I have a deposit on a cruise for 2002 with......I later checked the BBB site and found that they have an unsatisfactory rating with the BBB. I also noticed no CLIA or ASTA or Forbes symbols. My cruise specialist is nice to talk with, she gave the best price, until today. 2 different sites, that I called have cheaper pp cabin prices. I called my cruise specialist and asked if RCI lowered their prices...she called them then call me back and said no. Should I cancel with her and go with an internet site that has a good BBB rating. Actually, I know the answer, but I need validation.
If the agency already has a number of complaints against it with the BBB it certainly wouldn't seem prudent to leave your money with them.
I'd certainly recommend looking for an agency registered with CLIA and ASTA. That doesn't guarantee anything, but you should encounter agents with good cruise experience. Still wise to check with BBB.. that was good thinking.
Now get your money back and move on!!!
It's a tough spot for you. I would feel very guilty cancelling with someone who has been pleasant and honorable, but you also don't want to worry about "what if's" until you board the ship. It is your right to cancel with a full refund before final payment, but I empathize- makes you feel badly.
Just an FYI- you and I are booked on the same sailing, Radiance Hawaii 10/02. I use Suzanne at buycruises.com. I don't know what their record is with the BBB but I have been very happy with their/her service and previous cruises have gone without a hitch. The cruise we booked is so far off that the discounts aren't huge, but I know Suzanne will alert me when a special comes along that will better the price I am paying. If you would like to check with her, her email is email@example.com or 800-510-1786 ext 2313. Tell her Nancy K sent you! I have another RCCL cruise booked for this December and I got a terrific price.
Thanks Kuki and Nancy. I cancelled my deposit today. I feel really bad. When I called my cruise specialist, she asked why I had to cancel and I told her the truth, that the BBB gave them an unsatisfactory rating. She was livid, could not believe it "that is false!". She gave me a number to call the cruiseline, when I fianlly got through to them, the lady said that they are one of their biggest agency's and that they are reputable. I feel bad. The cruiseline lady also said agencies that are CLIA certified are best to go with. This particular agency is not. Now I have to start all over. Nancy, the agency you mentioned has a satisfactory record with the BBB.
Having just sold my Internet business in Australia I feel I can offer an opinion from the other side of the fence
Just how cheap do you want this cruise?
So many times I have offered clients the BEST deal in the marketplace and then they take this quote and go agency shopping
'Yes we will MATCH this price' they get in the next agency
My beef is that the agency or group they are going into never advertised this in the first place and are probably not cruise specialists
Do you want cheap to the point that you may hold off and then NOT get a cabin?
I also found the cheaper I went, the more demand there was for upgrades and waivers
If you think you have a good deal stick to it, whenever we had a few cabins that were bargains they went to my loyal clients not my cancelled list
Certainly book with a bonded agent - we cannot be non-bonded in Australia
In my experience, BBB reports are something like Consumer Reports. I really need to know all the conditions under which those reports were made before I can relate to them. For example, what they may call a "value cruise" I may call another cheap cattle call. Professional association memberships are far more meaningful to me.
Another important element is knowing exactly who ou are dealing with. Who owns and operates the web site? If you make a deposit on a cruise, to whom are you making it? The cruise line? The agent? Better make sure you get an acknowledgement from the cruise line that you actually have a reservation. Get things in writing, preferably by fax with signatures.
With a bit of "due diligence" the web can be a great source of bargains.
I hope your honesty has not cost you a large portion of your deposit. Review the deposit document you received from the agency - many of them (some in VERY small print) will state THEIR OWN cancellation fee policy - not to be confused with the CRUISE LINE cancellation policy. Some will charge you as much as $250.00 pp - which is perfectly within their right. Other agencies state nothing about their policies - until it comes times to cancel - and then you get the bad news - when , let's say only a small portion of your deposit is credited back. You have angered this agency, and if they are unscrupulous, they could be at their mercy.
When dealng with ANY agency, ALWAYS make sure you get their policy in WRITING before you book with them.
In November 2000 we booked a January 2001 cruise and a September 2001 cruise with a FL cruise-only agency we found on the web.
As I had done for previous cruises, I solicited bids online. (Our prior cruise-only agency never returned email or phone calls when I started shopping this time, so I couldn't book with the same agency as before). Of the twenty responses I got from my web solicitations, I threw out the two highest and two lowest bids. I then started looking at each company more carefully, looking at BBB ratings, membership in local Chamber of Commerce, CLIA and other professional associations, years in business, reputation and amount of revenue transacted with each cruise line's sales/marketing departments, etc. I narrowed down my search to two companies. I called and spoke with cruise specialists at each of these companies, and then chose the agent I thought had a pleasing personality that I could work with. I asked for and received five repeat-client references, and I spoke on the phone or exchanged email with four of them. All were great references, (of course). So, we booked both cruises with the chosen agency. It turns out the agency gave an additional discount if we paid in full for both cruises at the time of reservation. I did the math, and it worked out that pre-paying was a good deal. Ah, so I thought.
