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  #21 (permalink)  
Old 01-06-2010, 09:32 PM
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What is your definition of "quality" agent? Are you certain the difference in prices were for the exact same flights? the exact same flight numbers? I have seen flight prices change in minutes. If the agents were quoting the exact same flights then the difference could be that they are adding a service fee on the ticket. The airlines pay travel agents absolutely zero to book a ticket. With air you are better just booking it on the internet. If problems occur during your trip you can deal direct with the airline. You can still book the cruise with an agent though. Are you certain the agents gave you the exact same cabin category on the same deck? There's a difference if you walked in and said I want an inside cabin, or you said I want 4B on Riviera deck. As for an agent working out of their home; this has been the trend for over ten years. More and more agents work from home offices. It is more cost effective than operating an expensive brick and mortar office. There are many professions that have home offices. CPA's, real estate, and beauticians. Think about it; even the President of the United States works from his home! The important thing is that they have proper license and credentials. Dave mentioned CLIA and NACTA. Other associations one might belong are ASTA or OSSN. Also a CLIA will have certifications of ACC, MCC, ECC, or ECS after their name meaning they have reached levels of cruise knowledge. You should get a feel just by asking questions how knowledgeable an agent is on cruising.
  #22 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 09:00 AM
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Joeinmo,

Don't feel you need to stick with a local agent. While I support my local businesses, when it comes to my agent she is in Texas and works out of an office over her home garage. She deals only with phone or internet clients. She's been my agent for over 12 years. I am in Alabama, btw. Don't take this as my trying to promote my agent, but rather as supporting work-at-home agents in general. A stand-alone building with faded posters of Acapulco adorning the walls and a rack full of brochures doesn't mean the agent is better.

Unless it is group space or a special promotion with Carnival, an agent can't offer a price which is less than what Carnival says it will be. In other words if you are looking for "a deal" you are not going to find it. Thus you see pricing on the Carnival website normally being the same as you see with an agent, or with Expedia, etc.

So why use an agent? An agent is your advocate, does the work for you, and quite often knows more of the answers than the cruise line people do. Believe me - calling the cruise line can often be like calling the IRS, you call three times asking the same question and get three different answers. I'm not saying it is common but it does happen. Some lines are better at training their employees than others.
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  #23 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 10:56 AM
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Joe - I live in Missouri too - near Independence. I would be happy to give you our travel agent's contact information. He has booked all of our cruises and a trip to Disney. I am a teacher and worked with his wife a few years back - so that is how I found him. He called us just last week to tell us that due to the economy he is moving his business back into his house and closing his office space.

The best thing about our travel agent is that he explains all of the fine print and helps us find the best travel insurance options for what we need. There were certain options with the early saver fare about refunds and deposits that were explained to us so we could make the best decision for us - all over email and phone, because that is easier for us.

I guess I visited the Carnival website too many times because they ended up calling us at home asking if we were interested in a cruise. (I hate tracking software!) I was disappointed because the girl was VERY pushy, called several times after I asked her not to, tried to tell my husband that I was a liar, and quoted us a higher price than what was listed on the website - so I refuse to book through Carnival.
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  #24 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 11:32 AM
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Sheila, it sounds like you have a great agent.

Last year I requested the new brochure at the Carnival website. A few days later I started getting phone calls from a PVP too - several of them. In my case they gave up after I finally got it across that I have an agent and won't book with a PVP.

I probably need to mention this now rather than later...please remember that information about agents and other similar things cannot be done publicly. Use our Private Message feature for that type of communication.
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  #25 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 02:37 PM
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This is an interesting thread. I called Carnival direct, and had one of their agents. I also called a travel agent. The travel agent couldn't touch the prices that the Carnival agent was able to get me, plus she got me upgrades.

Now I'm wondering what to do when I book our Jan 2011 cruise.
  #26 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 03:21 PM
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Tomah,
There should never be a difference in the price Carnival quotes and the price a travel agent gets. If anything, the travel agent may have a lower quote because of group space blocked, whereas the Carnival agent should be quoting individual rates. So in most cases you should be getting the same rates from Carnival and a travel agent. That is, as long as you called each on the same day. Waiting one day could literally mean the difference in an early saver rate or other special promotion. It's important when you call each that you make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges. Don't just listen to the bottom line price, but listen to whether you are being quoted a non-refundable early saver rate or a refundable rate which will be higher. Are you being quoted a guarantee cabin rate (cheaper) or an assigned cabin rate (higher). Also is one quoting an inside 4a and the other quotes an inside 4b? All these things can make a difference. It can make one dizzy trying to understand it all. When comparing quotes don't just listen to the bottom line. Take notes of everything they are saying. If you don't hear the exact same words then ask questions.
  #27 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 03:46 PM
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One thing about upgrades - don't get starry eyed thinking you scored a coup. An upgrade normally means the exact same sized cabin, in the same type (one category inside to a higher category inside, outside to outside, etc.) but on a different deck. They call it an upgrade but in reality it isn't, at least not in a meaningful way.
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  #28 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 04:04 PM
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Tell your TA the prices you were quoted from Carnival. You TA will point out the difference.
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  #29 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Tell your TA the prices you were quoted from Carnival. You TA will point out the difference.
Exactly! And also ask for the specific rate category or any special promotion given. As Cruise Fanatic noted, there should never be a lower price given from Carnival directly than any Travel Agent doesn't have access to. Now, in all reality all Travel Agents don't always offer the lowest price right off the bat. I've shopped some of the local Agents and found this to be true. If you give the Travel Agent the "exact" details of the rate quoted, and they can't match it then something is wrong.

Dwayne
  #30 (permalink)  
Old 01-07-2010, 06:38 PM
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Our travel agent also gave us different options with tipping (we do not include that in our price - we like to hand out the money personally on the ship based on service) and with our travel insurance - these were not offered as options when Carnival called us. To be honest, the "fine print" and options were not explained at all.
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