travel agent or on line sites?

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Nov 11th, 2006, 08:32 AM
  #1
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travel agent or on line sites?

do you get better deals on line (vacationstogo.com) or by booking with a travel agent?
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Nov 11th, 2006, 02:22 PM
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YES!!!! Call Ann Stilson at her direct line, 888-800-1177!!!! She ONLY does referrals,repeat passengers and groups. She is too busy with these so does not take anyone who calls calls! You must tell her Bonnie from NC said to call her or she may not help you. Her prices cannot be beat and her service is terrific!!! She has done only cruises for 17+ years and before that she was with NCL. She saved a co worker $2000 after the coworker had talked with a local agency! You don't have to book with her but do call her and get her prices. Then call other agents and see what prices they have for the SAME cruise and cabin catagorie. You won't be sorry you've called ANN and gotten her price!!!!!!!!!
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Nov 13th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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It depends on which cruise lines you are interested in. For example, if you are interested in relatively high-end lines such as Regent, brownandkeenetravel.com is terrific. Agents that specialize in a few specific lines can be extremely helpful with selecting specific cabins and with detailed information on the itineraries, etc. We have found that is the best way to go.
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Nov 13th, 2006, 02:37 PM
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It's always best to shop around, as you never know which agency will have the best deal on a particular sailing.

Once you've identified the cruise you want, go to:

http://www.CruiseCompete.com

You put in a request and then multiple, competing offers from independent agencies. You can also see user ratings & backgrounds of these agencies. Make sure you look at the whole package (price and cabin credits & extras when you evaluate).

Then contact one or more for questions or to book. If you get the best offer through this site--great! If not, there's no obligation.

I think most of the regulars on this board have used CruiseCompete at one time or another--guys, thoughts?

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Nov 13th, 2006, 05:33 PM
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Yes, CruiseCompete.com is excellent--if you know in advance what cruise you want, what cabin category, and even which room you want. We have used it for many years with great satisfaction. Last week I noticed that our January 2007 cruise went down in price, so the agency that we booked via CruiseCompete.com got us a nice refund. However, if this is your first cruise, or you aren't familiar with bookings done over the internet, you may need some handholding with seasoned cruisers or a travel agent. Check out www.cruisecritic.com--good answers to most any questions there.
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Nov 14th, 2006, 04:44 AM
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Your question is not as cut and dry as you think.

I use an Cruise agent - she is real, I can call her and email her but her prices are similiar (or better) to an online agency. I was referred to her by those on the internet and the vast majority of her clients are from referral and word on the internet. I have used her for 6 years or so.

IMO - it is the best of both worlds - having a real agent but having online prices. Remember, when booking online, you are booking with an agency. You just may not get any service. Service may not look important or seem important but when something goes wrong (ship cancels, etc..)- I want a real person to talk to to help me. A travel agent can be worth their weight in gold!

Here is my agents info:

Nancy Bogert
Cruise Planners
Toll Free 1-800-561-0802
[email protected]

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Nov 14th, 2006, 06:44 AM
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Theresa--why would you suggest that an agent you find online doesn't provide "service"? This is nonsense. Just because they're smart enough to use the Internet to promote doesn't mean they don't take care of their customers.

It appears that the agent you recommended has a web too--has that made her service bad?
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Nov 14th, 2006, 08:00 AM
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Triathlete -

Thanks for asking the question and allowing me to explain. I should have explained more...

I think there are many websites out there that are purely order takers and it costs one extra to talk to an agent or that they discourage talking to an agent and everything must be done via email. These "order takers" are purely order takers and do the booking but do not provide very good service. I know many who have done this type of booking and when their sailings have been cancelled or the pier switched - these people were not notified until it was too late.

For example - Cruise line x cancels your sailing. A good agent would know right away about it and would hold you space on a similiar sailing which won't disrupt your flight planes. By the time some of the "order takers" get around to notifying you of the cancellation -the other ships may be full and those with good agents were able to be rebooked.

There are other agents who provide similiar prices as order takers and who do provide good service. These agents may or may not have a web presense.

