As I said in my earlier post, the key is finding a "Good agent". No different then finding a good Lawyer, Doctor, or Accountant. You haven't found a good Travel Agent. The Travel Agent that gave you that information is badly mistaken. No TA in their right mind would talk like that. It simply isn't true you will get a better price dealing direct with the cruise line. I think often people that shop around "think" they are getting a better deal. But many aren't comparing apples to apples. The average person doesn't listen to the details a Travel Agent tells them. All they hear is "outside" @ $450. They don't hear the details of "better category", "better deck", "assigned cabin", "unobstructed". Then they go direct to the cruise line, or what ever on line site and get "outside" @ $400. That's all they hear. "outside @ $400" turns out to be lowest deck, forward, obstructed.
I have done cost comparisons and don't see a cost savings over a TA. Unless it's a site that is rebating. Which is an unethical practice, and why would you want to book with a company that operates like that? They certainly aren't going to provide you service or be there if something goes wrong. It's actually quite comical some of the sites out there that sell travel that have no business selling travel. They certainly aren't specialist. Many don't even belong to the proper travel organizations. Do you realize how many websites out there can look like they are a specific cruise lines website, when indeed they are not? The American Society of Travel Agents has a slogan "Without a Travel Agent, your on your own." No website or even cruise line is going to have your best interest at heart, only their bottom line and booking you matters. Do you really think RCI would say NCL might fit you better, or vice versa? Do you really think if you called NCL and asked for Pride of America, that they would take the time to ask you questions if you understood what kind of experience this ship will provide? If you called Costa or MSC do you think they would explain to you the difference of an Italian style cruise line? If you called a cruise line and asked for Alaska Cruisetour package 2A, do you think they would take the time to explain why 2B might suit you better? Travel Agents will ask you the right questions. They care about their clients and making their clients dream vacations come true. Without a Travel Agent you really are on your own.