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-   -   Who do you book with? (http://www.cruisemates.com/forum/royal-caribbean-international/396246-who-do-you-book.html)

beachbum13 May 21st, 2013 06:43 PM

Who do you book with?
 
For years I have used Vacations To Go. Always had great luck with them and they always did me right. I have used the same person for several years. Last week I decided to book a cruise on the Jewel out of Puerto Rico. Called and he was out. Called next day and he was out till Monday. Left messages both times. Sent him an email telling him what two cruises I was interested in if I could get a balcony. Called again late Monday afternoon and left another message. His message had changed from Friday. "I'm either busy with another customer or out to lunch. Please leave a message and I will get right back to you"

Well it's now Tuesday still no email or call and the flights home on the days I needed are now booked up or too expensive.:mad: So I don't feel the love anymore and I'm curious who other people use???

storybookcruises.com May 21st, 2013 07:35 PM

Always best to find a good reputable agent, preferable a cruise specialist, that you feel comfortable with. Keep in mind that most of the mass market cruise lines requires everyone to advertise the same cruise for the same price. Plus, a good agent will not charge any fees.

I don't suggest booking directly with the cruise line because if you have any problems, who do you think they represent? I'm also not a fan of these large online sites because staff is constantly changes.

In fact, there was a report once put out by an industry organization where their investigations found when calling the cruise line or a large online site, the people answering the phone were; 1) working in a call center, 2) were not certified travel agents, 3) had worked for the company less than 6 months, and 4) had never even seen a ship let alone been on a cruise or to any of the ports, so their knowledge was limited to selling and not in providing any helpful information.

With that said, do what you're doing - look for recommendations. Check out their website; is it professional looking? What are their office hours? Can you get ahold of them 24-7 in an emergency? Give the agent a call and talk to them - ask alot of questions. Do they answer the phone right away? Find out how long they've been in business, how many cruises they've been on, what cruise lines have they been on, what ships, where they've cruised, etc. One important question to ask is do they sell Royal Caribbean cruises? If the answer to that question is no, run the other way. RCCL is the first to yank agent's credentials for not abiding by their policies. Also, ask if they charge your credit card or whether they have the cruise line charge your credit card. If they charge it, again, run the other way. You only want to do business with agencies who have the cruise line charge your credit card.

No matter what you decide, definitely find a reputable agent that you feel comfortable with and can talk to and is available when you need them. An agent can be worth their weight in gold, especially if you have any problems, so you want someone who will be on your side and fight any battles for you if needed.

As Warren Buffet said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." A good agent is more interested in getting your business, not in just getting your money.

Hope this helps.

Pete

Manuel May 21st, 2013 08:36 PM

I book all my traveling with Robin and Susan ( CruiseOne ) . They are located in Berlin Ct. and they have been very helpful. They always do all they can to take care of my cruise or other travel needs.
They are cruise specialists but they do land travels as well.

I consider them as friends after all the trips that I have booked with them.

TM

ViviW May 23rd, 2013 01:33 PM

Cruise Planner, great advice. I have a couple of questions you may be able to clarify for me. I've been booking my own travel, including cruises, forever but recently have grown very tired and very frustrated with RC's C&A reps. Either I get bad information, get shuffled around (one actually put me back into the queue when I said I was switching my sailing) and another C&A rep sent me to the B2B person who then sent me to a "cruise consultant" who didn't know what they were talking about. All I wanted to do was change my sailing to another ship. After finally getting the cruise changed, they locked me out of my reservation (for payment purposes) and it took another 3 hours on the phone to get it released.

I contacted a TA a friend uses for cruises. I explained why I was engaging the TA (so I wouldn't have to deal with C&A ever again) and said I wanted a mid-ship Concierge cabin on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska. I also asked since I'm Diamond with RC if there were any additional benefits beyond the Elite that I would get with a Concierge cabin. The TA quoted me the lowest rates for balcony and concierge cabins but none were mid-ship. She told me to call RC to find out what the benefits were when booking Celebrity's concierge cabins so I could compare them myself. When I asked for mid-ship cabin quote she said she would suggest cabins to me at the time of booking but, of course, the rates she quoted wouldn't be the same as the mid-ship cabin. Apparently, the benefit of booking with TAs (or at least this one) is that they pay the gratituties and offer a small OBC, neither of which is a deal maker for me. Is this typical? This is a huge on-line agency and should I have to do basic research (like what the benefits of being Elite or that come with a Concierge cabin)?

