I know I'm always writing about the benefits of using a professional travel agent, particularly one who has earned certifications from CLIA. In the past week, it was demonstrated to me once again just how valuable this is.
A cruise that I had booked several months ago for July 2012 was turned over to a full-ship charter. My TA handled every detail for us -- finding an alternate date for the same 14-night itinerary, ensuring we had a cabin that was acceptable to us, and negotiating amenities. Without my TA's help, I would have been stuck doing this myself, and may have had to compromise on more than just the date. My TA's knowledge and experience, I am sure, helped to resolve this in just days.
I recognize that we each have our preferences when it comes to bookings...just wanted to pass this along for those who may be on the fence.
My TA's knowledge and experience, I am sure, helped to resolve this in just days.
That is the key right there, Lisa; when everything goes smoothly, when all we have to do is pick a date and a cabin, anybody can "book" a cruise. But, when it come to finding a ship or a cruiseline that "fits", and especially when something goes awry, it's nice to have a travel professional in your corner--someone who knows the in's and the out's of the business and who knows who to talk to and what to say to get things done.
Thank you both. I am glad it worked out, also, as it is a relatively rare itinerary that has gotten rave reviews. I forgot to point out, though, that there was one other benefit to having this all handled for me -- no stress!
I'm still trying to figure out what the TA's is going to do for me if I know the cruise line and cabin I want. Maybe I'm missing something by not dealing directly with the but I deal with an online TA who also has a web site & select the items I need from their program without the assistance of anyone - dining room, traditional or other, bed arrangement, discounts or anything else that comes to mind. Why should I pay extra for a TA to discuss it?
Why are you assuming you are paying extra to use a TA? You aren't. In fact; if you're not using a TA you don't know if they may have gotten a lower price by having a group blocked on that cruise. Not to mention any amenities that may have come with that cruise. It's great if you know the cruise line and cabin that you think you want. Does that mean though that you have found the best price? It doesn't. TA's have access to all the promotions and may have a heads up on a promotion starting the next day. For that matter, have you chosen the right cruise line and cabin? Maybe not. Too many people make their vacation purchases based on price only. Bad choice. Also, too many people now days are choosing their cruise line based on the fact they're a past guest and can get some free drinks and trinkets. Nice to get perks but not the best reason to always choose that cruise line.
Next to the home purchase and automobile a vacation can be the next biggest decision for spending your disposable income. A vacation shouldn't be based on cost only. A vacation is about experiences, emotions, and the feelings it leaves with you.
You may have hours to play around on the computer and think you've found what you want. However; a travel agent does this as a profession everyday and can do it faster. They have experience and knowledge about the cruise lines that the average person doesn't have. Travel agents do ship inspections, attend seminars and conferences, and are constantly staying updated on changes. They are going to use that knowledge and experience to make recommendations to you to make your vacation the best experience. They aren't just finding you the best cost, but the best value. The TA can point out why one ship/cruise line may be better in a specific destination. They can point out why one deck is better that another, or did you notice on this particular ship those few cabins don't have beds that push together. TA's are going to know that cheap short 3/4 day cruises on XXX cruise line are always on older ships and draw a different demographic. But the person who picks that ship based on the cheap cost just came back complaining because the ship was too small, and there was too many kids or young people. The TA could have told someone that the mega 4500 passenger ship in Europe wasn't as good experience as choosing the 2000 passenger ship and the reasons are XXXXXXXX.
There are also many other reasons to use a TA. They don't just book the cruise and that's it. They can book all your other components of the trip as needed. For International trips they can find better airfare through consolidators. They can get better prices with bundling air and pre/post hotels and car rentals. They can add excursions. They can add third party insurance better than the cruise lines.
The TA is going to be there before, during, and after your cruise to service you. When booking by yourself who do you turn to during your trip if a problem arises? TA's build relationships with their sales managers of cruise lines and often can get better results to legitimate complaints.
All Travel Agents aren't created equally. You have to find the right one. When you do, they can provide all I've mentioned above and more.
Are you referring to the the service fee some agents charge? Not all agents do that, and even those that do will usually refund it once a booking is made.
My agent has never cost me a penny extra and has in fact gotten better pricing and perks for me by moving me to group space she had on particular sailings. She has gotten special gifts and other things for us by hitting up her regional sales rep for Royal Caribbean. And let me be clear, like you I also know what cruise and cabin I want. I simply send an e-mail to my agent with the cruise and cabin category and that's that. She has my credit card information on file and the next thing I know I get a copy of the booking in my inbox.
Rich, I'm not saying you don't know this but let me take the opportunity to editorialize about commissions for those who may not understand the process.
Many cruisers are confused about commissions when it comes to agents. The client does not pay the commission, the cruise line does. When you book direct the cruise line keeps whatever money they would have paid to an agent in commission. If this were not true then all the online prices would be 10% to 15% lower than what an agent could sell the cruise for. Thus, when a person books online they are actually paying more to the cruise line for the same cruise and cabin category that someone else booked with an agent. I am talking bottom line revenue for the cruise line here.
I know it probably doesn't matter to many people since they are still handing over X dollars and the cruise line is the entity putting the money in different piles, but using an agent keeps a small business 'in' business, and I personally like that I am helping the independent business person.
Do you disagree with using an online TA? I recently booked my first cruise through one of these sites. I chose my own cruise and cabin, but was able to get some extra ammenities that weren't offered when I contacted my local TA.
One question of mine did arise while reading this post though. I read that pretty much all cabins have 2 double beds but they can be put together create a "king" size bed. How would I be able to know if the beds can't be put together like what was stated earlier in this post? Isn't it uncomfortable to have two beds pushed together with them basically have a seam down the middle? I did not see any cabins without the two beds....
Chef, This was exactly one of the points I was trying to relate. A travel agent knows automatically all the little things to look for when making a booking. An individual making their own booking may not even notice small notes published warning them about such things. Then when they get on the ship and find out their beds don't push together they get upset with the cruise line. Princess and Carnival are two examples that I know have certain ships with certain cabins that the lower beds don't push together. Are the beds comfortable pushed together? Well, that's subjective. I think most of the ships are getting the newer Euro pillow top mattresses and I haven't noticed them being uncomfortable when pushed together. Many years ago with the older thin type mattresses you could feel the seams.
In answer to using online agencies. That depends which kind you use, a real TA website or one of the mega online gorillas. There are TA's that do have their own websites you can book yourself on their websites. They should have contact information that if you have questions you can talk to a live person and it will be the same person, not a different person every time. They can also still provide other services to you if need be. Try getting service from Priceline when you're stuck at an airport and the flights been cancelled, or you're standing at a hotel that says they don't have your reservation.
If someone wants to book online it's their choice. I'm not saying it is a bad thing, just that it isn't some wondrous improvement over using a cruise specialist that automatically will save you money or make your life easier. You can find online perks, as you did, but just because one agent couldn't match them doesn't mean all agents couldn't. Just as an agent can get special pricing for a group booking, some online booking engines can also cut special deals with the cruise lines that are exclusive.
I've had a long-term business relationship with my cruise specialist. I think it is good advice to tell people to seek out a similar relationship and stick with that agent. I also think a cruise specialist will usually be able to offer more to the client in both choices and services than going to a general travel agency.
As for beds - most are single beds that are combined into a queen or king. They put a pad down over the mattresses to have one large surface. I've never noticed the split between the beds.