A month later, when I sent email to the agency asking a routine pre-cruise-docs question, the email went unanswered. Uncharacteristic. I usually got same-day responses. I tried phoning, but only got a recorded message. This went on for three days. My emails finally came back as rejected by the recipient's web site. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Sure enough, after phoning around in FL and putting messages on rec.travel.cruises message boards, I started getting feedback that our chosen company had "disappeared". Then someone from the cruise board sent me a newspaper story written in the local FL paper. Seems this otherwise highly successful company, legit for over 12 years, was bankrupt and had closed its doors. A local police investigator called me and confirmed this.
To make this long story even longer, we had luckily paid for these cruises with our VISA card. After four months and lots and lots of documentation and emails and phone calls, we finally had our VISA account credited with the fraudulent charges. Those folks that paid with cash or checks were out of luck though, because the FL police investigator said the owner of the agency had really hidden all of his assets very well, and there was nothing of value to be found anywhere to repay those cash/check-paying clients. The cruise lines, HAL and Windstar, claimed cruise agencies are independent businesses, and the cruise lines do not carry any financial responsibility for an agency's actions. (I always thought that was a strange opinion, since some cruise lines will only let you book a cruise through an agency). The cruise/trip insurance we purchased only pays when a cruise line goes out of business. These insurance policies provide no protection for agency problems.
Oh yes, I started over again re-booking the cruises, and we enjoyed our January cruise on Windstar's Wind Surf, and we're excited about cruising on HAL's Amsterdam in September.
The lessons I learned?
(1) ALWAYS pay for cruise deposits and final payments with a credit card, to give some minimal level of protection against unanticipated problems.
(2) ALWAYS verify ahead of time that the credit card charges are going to be posted by the cruise line(s) directly. (I didn't know that). Double-check your monthly credit card statement to be sure the deposit and the final payment show the cruise line on the statement detail line. (Both cruise lines said there would never be any reason for an agency to charge the account and then pass the payment along to the cruise line).
(3) Do your homework in selecting an agent and agency.
From my experience, I know what happened to us could happen with a web agency, a remote phone-in agency, or a local walk-in agency. You just never know.
"Sometimes you're the windshield, Sometimes you're the bug!" --- courtesy of Mary-Chapin
Hello All and thank you for your opinions. I did cancel with the online agency that had an unsatisfactory record (for unanswered complaints). I did receive a credit to my credit card. I sent an email to the specialist informing her I received my cancellation notice. I also said in my email, that my cancellation had no reflect on her wonderful service, that she was nice to talk with, prompt with information and returning phone calls and emails......if she ever works for another agency that has a satisfactory record and CLIA members feel free to contact me. She replied that the "Better Business Bureau is a non profit organization. Unless you pay their membership dues, they have nothing good to say about you." I don't know how true that is, but I feel more comfortable with an agency that has a satisfactory record. She also included their CLIA number. And "no intention of moving to another agency......" That they are "top producers with every cruise line." I guess my acknowledgement of her wonderful service was not needed. I did book with cruise.com, who are CLIA members in good standing and have a satisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau.
We are looking forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary (renewing our vows) aboard RCCL Radiance of the Seas Hawaiian Cruise.
I am a TA and I hope I can bring to light some information. The response thus far are great!
I worked for the BBB many years ago and it is NOT true what that TA told you. Companies can become a member of the BBB if they'd like, its up to them. It has nothing to do w/the BBB rating system. That's a totally different deparment all together. A consumer can file a complaint for any reason against a company and the company can reply to that complaint. If the consumer is still not happy they can file a rebuttal and the company can respond to that. The BBB hopes that this correspondence will settle the issues and bring the complaint to a compromise. Weather it does or doesnt the BBB must report this info to the public. Member companies do have complaints against them to! Also, just because a company is a member of the BBB doesnt mean they are a reputable company. There are consumers who use a company and never file a complaint, they just dont use that company anymore. Also, member co's are not allowed to use the BBB symbols in their advertising, etc. It is copywrighted!
Now, travel agencies can be members of CLIA or not. Its up to them. They dont have to print the CLIA logos on their site or advertisement, but I feel it is important to do so. You should be able to contact CLIA to verifiy an agency membership w/them and find out for how long. They may be able to tell you how long that co has been in business.
Just because the agent is pleasant doesnt mean the company she is working for is. She may not be aware of the complaints the company receives. I'm sure if they are a big agnecy someone else answers the complaints!
I hope this helped. I just had to say something about her comment on the BBB only because it is false and I worked there many years before becoming a TA.
Just one more comment.......most states have some type of "Seller of Travel" registration requirements. Ask for the agency's state registation number and contact the state office for complaints and/or a satisfactory rating. It adds a layer of protection for the consumer and recourse for recovery of funds.