expensive one. It is not true that selling a cheap cruise is easy. Most of the home based agents including myself work under hosting of major travel agencies and don't need to obtain CLIA certification. I know that not everybody is using the same approach.
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Old January 21st, 2008, 04:39 PM
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Shura,

How can you say that there isnt serious money to be made? I have close to 2 million in sales on my books from last year. We are at the top of the commissions on all the cruise lines.....you do that math and you'll see that there is serious money to be made. If your in it for the fun of it then how serious can you be about selling cruises? I agree that selling a cheap cruise is hard....thats because the client usually will dicker on a couple of dollars...who has time for that? And there is a difference between someone who wants to take a cruise and can only afford the less expensive and the EL CHEAPO!!! Someone that hounds you for days and drive you crazy over a few bucks and then complains that someone didn't arrange an animal towel on their bed an it ruined their cruise.
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Old January 21st, 2008, 10:55 PM
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Good experience booking on line with Traveltips, vacations to go.com and Vantage.
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