What do you think about TA's and some non-TA's on the boards saying that you will always get a better deal by using a TA? Do you agree/disagree? Is this true or are the TA's just promoting their source of income? I believe there are times when a TA is beneficial but I do not believe that a TA will "always" save you money. I realize there are a lot of cruisers who just dont want to bothered with the details of cruise planning so they use a TA. I think thats great. I also think there are lots of us who like trying to go it on our own. For example. I have found that booking our own air has always saved us a large amount of money on our cruises. On 1 past and 2 future Celebrity cruises, I have found that the Celebrity web site price is the same price offered by the online TA's and 3 local TA's. However, on a past Carnival cruise, our TA was 100 dollars cheaper that booking directly with Carnival. Is it possible for some TA's here to admit that there are times when they can't give you a better price than you get booking direct with the CL? I saw on another board here where a TA stated ..."if you do not purchase your cruise through a travel agent, you will always pay more for it than you should and get less value for your $$$...." I always take issue with the word "always" .
I read somewhere that you won $1000 in the casino on your last cruise. I don't remember being invited out for cocktails upon your return.
Always is a word that you should "almost always" avoid using. If one reads enough threads on this board the one thing you can "almost always" be sure of is that there is no definative answer as to which is cheaper , TA or online or direct booking. I think the true answer is to do a little homework yourself and then book with the method you are
most comfortable with. I happen to be quite happy using the cruise specialist at the local office of one of the larger vacation travel TA's. That's me. I like making one or two phone calls, telling someone who knows my travel habits what I'm interested in and getting a call back with alternatives and prices. I am willing to pay (or have built into the price) an amount for the services of a TA. Having done some homework in advance I know whether the prices are reasonable and am in a position to be comfortable with booking this way.
Our particular TA also does follow up checks for price reductions and we have seen our bill go down more than once(we generally book about a year in advance). Right there is yet another debate, can you "always" get a better deal booking early or booking last minute. Since Mrs. Bill wants specific cabin locations in our case the latter "almost always" would not work (regardless of the price).
One thing I do know. ALWAYS leave Rick's stuff alone if he leaves it on his deck chair
by the pool.
I can accept the statement "if you do not purchase your cruise through a travel agent, you will always pay more for it than you should and get less value for your $$$...." as true in general but not in every case regarding every travel agent; a TA should be able to cut the price of the cruise for you by lowering their commision (new bookings only). However, a TA may choose not to do so and accept the idea that X number of travelers will not search out that $$$ savings. As for "get[ting[ less value", if your TA arranges a cruise, flights and ground transportation for you, you're practicing one-stop shopping and the TA will deal with the cruiseline, airline, etc., where doing it yourself might entail hours of research. However, to say that ALL TAs will save you money all the time is incorrect.
PS My only gripe is people who ask me, while onboard, what I paid for my vacation or who insist on telling me outright what they paid for theirs. I won't tell the former and don't want to know the latter!
People who think they got a great deal will always be looking to suck you into that conversation so they can gloat over their price. I too try not to get sucked in to either end of that conversation, however I do enjoy responding as follows when people insist on telling me how much they paid: "you really paid THAT MUCH, too bad, maybe you can get a better deal next time". I never divulge what we paid .
We are in the cabin of our choice at a price acceptable to us, that is all I need to know.
I'll use the word ALWAYS.. in regard to ALWAYS being ABLE to find a TA that will sell the same cruise for less than the cruise line.
I'm sure there are MANY agents working out there, who will look up the price in the cruise line reservation system, and that's what they'll quote. Even though, in the age of the Internet, they're likely to loose quite a bit of business, there are still people out there who won't research, and will get a price, and book. So... the TAs take their chances hoping that's the scenario.
Just as there are probably still people out there somewhere paying brochure rates on occassion.
Bottom line.. without even investing alot of your time.. just a bit of research... I feel quite comfortable saying you will ALWAYS pay MORE THAN YOU SHOULD, if you book direct with a cruise line.
I can NEVER see any advantage in booking directly with the cruise line!
However, if you feel comfortable booking directly with the cruise line (say, to insure a certain cabin) the cruise lines also allow you to transfer the exisiting booking to a TA.
Doing this should also ALWAYS insure a saving from the cruise lines price.
As a cruise consultant in the UK I can sound a bit biased when I say you should use a cruise agency when you book. Some agencies will have an group allocation on a certain cruise giving large discounts. We have just completed a offer on the Royal Princess that was advertised 25% lower than the cruise line was offering including their early booking discounts!!!