All I really want is someone who is familiar enough with the cruise lines or willing to check to answer a few questions and give me quotes for the actual cabin type/location I want. I understand they don't book air/excursions but it seems like this TA only wants to book the cruise and leave me to do exactly what I was engaging her to do, deal with RC/Celebrity. Yeah, I'm a little frustrated, so I'm sorry if this is coming off harsh.

Thanks in advance.

storybookcruises.com May 23rd, 2013 04:54 PM

My first advice is drop that agent and find another one! And you're definitely not sounding harsh at all.

I can't believe they told you to call RCCL and ask the questions! Seriously? No reputable agent would do that. They should not be telling you to do something that is their job - that's why you use them. Guess they're more interesting in selling than in providing good service.

Unfortunately, there are many of them like that. They pretend to give good service, but aren't there when you really need them. The measure of a good agent is how they handle problems or requests for help. The thing is that there is only money involved in the booking. There is no money in spending time and effort in handling problems or questions. So alot of agents are simply not willing to take time away from selling and spend uncompensated time on these types of issues. What they don't understand is that if they aren't willing to work for the client, the client won't be willing to provide work for the agent.

It's like any other profession. Look at all the negative stories about auto mechanics - tough to find a good one, but when you do, they're worth their weight in gold! I'm not picking on mechanics because the same can be true with many other professions, but you get the idea.

Travel agents are the same way. There are many who are unscrupulous and the bad press they receive make it difficult for those of us who are hard working reputable agents. So when you find a good one, stick with them. Yes, sometimes you might be able to find a rate that may be a bit cheaper on some discount online site, but is it really worth it in the end? If you have a problem, that online site won't/can't help you, so that discount you got ends up costing you much more after all is said and done.

And as I mentioned earlier, the average lifespan of someone working in these call centers, whether with the cruise line or an online site, is only 6 months. They take the job thinking it's full of benefits and great opportunities for free travel, but it doesn't take long before they realize it's alot of work with very few benefits and there's no such thing as free travel.

As Lee Iaccoca said in his book, and I'm paraphrasing here, "It takes a lifetime to gain a customer's loyalty, but only seconds to lose it." He believed it doing whatever was necessary to keep the customer happy. He also said that a happy customer will tell 3 to 5 people about their experience, but an unhappy customer will tell 8 to 10 people. Of course, that was before the internet, so now you could multiply those figures by tens of thousands, but the principle is the same. He said you may lose money taking care of one problem, but in the end you'll make that money up many times because you've now got that customer for life. It's too bad many companies (and many agents) do not believe in those principles.

Pete

ViviW May 23rd, 2013 06:04 PM

Hi Cruise Planner, thanks so much for answering. I really wasn't sure if this was typical of cruises travel agents and was hoping it wasn't. I'll keep looking for a good TA. Is it o.k. to ask if you would be interested?:)

storybookcruises.com May 23rd, 2013 06:33 PM

I'm sorry, but I don't solicit business or send out PM's to do so. Not only is it against CM policies, but I don't feel it would be appropriate or ethical. However, if you care to send me a PM, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thanks for understanding.

Pete

ViviW May 23rd, 2013 09:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cruise planner (Post 1474003)
I'm sorry, but I don't solicit business or send out PM's to do so. Not only is it against CM policies, but I don't feel it would be appropriate or ethical. However, if you care to send me a PM, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thanks for understanding.

