thanks for the feedback and again, I hope I didn't alienate you or treat your work dismissively -
Not at all! This discussion is great fun and a learning experience for me, too. I don't think you are being dismissive of travel agents; this comes under the cliches, "different strokes for different folks," as well as, "That's why there is vanilla AND chocolate." Although I never quite understood that last one, since vanilla is not even on my radar.
Originally posted by Kate Ashlock:
I think you can get it both ways. We use a site where you can compare prices from online agencies and they had MUCH better deals than my local TA for our September cruise.
However, for our Jan 2007, our TA was the same price as the online agencies (and had the same shipboard credit + she added a photo voucher), so we booked with her.
I was a little unhappy with the service last time because it was our second cruise booking with her and there was no little gift (bottle of wine?) for us. I'm hoping she will do so this time because we booked ourselves + 4 other guests.
It's always good to compare your prices and have a TA you can go to.
Kate, I am just curious, when you stated that your TA didnt give you a gift (bottle of wine) for your 2nd cruise booked with her...was this maybe one of the 3 or 4 day Bahamas cruises? maybe on Sovereign of the Seas? If so I can understand why there was not a gift. Most times these 3 and 4 day cruises are so inexpensive that the TA only makes a few $$ for booking it. As travel agents we do not get fantastic prices for bottles of wine..example for me to place a bottle of wine or champagne in a clients cabin it costs me anywhere from $18.00 to 25.00..no discounts or special prices. If I book a client on a 3 day cruise that the commission is only around $50.00 total for the cabin (keep in mind we only get commission on the cruise only portion, not the Port charges or the Gov. fees and taxes which can run up to $200 or more of the total price) and if an agent works with a host such as some do, there is a commission split which means the host can get as much as 50% of that commission, that leaves the agent with maybe $25.00 for the cabin..then they spend $18.00 upwards for a bottle of wine, then they actually worked for very little $$. How are they supposed to pay for their overhead, which there is always costs of running a business.
TA are no different than those who get up every morning and go to a job, they do like to get paid for the work they have done. Also, a lot of people are not aware but agents do not get paid the commission on a cruise until after the final payment is made. So if a client books 18 months out...calls daily with questions, makes changes to the reservation, then before final payment they cancel the booking, that agent has worked for NOTHING..which don't get me wrong this is part of the business..even if the client makes final payment then cancels the cruise say a few weeks before sailing the agent gets charged back for the commission already paid.
My point is even if you dont get a bottle of wine on a 3 or 4 day cruise, the service the agent gives you is worth so much more.
All I was saying is that since about a year ago, Carnival has had a pricing policy where they require the same fare to be quoted by anyone selling a cruise - brick and mortar TA, internet TA, internet megasite, or Carnival itself. What happens behind the scenes is another thing, but if I go on line and check out pricing, a 4A cabin on the Elation cruise of X date is supposed to be the same price on Carnival's website and Expedia, and anywhere else. They do allow exceptions, which means the policy is not much of one in my view.
There is no way of truly knowing if someone who claims they saved "X" amount of dollars, compared apples to apples, or apples to oranges. So I agree with Dave, that the cruise lines have tried to level the playing field, but there are exceptions. But even with the exceptions the difference shouldn't be in the 100's or $1000. So it is more likely that the cost comparisons were not identical, but since there is no way of truly knowing, then this really is futile.
Dave: I will have to go and find where I read this, but I read that the end run that the cruise lines and TA's make around the policy you mentioned is in the massive gray area of "upgrades." I guess the money is to be made in selling the lowest price cabins, and they are also the most in demand. So they keep selling the same lower category cabins over and over, kicking people up as embarkation time draws near... I can't remember the punch line here, but I will wait for one of you all to explain it, and if you haven't in a while I will look it up and make sense of what I just wrote.
I also read that people were getting angry on board re: prices. The pax would talk amongst themselves and the price variation was so wide that people would get angry and demand refunds, etc. By ensuring that nobody REALLY knows what they paid they created a smoke screen that prevents "us" from knowing where the deals are cut.
Example: I am about to sail away in a nice BD balcony. I might be chatting with someone next door- another BD balcony. She might have paid 929 bucks ppdo- the going rate. I paid 775 ppdo for the same cabin- a BF guarantee with a 50.00 shipboard credit. God only knows how many people who paid even less are going to get booted up. I can only imagine what the spread is for the high priced cruises.
I must have read all this in Devils on the Deep Blue Sea, a really great book on the cruising industry. At least I think it's great! The cruise lines probably hate it...
The question here is why I am pretending to know anything or even offer an opinion when you all know what time it is far better than I do.
To me the upgrade thing is mostly crap. As you know, the most common upgrade is merely a different deck although the cabin is identical in size and amenities. To me that is worthless although on paper the customer may think they just saved hundreds. A shell game perhaps? I don't gamble with upgrades. I book a specific cabin and don't want it changed unless it is going to be from standard to suite.
I appreciate your frank views, btw. I'd like to see things get above plain vanilla on this forum. At least every so often.