While it is true that we sacrifice part of our commission to secure a booking, a cruise consultant will also look at "re-packaging" a cruise. This is one way of lowering the cost of the cruise by using our own contract rates with airlines and ground handlers rather that the inflated price that the cruise lines add to their cruise. True, this can be done by anyone by phoning flight companies and grabbing taxes, but by booking through an agent its is covered by a national governing body of tour operators (in the UK its A.T.O.L.).
One bit of advise, book with a cruise specialist rather that a travel agent. A cruise specialist will offer better advise, has experience of the ports and cruises and will be able to iron out any problems should they happen better than a travel agent. One example we use would be "Would you feel safer buying car insurance of an insurance company or through K-Mart for 5$ less?"
You have it exactly right, Kuki. I'm not sure why some people cannot grasp the concept that the t/a can rebate part of his commission, based upon the cruise line's lowest price, but... he also has other options, ie group prices, which are lower from the get go. However, in this case "always" is very much "always", with your well taken caveat that there are some t/a's who don't measure up, as there are losers in every Industry. Sooner or later, competition in the market washes them out. There are also some clients, and this may or may not surprise some, who demand a level of service from their t/a that is in keeping with their life style... and who are accustomed and quite content to pay for it. The luxury brand ships are filled with these people as are the higher level accommodations on Premium Brand ships. Everything is smoothed for them, including the proverbial limo to/from the ship, private "meet and greet" services to take care of their luggage on arrival at an airport or at a pier, or both and so forth. So, despite the impression one gets from reading the boards, it really is all about value, which means different things to different people. But, again, the professional t/a will "always" offer the best value and "always", without exception a price lower than the cruise line's... like for like.
Rick, the ONLY time the cruiseline can offer you a better deal than a TA is under highly unusual circumstances like that which occured during 9/11 where the lines were offering passengers to remain onboard for another week for $50 per day or less. Other than that, I stand by the statement that you can ALWAYS get a better deal through a REPUTABLE TA than directly through the cruiseline. The cruiseline puts the rate at say $750, the TA gets this cruise for $750 LESS his commission which lets just say is 15%. Now if he sells it to your for $750 he gets $112.50 in commission. Now this TA wants your business so he actually sells it to you for $700 and still makes $62.50. You get it for $50 less than through direct booking and he still makes a profit, win/win. What the actual profit margin is I don't know as I am not a TA and I think they vary depending on the agency and the cruiseline but the bottom line is, the TA CAN get you the cruise for less than the cruiseline will sell it to you for. If not, you are using the wrong TA period.
Community Staff Leader
Jim... another one of those rare occasions when I agree completely with you. And then there are other percs the t/a may get, depending on the sailing, or the group situation that take it to another level altogether. Frankly, though, we've been down this road before and, for whatever reason, some simply just don't want to or cannot understand that... and so be it.
My TA "always" gives me better prices then the cruiseline!
Believe me - I compare prices all the time! And I often hold a cabin with the cruiseline, and then if I decide to go with it, I give my TA the booking number and she then tells me the cheaper price then what the cruiseline was charging. I only hold cabins with the cruiseline if I am not sure that I really want the cabin -I hate to give extra work to the TA and then cancel on her.
My TA doesn't do air (unless it is cruise air) and that is fine with me. I like looking at the schedules myself and can book it directly. Not a problem for me.
I wouldn't even consider booking a cruise (or any other vacation)any way except through a good TA. Price aside , the service factor is very important to us as well.
My TA shares her commission with us , but, Rick still hasn't offered to share any of his winnings.
I wouldn't put the sharing of commissions that high Ernie. The ones that do a good independant business do rebate part of them that is true but there are a good number from what I have seen that keep it all and some that even add on extra which explains why some people think they can get a better deal through the Cruiseline.
Let me try and explain some of it to everyone and Ernie and other TA's I am sure can back me up on this. The usual commission is 10% from most lines. Now if the agency sells so much then the commission rate goes up to maybe as much as 15% with some even going slightly higher. Understand that in order to get this top % you have to be selling a huge volume and the agencies that do this are not very many at all which is why many agents join a 'consortium' in order to get the better rates. Now occasionally some agents will be able to even get below this rate as they buy a block of cabins and get a group rate from the line which is I guess somewhere around an additional 5%. THIS is why a cruise that sells directly from the cruise line for $1000 can be had from a good TA for as low as $875, (hey, they do have to put food on the table for crying out loud), and if they can manage a group rate then they can go down another $50 and IF the cruiseline is having promotions for certain areas, occupations, age groups etc, then they can pass that on down to the consumer. TA's CAN make pretty good money on each booking, but those that want lots of repeat business don't make much on each one. They are looking for loyalty.
