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Booking directly with cruise line or through an agency?

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Nov 25th, 2016, 05:40 AM
  #1
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Booking directly with cruise line or through an agency?

What's your experience and/or preference --- booking directly with the cruise line or utilizing an online booking agent? We haven't taken a cruise in 20+ years and I've always made our travel arrangements, even for countries that I could not possibly speak the language, i.e. no escorted tours or travel agents. We are considering an Alaskan cruise/tour in May 2017, possibly with Holland America because they have an mid-May itinerary and we have a couple of flight refunds we need (want) to use.
Anyway, directly with the cruise line? Online booking agency? Which booking agency?
Thank you for any and all information!!
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Nov 25th, 2016, 05:42 AM
  #2
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I'll add that I've checked Fodors in the Cruise Forum, but only found older posts. Wanted to get some more current information. Again, thanks for any information.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 06:56 AM
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I have done both and recently used mostly the cruise line. Not in every case, but most of the time, their agents seem most knowledgeable about things like cabin location, etc. I also got the same price from the cruise line as from the discounters.

I do like cruisecritic.com, vacationstogo.com and cruise.com. With VTG, it is best if you study the info on their website about the ship, itinerary, etc. and know pretty much exactly what you want. It also works fine if you are going for a guaranteed cabin category, and the ship will be assigning the cabin. I have seen complaints recently about VTG, though. Why not call or email each company with a question or two and see how you feel about the response and the person who responds?

Either way, do a close follow up. Make sure reservations have been made and confirmed with the cruise line.

*Join cruisecritic, and read reviews of everything. It is great to see what past cruisers say about particular ships, itineraries and particular cabins.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 07:40 AM
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I've looked online for the cruise prices and usually book through BJs or Costco because they tend to add OBC or something for their members.

About 2 years ago I found out, through cruise critic, that a particular website was offering $100 OBC if you signed up. So I did. Costco travel applied the $100 OBC, and was offering $100 on this particular cruise. So I received $200 OBC and found a bottle of wine gift from the travel agent when we arrived in our cabin.
Nice way to begin a vacation.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 07:47 AM
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We've done both with equally fine results: Alway got the cabin accommodations we wanted; Had complete access to pre- & post- cruise options; Had a good selection of flight options on those cruises that included airfare; Never experienced any price differential, etc.

The biggest advantage to using a T/A vs. booking with the cruise line is T/A has access to and can arrange for a host of other activities and amenities not available through the cruise line without you having to lift a finger. For instance, if you need/desire private car service to/from you home or want pre- or post- cruise stay in a hotel not offered by the cruise line the T/A can make all the arrangements. Likewise, if you want specialized private tours (not offered by the cruise line) at any of the ports of call a T/A can arrange all that for you.

Over the years, we've come to rely on our T/A for more and more simply because our trips are getting more & more complex ((cruises coupled with more extensive land based options) and it is much easier than doing it ourselves. He knows our travel style and we can rely on him to put together a package that fits that style exactly.

But every once in a while we do a short basic cruise (or land based tour) that we book directly with the cruise line or tour company.
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Nov 25th, 2016, 10:17 AM
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A good travel agent who books lots of cruises on a particular line can often offer perks that you don't get booking directly through the cruise line.
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Nov 26th, 2016, 08:17 AM
  #7
 
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I would highly recommend using a travel agent in your situation for a few reasons:

* Cruising has changed a lot in 20 years; there are so many new ships, layouts, etc. A travel agent can help you personally select the right stateroom (so important!), get the best deal, be available if you want to make changes, etc.

* You're going to Alaska, which is quite different than other places. If you can find a travel agent who has cruised there, you'll get valuable info on what itinerary to choose, when to go, etc. Alas, I can't recommend anyone because we chose someone locally (Jacksonville, FL), whose agency put on travel shows/presentations featuring Alaska.

If you have anything like that in your area (check newspapers, local websites, etc.), it's well worth going. We met travel agents who specialized in Alaska and had a chance to ask lots of questions.

By the way, we went on Princess to Glacier Bay. It was a really fantastic experience. - Musing About Cruising
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Nov 27th, 2016, 04:41 AM
  #8
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Wow! Thanks, everybody!!! So much valuable information. Really appreciate all of your input, insight and information!!
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Nov 27th, 2016, 07:01 AM
  #9
 
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A bit late here but just be sure if you book thru an agent that it's of good repute and bonded. We usually use an agent as she is quite knowledgeable and does a lot for us. It's a loyalty thing but it's been earned.
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Nov 29th, 2016, 10:42 PM
  #10
 
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Find a reputable agent, you'll get extra perks, save time and always have the same person to assist you pre, during & post cruise. Always wise to purchase travel insurance, especially for cruises in case of medical emergency evacuation, you can purchase insurance on your own, cheaper online..
You'll love sailing to Alaska on Holland..great value..
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Dec 6th, 2016, 04:30 AM
  #11
 
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What a lot of people don't realize is we agents have the same prices as the cruise lines. You are NOT paying extra for our expertise. The cruise lines pay us for bringing them clients, selling their products, and doing the work. I have done this since 1985, and can offer my clients LOTS of advice from many years experience. Also, I don't care for the online agencies or booking directly with a cruise line, you usually don't get the same person twice. Who do you go to if something goes wrong? Plus we handle so many details that they can't / don't offer. Find an agent with lots of years experience, ask a friend to recommend someone if you can. Plus we get to know our clients likes, dislikes, etc., and keep it on file, if you get a really good agent. Have fun!!!
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Dec 9th, 2016, 02:15 AM
  #12
 
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I have done both. Sometimes, on a "special" or "group" sailing, an agent can offer pricing the cruise line itself cannot offer. Some agent also offer perks, sometimes can be a substantial gift such as OBC, bottle of wine etc.

I avoid internet agents and prefer a brick and mortar agency. Support your local business! Your on line agent has lower cost and may offer lower fare but it won't help support your local economy.
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Dec 11th, 2016, 10:56 AM
  #13
 
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Cruiseline directly.

I've heard of some mistakes or misunderstandings, and I know that in some cases an agency charges more, or charges cancellation penalty, or... not willing to risk it.
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Dec 16th, 2016, 09:53 AM
  #14
 
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I have used the cruise line as well as discounters and I always check to see what cabins the discounter can offer before making any final decisions. Sometimes the cruise line is discounting (but NOT on their site) a cabin I want; sometimes it isn't.
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Dec 16th, 2016, 10:54 AM
  #15
 
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I would use the cruise line or VTG again, but not Expedia. You may or may not be able to match a VTG price with the cruise line.
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Dec 17th, 2016, 08:00 AM
  #16
 
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Has anyone had dealings with Pavlus Travel?
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Dec 17th, 2016, 01:49 PM
  #17
 
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We have booked directly for years but now are drifting to Costco especially of the Costco rebate cash card afterwards. We now find Costco travel to be the cheapest site and service is great.
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Dec 17th, 2016, 02:28 PM
  #18
 
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I used them for yrs. and saved big bucks but mostly for land trips. We have a cruise TA now. A bit more but the trade off is great service
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Dec 29th, 2016, 10:09 AM
  #19
 
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I think that booking directly via Company is cheaper. They have discounts on own web sites, that don't have in agency. So, check site - I suggest
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Jan 14th, 2017, 08:32 AM
  #20
 
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Costco is the cheapest for sure (cash card rebates), service and knowledge of product is marginal.

One thing to remember: once you made your booking through a travel agent, everything you do have to be through them. The ship won;t deal with you on any issue and they direct you back to your agent, even something as simple as buying pre-paid items.
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