Pete

Pete,

Oh no, I didn't mean to offend, I wasn't sure if I should ask or if it was against policy here. I'm sorry. I really respect your stand on this and so appreciate the advice you have given me. Thank you for offering to let me PM you, I will only do that if I can't get an answer here. Who'd thought it would be this hard to find a good cruise TA? I'll keep trying. Again,thank you for your help.

storybookcruises.com May 23rd, 2013 11:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ViviW (Post 1474014)
Pete,

Oh no, I didn't mean to offend, I wasn't sure if I should ask or if it was against policy here. I'm sorry. I really respect your stand on this and so appreciate the advice you have given me. Thank you for offering to let me PM you, I will only do that if I can't get an answer here. Who'd thought it would be this hard to find a good cruise TA? I'll keep trying. Again,thank you for your help.

Oh, no offense taken. Didn't mean to sound that way. Sorry if that was the case.

Pete

beachbum13 May 24th, 2013 12:09 PM

My rep from Vacations To Go called me and appologized for the delay. I'm still not happy but as I said he has always done me right in the past. We'll see what happens Tuesday when Quantum goes on sale. Every make mistakes.

storybookcruises.com May 24th, 2013 02:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ViviW (Post 1473998)
Hi Cruise Planner, thanks so much for answering. I really wasn't sure if this was typical of cruises travel agents and was hoping it wasn't. I'll keep looking for a good TA. Is it o.k. to ask if you would be interested?:)

Just to let you know, I was contacted by the CM management and was told that since you specifically asked me, I am permitted to respond to you that yes, I would be interested in assisting you with your booking. I invite you to PM me and I'll be in touch with my contact information.

Thanks for asking!

Pete

Robbie H June 1st, 2013 11:53 AM

I think it's great that CM allows this since the OP requested. I say that since I am also an agent who travels on RCI a bunch (finally Pinnacle) and occasionally I get asked for a card while onboard. Not wanting to offend I got clarification and they have been very clear that it is fine as long as the passenger initiates the request.

thecruisequeen June 3rd, 2013 11:40 AM

Booked the next cruise directly with Royal.....Booked the last cruise with Cruise Planner right in my town....however when I called her after I booked and paid and wanted to switch from set dining to mytime she had an attitude with me....I guess I was making her work extra to pick up the phone call Royal and switch it. :rolleyes:

Manuel June 3rd, 2013 05:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thecruisequeen (Post 1475253)
Booked the next cruise directly with Royal.....Booked the last cruise with Cruise Planner right in my town....however when I called her after I booked and paid and wanted to switch from set dining to mytime she had an attitude with me....I guess I was making her work extra to pick up the phone call Royal and switch it. :rolleyes:


I have to say that my TA is always happy to do any changes that we want to do.
When I call her she treats me like a friend. She is very efficient and has done a great job for us.

TM

Aerogirl June 3rd, 2013 07:16 PM

I have booked two through the cruises company three with the TA. I will always use a TA now.

felix_the_cat June 3rd, 2013 08:00 PM

I guess I don't understand why some in our business are so unhelpful after they have the booking in the bag - don't they understand there is more to it than booking a cruise.

Sorry, just venting a bit - if I treated my clients like that they would just go elsewhere.

Eta - But the reason I got into this business, the TA I had for a long time became very unhelpful after awhile. I would do most of the work myself, then she got the commission. (Don't take that wrong, I did not want any part of her commission.) Even the bottle of wine stopped coming.

storybookcruises.com June 3rd, 2013 08:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thecruisequeen (Post 1475253)
Booked the next cruise directly with Royal.....Booked the last cruise with Cruise Planner right in my town....however when I called her after I booked and paid and wanted to switch from set dining to mytime she had an attitude with me....I guess I was making her work extra to pick up the phone call Royal and switch it. :rolleyes:

Wow! That's very disappointing!! I'm sorry to hear that.

She didn't even have to call them - all she had to do is go on their booking site and make the change. It's quick, easy, and is not a big deal.

The only thing she should have done was to remind you that if you do the My Time dining, then the gratuities will have to be pre-paid. That way there would be no surprises for you in case you were not aware of it. But to cop an attitude is wrong.

Sorry you had that problem.