I would be leary of the "order takers" out there. That is what I was warning people about. As long as nothing goes wrong - order takers may be fine but there have been enough situations where cruises have been cancelled, embarking cities have changed, etc... that having a real agent who understands the business is IMO a benefit over an order taker who doesn't understand the business.

Only one can choose who they book with. IF you have an online company that provides service and you can talk to an agent familiar with your booking when you call (not a different person every time) - that is great but beware there are "strictly online agencies" are not that way. Some don't even provide a phone number and others charge higher if you want phone access.

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Nov 14th, 2006, 08:03 AM
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I also agree with the above people who indicate to book with agencies who specialize in the line(s) that you are interested in.

There are agents who specialize in just luxury cruising, river cruising, or a specific line. These agents often have more pull with a particular line due to their volume booking.
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Nov 14th, 2006, 08:09 AM
  #10
 
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Quote:
Author: triathlete
Date: 11/14/2006, 09:44 am

It appears that the agent you recommended has a web too--has that made her service bad?

==========

Just a clarification - my agent does have a website but booking is done via phone or via email and not through the web (I think she may do quotes that way). A lot of specials can not be advertised on a website due to contracts with the cruise line. Plus, if one is a past passenger - they may qualify for special pricing.
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Nov 14th, 2006, 12:29 PM
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Theresa:

With only on exception (CruiseQuick), every "online" agency I know of takes booking over the phone and is available for phone support. And as the example you've given shows, having a web site doesn't make an agent an "order taker." I mean really--would you book with anyone who doesn't have a web site in this day and age?

I would agree that it's best to deal with someone who specializes in the list you want to sail. But the OP didn't specify a line, so how can you recommend a particular agent?

It's in the larger agencies where there's plenty of sales volume where you find the specialists, because there's enough business for agents to focus on one or two lines. It's the little guys who have to sell whatever is offered--and at much lower commissions rates and with fewer perks to offer.

There's something to be said for dealing with a local agent that you trust, as long as you're aware that you'll be paying extra for the privilige and--and that you probably aren't getting a specialist in the line you're sailing. If you're OK with this, that's great.

I've always had great service and information from the various agencies I've found online and booked with--and usually saved quite a bit of money in the process.
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Nov 14th, 2006, 04:48 PM
  #12
 
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I booked my Oct cruise with vactionstogo.com. Victor Hahn was my agent and I received great service and I had his direct phone number if I had questions, etc. I emailed him once before our departure and received an email back within hours. Great service and nobody beat their price on HAL Rotterdam - $600 less than HAL's best price.
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Nov 14th, 2006, 08:16 PM
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We have a long standing relationship with a travel agent in a large agency and she does nothing but cruises. I shop the internet for what I want and where I want to go then call her and tell her what I have in mind.

I just did my research for a Novebmer 2007 tirp and after calling her she was able to put us in a balcony cabin for the price of an oceanview on any internet site I could find.

In the past we have booked groups with her and she has gotten us ship board credit of as much as $900 per cabin.

When we have been 1-2 cabins short of a group large enough to get the "free" cabin, she has booked one of her single cabin clients into our group and put us over the top to get the free cabin or a hosted cocktail party. Of course we share the free cabin credit or cocktail party with them.

I say do your research, but use an agent you can sit across the desk from.

Our agent is the largest booking cruise travel agency in northern California, so if you want to use her let me know and I will send you the name and number.

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Nov 15th, 2006, 10:32 AM
  #14
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yes, james r. i would love to have the name and phone no. of your agent.thanks!
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Nov 15th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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I think if you know the EXACT cabin you want, the exact sailing, then using Cruisequick (no phone only email) will work. I recently used them for five cabins, I got a lower price from them than CruiseCompete or any other online agency I could find. And that price included two bottles of wine, a photo, and free admission to the premium restaurant. But we knew exactly which cabins we wanted, down to the number.

HOWEVER if you are vague, don't know what you want, then by far it is best to have a real live person to talk to. But you usually will pay a little more.

By the way, to save even more $$, get your own insurance, don't use the agent's. Try insuremytrip.com - I cut our group's rate in half from $160 pp to $85 pp by using this site.
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