I was just thinking some more about agents and communication. I've had the same cruise agent for about 14 years. We do our business primarily by e-mail. It is quite normal for me to make a booking a year or more out from a cruise. I'll get a copy of the invoice from her shortly after booking the cruise, and then I typically don't hear from her again until the final payment is due. Thus, there have been gaps of over a year between our first and last communication regarding a cruise. I don't think this is unusual.
There are a few possibilities as to what is going on, most of them not devious at all.
It's hard to speculate because of so many possibilities. You said your agent has not been in touch since last August. Have you tried calling and emailing him or her? Dave is right that some agents confirm your cabins to you, put deposits on them, and then don't get in touch unless it's to remind you that your final payment is overdue.
You said you requested one inside room and the rest ocean view balconies. It's possible that when the travel agent went to block your space with Royal Caribbean, either or both of those types of rooms at the price you were quoted were closed to groups. Cruise lines limit the number of cabins in each category that can be blocked for groups, and leave the rest of the cabins for couples and families not booking within a group.
If the agent quoted you a price and then, when s/he went to actually book the cabins, they were gone, s/he may have booked you as individual cabins and put down the deposit, and then had the cruise line gather up all the individual bookings and put them into a group. You may have been booked as individual cabins in August 2009, when you sent in your original deposits, and then moved into a group in June 2010. When that happens, your booking numbers on your individual cabins get changed. If you request Ocean View Balcony and were quoted, for example, $2000 per person, but those cabins were no longer available when the agent actually booked them, s/he may have put you into the best cabin available for that $2000 at the time of booking, which was a Broadway balcony.
Royal Caribbean can not honor the original bookings if they take them over. I'm certain what they would have to do is cancel everyone's cabin and rebook them at the current rate, which sounds like it's $1000 more than your original rate.
It's possible that the agent is guilty of nothing more than poor communication. If your understanding was that you put deposits down on one inside room and 6 ocean view balconies, and it turned out those cabins were not available at the time of booking at the same price originally quoted to you, the agent should have been up front about it. But we have no way of knowing if that's actually the case. Maybe those alternate cabins were booked with the hope that the kinds of rooms you originally requested would come back into availability by the time final payment was due. Your agent is the only one who knows the answer.
The fact that Royal Caribbean is holding cabins for you means that the deposits were paid. Your receiving a receipt for your $1000 deposit, even though only $500 actually went to the cruise line, is not unusual if you're paying by check or cash. It's part of the cash flow process of any business, bank, etc. If your original receipt says you owe a balance of $750 (or whatever), that's what you owe the travel agent no matter how much of the original deposit actually went towards your room.
There are other possibilities about how this is playing out. It's silly to conjecture further. Just keep trying to get in touch with your agent with whatever questions you have. By the way, usually, cruise lines will give you no information at all. They will just tell you they can't help you and to contact your travel agent. The fact that they gave you as much information as they did was unusual and was breaking their rules and their agreement with your travel agent.
Thanks everyone for your input. It is comforting to know their are some answers out there for us to pursue. I only pray our TA comes thru for us but with NO communication from her we are just spinning in the wind. In reply to parking in front of her office door none of us live in that city. We are scattered across the country. We used this TA because of her high quality arrangements made for our last two cruises. This NO communication problem just reared it's ugly head for this cruise. In the past she has always been in touch with the whole group. We are mystified at this point. Thanks again. If this all works out I'll update the blog.
We used this TA because of her high quality arrangements made for our last two cruises.
Then I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. Other than the issue of the type of rooms you originally requested, it sounds like nothing is out of line. I'm still not clear as to whether you've been trying to reach your agent, with no return calls/email, or if you're just wondering why you haven't heard from her.
This sounds like a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. It sounds like you have a Spokesperson (Group Leader). If the Group Leader set this whole group booking up with the TA, then that person is the one that should be talking with the TA. It is very common for a TA to have a Group Leader act as a "Pied Piper" and be the voice of the group. The Pied Piper will often collect all the payments, relay any information from the TA, and collect information as needed for the TA. Perhaps your Group Leader isn't passing on communication from the agent. Which could be the case with the different cabins. It's possible that the booking number on your invoice is the group booking number for the group as a whole. Then when deposit is made and names assigned to a cabin, a different individual booking number is given.
Unless you book directly with a cruise line don't expect them to handle any details about your booking. When ever I have a problem or a question about a booking, I have to call my TA. Sometimes it may take awhile if my TA has to contact the cruise line. I agree that the person responsible for making all the arrangements with this travel agent should be the one communicating with your group. It's more normal than not to hear nothing until final payment is due. Please get us informed on how things transpire.