Pete

Trip June 3rd, 2013 10:19 PM

One thing cruisers might want to consider is, if you book with the cruise line directly, you can then transfer the booking to an agent, I think within a certain period of time..Pete will know.

I have always found, having someone who is in my corner and will be procative in case any issues arise is the best plan..why fight a battle, when an experienced professional, can usually handle a situation, quicker, and that's less stress for you.

beachbum13 June 4th, 2013 12:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Trip (Post 1475317)
One thing cruisers might want to coinsider is, if you book with the cruise line directly, you can then transfer the booking to an agent, I think within a certain period of time..Pete will know.

I have always found, having someone who is in my corner and will be procative in case any issues arise is the best plan..why fight a battle, when an experienced professional, can usually handle a situation, quicker, and that's less stress for you.

When we were on Oasis we booked a cruise on Explorer OTS. We transfered it to Vacations To Go. I just had them switch it to Quantum. I talked to my rep last Tuesday morning and when I got home from work I was booked on Quantum! Could not have been easier!

thecruisequeen June 4th, 2013 04:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cruise planner (Post 1475302)
Wow! That's very disappointing!! I'm sorry to hear that.

She did even have to call them - all she had to do is go on their booking site and make the change. It's quick, easy, and is not a big deal.

The only thing she should have done was to remind you that if you do the My Time dining, then the gratuities will have to be pre-paid. That way there would be no surprises for you in case you were not aware of it. But to cop an attitude is wrong.

Sorry you had that problem.

Pete

Wow it was even easier then a phone call...a quick change online...Maybe I called her at a bad time or something....But she did give me the feeling that "You are booked and paid for what do you want I'm busy" Oh well....Her loss...I shall continue to cruise..:mrgreen::cool: I had a excellent agent before and used her for years then she had a bad car accident and retired her clients were given to another girl in the office however she was horrible and I did not want to deal with her so stopped using that office all together

storybookcruises.com June 4th, 2013 07:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thecruisequeen (Post 1475379)
Wow it was even easier then a phone call...a quick change online...Maybe I called her at a bad time or something....But she did give me the feeling that "You are booked and paid for what do you want I'm busy" Oh well....Her loss...I shall continue to cruise..:mrgreen::cool: I had a excellent agent before and used her for years then she had a bad car accident and retired her clients were given to another girl in the office however she was horrible and I did not want to deal with her so stopped using that office all together

I meant to say 'she didn't even have to call' and accidentally wrote 'she did even have to call'. Sorry it was a typo - I made the change in my post.

But yes, it's easier than a phone call to do it online through the cruise line's booking site. Takes maybe a minute or two to bring up the booking, make the change, and save it. Quick and easy, unless of course she's new and doesn't know how to do it, or she's too busy and doesn't want to take the time to provide good customer service. Either way, it's inexcusable.

Pete

M n O June 4th, 2013 07:22 PM

We like booking directly with the ship on line as we can see the choices of the rooms available and pick the best one for us. We have also used Expedia on line and that worked as well. Sometimes after we figure out the room we want we call direct and tell them the room # we want.

storybookcruises.com June 4th, 2013 09:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M n O (Post 1475393)
We like booking directly with the ship on line as we can see the choices of the rooms available and pick the best one for us. We have also used Expedia on line and that worked as well. Sometimes after we figure out the room we want we call direct and tell them the room # we want.

And if you book with the cruise line and have any problems, you're on your own.

Plus, if you book with the cruise line or Expedia, they cannot answer any questions about the ports of call or pretty much anything else because they're not certified travel agents and almost all of them have never even been on a cruise.

Best to do your homework, decide what cruise & cabin you want, then talk to your agent and let them do all the work for you. Plus, if you have any problems, they'll do everything necessary to make it right so you don't have to stress over it or spend time trying to talk to someone who won't help you.

Pete

Trip June 4th, 2013 10:15 PM

Any travel agency can tell you what cabins are available, plus with a ta, you get the experience, and, knowledge of an actual traveler.

