I have always used a TA. I find out that I had rather let somebody else handle all the details. I have found a gem of an TA. She is great to work with and is always quick to reply to e-mails. She has grat deals also, even better htan the cruiseline when I checked with them.
"Does anyone know if there are advantages/disadvantages of booking with Princess directly?"
AFAIK, direct booking on the Princess web site is limited to a few specials. If you book another cruise through Princess's "onboard booking" program (that is, during a cruise aboard a Princess ship), it's assigned to the travel agent who handled the original booking.
I have booked directly with Princess and generally do not use travel agents. I have found Princess personnel to be incredibly helpful and the website is excellent. I believe that I got a very good price for my vacation by booking directly with the cruiseline and I feel as though I can get answers to my questions quickly as you can call night and day.
I have booked land-based holidays all over the world myself and love the search for the perfect spot and bargain that I just don't feel that travel agents have the time to do.
Many TA's, such as the one we use, reserve blocks of cabins, thereby giving them the ability to offer lower prices. Our TA has also in the past given us refunds after we paid in full and a better offer comes up.
I totally agree with Kuki and Ernie. A competent travel agent will definitely beat direct booking with Princess. I actually called Princess a few years ago just to check availability on certain categories and dates. The telephone agent insisted on going through the booking procedure even though I told her that I had my own cruise agent. She said no problem, I could have the booking transferred to my agent which I did. My agent got the booking and reduced the fare by several hundred dollars. A good knowledgeable cruise agent can be of assistance in many other ways as well.
Star Princess - 2005; Caribbean Princess - 2004;Golden Princess - 2003;
Grand Princess - 2002, 2001, 2000; Sun Princess - 1998;
Regal Princess - 1996; Star Princess - 1995
I recently asked the same question when I was trying to book a Cunard cruise. I followed everyone's advice to use a TA and they were right! Get several quotes and trust your instincts and go with the one you think will offer you the best service (which may not necessarily be the one who offers you the cheapest price). If you don't have a TA, try using the Bargain Finder. And check out the cruise line website to see if they recommend any TAs.