I seem to stick with Best Price Cruises to get the cheapest prices. No matter where I check elsewhere they seem to beat the others out by a small margin. Although I've never had problems so I have nothing to complain about. IF I have a problem in the future I'll be posting something for sure.
Also - we never have problems since we know exactly what we want- no questions to ask, no special requests, no birthdays - no nothing except to secure a specific cruise ship & room & have the credit card bill charged correctly. I buy my cruise insurance through insuremytrip.com & not through the TA. Same with the airline tickets- direct from the airline or priceline.com.
We have used http://www.cruiseshopping.com/ in the past but found that Best Price beats them by a small amount most of the time. On a cruise I booked the other day cruiseshopping did has a cabin credit of $50 p/p but the price was also more that Best Price.
There's only so much profit margin to play around with so how much cheaper can one TA be over the other these days?
As the others have said - if you're happy with one agency stick with them. If I have a problem I they don't want to stand up for me they'll know they won't get the thee or four cruises per year as they did in the past.
I think you should either find a Travel Agent that is cruise centric or just call the cruise lines yourself. You will get the same prices.
Blanket statements like this are in fact true for some cruises. Some cruises you'll check will be the same through any agency in the world or booking direct. Some lines allow block space to be purchased at significant savings to agencies. The agencies you listed above all have buying power to buy thousands of sailings per year and tens of thousands of cabins per year. They then pass the savings on in lower rates on those sailings and often provide perks like onboard credit, wine, etc.
On a 3-5 night bahama sailing the savings may be as little as $20. per person on block space or perhaps a higher category cabin at the same cost the cruiseline will sell you their lowest category at the same price. On longer sailings there may be hundreds of dollars in savings per person through such an agency. In order to avoid violating any forum rules I won't give specific examples. If you buy into the notion that all pricing in the industry is the same because you shopped a few cruises and there was no difference, you may be spending 1/3 or more higher rate than other folks at your dinner table paid for the same category of cabin on your next cruise. You may also miss out on perks by not shopping.
It is also important to note that block space can be had through a small agency or individual agent too - along with competitive pricing. My agent booked a block of cabins last year for the upcoming Rhapsody cruise. She then moved my individual booking to the group and I got a cheaper rate as a result - as well as a $75 shipboard credit.
Hi Neil, I hear what you saying but I've yet to find that TA who does have the extra buying power you're talking about. All the ones I check (online) seem to be VERY close in price. (and perks) Some do offer the cabin credit from time to time but I've found that if one offers it, the others do also. Normally people don't discuss what they've paid for their cruise, especially at the diner table, but not to say that "I always get the best price" but unless I can find another way of shopping for the bigger discounts you're talking about I'm at a loss to find them. I would be shocked to hear of someone getting a 1/3 cheaper price of any of the cruises I've taken lately.
Thanks Dave, your point is a very good one. There is no telling where you'll find the best value in this diverse industry. It pays to shop a little. With that said, it also pays to have a good agent, as you do. Even if you do find a great rate elsewhere, sometimes your agent can find a way to match or beat the rate for you.
Rich, you may well be shocked one day. There are such values and not just on a handfull of cruises. Again, this is not the place to discuss specifics but always do your due diligence. The 1/3 less is rarer than the $50. to $150. difference that normally occurs but there are some that are that big or more on some sailings. It also depends on the line and what they're offering. Any time you book with HAL, have whoever your agent is check for what are called "SWAT or Flash" promos. They do not advertise these and the rates are not shown on their website or most other sites. They have to be requested by the agent at the time of booking to get them on many sailings. Occasionally they and other lines will have other promos unaffilliated with block space that can be found with some digging by your agent. HAL also offers rates through specific targeted mailings. If asked for the mailing rate when they're available, sometimes they come back with rates nobody has published and they're frequently lower than anything found online, direct or even on the booking engines.
I used HAL as a single example of the ways to get unpublished rates. Each line has different ways of offering promos. You notice that when you call to book they always ask where you live even if you're not interested in air? That's to search for regional promos. Where you live may make a difference. If you have a home in NY and a winter home in Florida, its a good idea to let the agent know. There may be better rates for one state than another. Some Carnival block rates are not allowed by the cruiseline policy to be published. They have a rule that all agencies have to publish the same "Lowest Authorized Rates" they offer themselves. That doesn't mean lower rates aren't there, they just can't be publicized on the website. Some agencies find clever marketing ways to get those rates to you. You may have to "Click here for special rates" or look at the emails we all trash as junk mail from agencies.
All this said, it's not really that difficult to find such rates if they're available on a sailing you're calling to check on. The questions you get from the agent when you call are all an attempt to find you the lowest rate for you to earn your business. Provide as much info as possible. 55+? Military? where you live? Past passenger? All relevent in finding the promo that will get you the best rates.