Mike M June 5th, 2013 08:21 AM

If you are a new cruiser I would completely recommend that you book through an experienced agent. They are the ones who will honestly answer your questions and know "little secrets" about many ports of call and any additional charges you may have during the course of your cruise. i.e. surcharge restaurants, general drink prices, cabana rentals on private islands, etc.

I still book most of my cruises with a travel agent. I have booked directly with the cruise line on a couple of occasions. These mostly involved grabbing a "specific" cabin that was available and my agent was not available or their assistant didn't return my call and I didn't want to lose the cabin. The last instance was when an aft balcony cabin popped up at the last minute. Those don't last long.

These days I am an easy client. I call and tell the agent what ship, cabin, date and itinerary I want and what the price is. If they can't match the price then something's wrong. Not too much work for them in the booking process.

One big problem I find with travel agents is that many experience the "Curse of riches". This is when the wonderful agent who returns phone calls within minutes, provides great information and will spend time researching cruise options, grows too big. The wonderful service they provided leads to a number of referrals, more clients and the agent can no longer spend the time they once could on a client. They grow too fast and their service suffers from it. New clients are frustrated and old clients are disappointed. This is a common problem in almost all businesses but I have seen this in the "franchise" agent market a lot lately. Uncontrolled growth leads to failure and GOOD agents become bad agents. This results in the loss of new customers and old customers. Nothing bothers a veteran cruiser more than recommending their wonderful travel agent only to hear back that the agent was terrible. Being a cruise agent is a hard job and I feel for them but when I am spending thousands of dollars I do expect a consistent level of service. If that service drops off I will take my business elsewhere or eliminate the middleman and go directly to the cruise line.

Take care,
Mike

felix_the_cat June 6th, 2013 10:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cruise planner (Post 1475406)
And if you book with the cruise line and have any problems, you're on your own.

Plus, if you book with the cruise line or Expedia, they cannot answer any questions about the ports of call or pretty much anything else because they're not certified travel agents and almost all of them have never even been on a cruise.

Best to do your homework, decide what cruise & cabin you want, then talk to your agent and let them do all the work for you. Plus, if you have any problems, they'll do everything necessary to make it right so you don't have to stress over it or spend time trying to talk to someone who won't help you.

Pete


I have to point out - you are wrong about Expedia when it comes to booking cruises. I am an example of Expedia. Since Expedia bought out cruiseshipcenters a few years ago, you do get a live person and a live person whom you can contact at any time with a direct phone number.

storybookcruises.com June 6th, 2013 12:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by felix_the_cat (Post 1475522)
I have to point out - you are wrong about Expedia when it comes to booking cruises. I am an example of Expedia. Since Expedia bought out cruiseshipcenters a few years ago, you do get a live person and a live person whom you can contact at any time with a direct phone number.

I didn't say you don't get a live person, I said you usually get ahold of someone who's never been on a cruise. And if you have any problems, they do not want to spend any time helping you because there's no money in it. There's only money in making reservations, not in providing service after the fact.

There was an article put our years ago that said when you call the cruise lines or these online sites, you're talking to someone who; 1) works in a call center, 2) is not a certified travel agent, 3) has worked for the company less than 6 months, and 4) has never even seen a ship let alone been on a cruise or to any of the ports. So their expertise is limited to taking your money, not in answering any questions about the cruise or the ports. They're in a hurry to take your money and get onto the next customer.

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but those are a small percentage of the total that fit within the usual perimeters. The thing is these people work for a big company - they do not work for themselves. They get paid for making bookings. To spend time answering questions and providing good customer service takes time away from their number one priority.

We all know how frustrating it can be working with large companies. When you call them, it often starts off with a voice message that says, "Press 1 for English." Then it often takes 5 minutes to go through all the prompts before you actually get to talk to a real human being. Personally, I would much rather work with a small business anytime! They care more about me as a person than just another number.

Pete

felix_the_cat June 6th, 2013 01:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cruise planner (Post 1475535)
I didn't say you don't get a live person, I said you usually get ahold of someone who's never been on a cruise. And if you have any problems, they do not want to spend any time helping you because there's no money in it. There's only money in making reservations, not in providing service after the fact.