Community Staff Leader
Jim... I basically agree with what you say... except some of your $$$ & %%% may be a bit off. I guess what I failed to emphasize was that I am referring to the bulk of travel agents that do a good cruise volume. There is much more to it than simply rebating of commission. Goup rates are part of it and there is lots more. As I said earlier, if you tell your t/a that you got such and such a rate on a cruise, and the t/a cannot beat it substantially, then you really have the wrong t/a. Of course it is never 100% perfect.
My T/A is a bona fide genius for Christ's sake. We've sorta established a little "game" lately where I shop on the internet for the absolute best price I can possibly find then call him and ask him if he can get close to the same price. So far, he has always laughed and said he can do better, and he has!
He sells a lot of cruises and the cruiseline reps discount the cabins beyond the usual for his customers (or that's his line anyway). Heck, for all I know he may be related to each of the reps and has inside knowledge of their escapades with non-spouses. Whatever he is doing he is doing well!
And.............he always has a bottle of champagne delivered to our table the first night. Nice touch! I'd prefer a six pack of Michelob but Mrs. Thomas likes the bubbly.
Rick: TA's won't always be able to get you a lower price that booking direct with the line. Depends on the line, relationship with the TA, existance of groups and discounts, etc. But I've yet to hear of a TA ever charging anyone MORE than the direct booking price. And some times (yes, many times) the TA's can do better.
We all need to shop for our TA, like we do for anything else. It's not just a matter of good and bad TA's, but more a matter of finding a TA who works in the area of the particular types of cruises and lines you prefer. Cause one of the most valuable thing TA's offer is advice and help. If there's a line or two you particularly like, a TA that does a lost of business with the line or lines will be of greatest help in working out any problems that may occur.
I booked with my TA and then called the cruiseline to see what their price was - and OMG with every perk they could find they were still Waaaay more than the price I got from my TA - when I asked the cruiseline about the rate I'd been quoted, they said there was no way they could come close to that rate. I also like having a TA that will go to bat for me against the cruiseline should that become necessary.
We throw around the term TA rather loosely on these boards. I maintain that there are two distinct types of TA's. 1. Those that have offices locally in the mall or office complex where you go in, sit in the extra chair beside their desk and read brochures while they try to get their legacy computer system to respond. They ask you questions, you answer and they book your cruise, air, rental car, etc. etc. while you sit there. If you have a question about this or that, they will answer regardless if they really know or not. 2. On line agents who are primarily order takers. Their website could have a search engine that is linked to the cruiseline and quotes pretty much the best price around (save those rare occasions when an agency has "blocked" out a number of cabins at a reduced rate). These "agents" will sometimes offer you past-passenger coupons if you don't have them yourself and generally will get the price down $100 to $200 per person cheaper than the cruise line directly.
I don't personally believe that group number 1 (which I refer to as store-front TA's) can offer you any better deal than group number 2. They'll tell you that they offer a relationship, someone to talk to, will look at your pictures when you return - all that touchy feely stuff - thats not worth anything monetarilly. Now if you're into that sort of thing, than they're the ones for you. If you just want efficiency and speed - go for number 2.
I have a great TA. I've known her for years and she knows my likes and dislikes, etc. She is very competetive price wise, but I would pay extra for the wonderful service she gives me. I don't have to worry about getting on the cruise websites to see if the price has been lowered. She does it as a matter of course. She also calls me with specials she thinks I might be interested in doing. We have the perfect TA/client relationship. Have I ever checked with other TA's? Sure, but I always come back to her.
1) the cruise lines will not undersell travel agents, they need the travel agents too much to alienate them. I agree with Kuki, you will ALWAYS be able to find a TA who will sell lower than the cruise lines do directly (but all TA do so).
2) You say you save money by booking your air directly, but who do you book it through? Unless it is the airline website you are still using a travel agent, even if it is Expedia. Personally, I never book directly with the airlines (except sometimes Southwest) because they prices are usually outrageous compared to online travel sites like Expedia or One-travel.
I am the editor, but I also speculate, ask questions and play devil's advocate. I reserve the right to change my mind.