There was an article put our years ago that said when you call the cruise lines or these online sites, you're talking to someone who; 1) works in a call center, 2) is not a certified travel agent, 3) has worked for the company less than 6 months, and 4) has never even seen a ship let alone been on a cruise or to any of the ports. So their expertise is limited to taking your money, not in answering any questions about the cruise or the ports. They're in a hurry to take your money and get onto the next customer.

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but those are a small percentage of the total that fit within the usual perimeters. The thing is these people work for a big company - they do not work for themselves. They get paid for making bookings. To spend time answering questions and providing good customer service takes time away from their number one priority.

We all know how frustrating it can be working with large companies. When you call them, it often starts off with a voice message that says, "Press 1 for English." Then it often takes 5 minutes to go through all the prompts before you actually get to talk to a real human being. Personally, I would much rather work with a small business anytime! They care more about me as a person than just another number.

Pete

I guess its time for an update then. Expedia Cruiseshipcenters is who you get now to book a cruise with. We are all full fledged travel agents with many, myself included, CLIA certified. Cruiseshipcenters runs a training program of its own that must be taken before you can book a cruise for anyone.

While not everyone has necessarily taken a cruise, neither have a lot of others. I have 43 cruises with many trips to islands and Europe in addition. Everyone in our office has cruised.

We all have a brick and mortar office where the client is welcome to attend if they wish. Since most are using an 800 number, they don't usually want to come into an office. Once you are connected with a travel agent through the 800 number that agent will give you a number at which they can be reached.

We are all more than willing to work with the client well after the cruise has been booked with any issues they may have.

There is certainly a lot more to us (Expedia). And we are not a call center.

storybookcruises.com June 6th, 2013 05:01 PM

May very well be true and things may have changed over the last couple of years. And you are definitely one of the few instead of one of the many, and it sounds like you are someone who has alot of personal knowledge and someone that people can trust as an agent. That's a good thing. I have no doubt if a client finds you, they will be happy with their choice. Reputable agents, like you, are worth their weight in gold, as I'm sure you'll agree.

But out of curiosity I called the 800 number, got a recording, and then waited 10 minutes to get ahold of someone. Asked a couple of routine questions for a newbie and found they had not cruised before. Called back a while later, waited another 5 minutes, talked to a different person, asked the same question, got the same answer. And by the way, both people answered the phone Expedia Cruises, not Expedia Cruiseshipcenters, which surprised me.

Pete

felix_the_cat June 6th, 2013 07:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cruise planner (Post 1475557)
May very well be true and things may have changed over the last couple of years. And you are definitely one of the few instead of one of the many, and it sounds like you are someone who has alot of personal knowledge and someone that people can trust as an agent. That's a good thing. I have no doubt if a client finds you, they will be happy with their choice. Reputable agents, like you, are worth their weight in gold, as I'm sure you'll agree.

But out of curiosity I called the 800 number, got a recording, and then waited 10 minutes to get ahold of someone. Asked a couple of routine questions for a newbie and found they had not cruised before. Called back a while later, waited another 5 minutes, talked to a different person, asked the same question, got the same answer. And by the way, both people answered the phone Expedia Cruises, not Expedia Cruiseshipcenters, which surprised me.

Pete

Just had a brainwave. (Don't do that too often.) I am in Canada. Although Expedia cruiseshipcenters is buying small offices in the states, it may well be they are not answering the same as us - yet. This has been an ongoing process for the last couple of years. I am curious though, did you ask if they were in a call center? They are suppose to be in a brick and mortar or home based. I will be disappointed if they aren't being trained the same way we are. They are suppose to be taking the same courses as us.

I suppose taking over and existing business makes it more difficult to re-train to a new concept as well.

Now, if someone was to phone our area tonight, their call would be put through to me. (Please note though, I said our area.) I believe they do it by postal code. If the closest office does not have an evening rep, they will try other offices until they get one. Sometimes I get calls from Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec etc and I'm in Ontario.


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