Travel Agent Suggestions?

Old Oct 16th, 2011, 08:14 PM
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Travel Agent Suggestions?

We are hoping to take a summer 2012 cruise (that's the only time I can get off of work) to Greece (or other parts of the Med.?).

Can anyone suggest a good travel agent to help us get the most bang for our buck, and the right ship/itinerary for our travel style? We're new to cruising, so we need lots of guidance. (If any Fodorites have tips, of course, those are always welcome!)

A few details about us:

Married couple, Early thirties
Budget: ~$5,000-$7,000
Style: Slow Travel (soak in local beauty, enjoy a few unique locales, but not too much racing around)
Priorities: Relax, eat well, get lots of fresh air, see some beautiful places, while enjoying great service and an amenity or two, without too much nickel-and-diming (Can't emphasize the FOOD enough- we LOVE good food!)

NOT priorities: Drinks (we enjoy the occasional iced tea or glass of wine, but we don't drink a lot besides water- it would be nice to have the option but a big drink package is NOT in the cards); partying (we like a serene vacation- lots of quiet couple time); family activities (it's just the two of us.); big spas/gyms/attractions- nothing against those, if the ship has them, that's GREAT, but if it doesn't, we'll still be ok.

Thanks, Fodorites!
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Old Oct 16th, 2011, 08:27 PM
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Oh yeah, and we're from Washington, D.C. so traveling from nearby airports would be a plus...
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Old Oct 17th, 2011, 03:19 AM
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[email protected] has served me well in the past...

Seabourne Cruises awesome values currently up to 85% off

All suites no tipping intimate...

vacarionstogo.com crucon.com good prices deals helpful folks

also from personal experience.
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Old Oct 17th, 2011, 02:23 PM
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My suggestion is for you to do some preliminary research first to get an idea of what the itineraries are like, the different cruise lines, what countries you might put on your bucket list, then narrow down the list. We cruise a lot and I do all my planning myself. I search for the itinerary I want, the cruise line prices, then call a couple of online agencies to get prices. You can get an online agency that is just a "cruise booker" and then you can find an agency that will give you the service you desire. I have a couple of agencies that I have used that are very helpful.

Your budget is what I would call on the higher end so you may want to look at Oceania, Seaborn, or some of the other smaller ships.
Oceania and Seaborn are having some good prices right now.

You would like a Med cruise but if you can only go during the summer months, it will be very hot in some of the ports you visit. Greece can be especially hot. You might want to consider a cruise that leaves from Barcelona or even Venice.

There are many hot spots in Europe right now and cruise lines may avoid going into those ports. I am not trying to scare you, you just need to be realistic when you go to Europe. Others may disagree w/ me but that is their prerogative. We travel to Europe a lot. We just got back from a 18 day transatlantic cruise that was awesome.

There are many nice cruises out there for 2012. I have been looking at a couple of new itineraries for Celebrity; however, they are for Sept. '12 and beyond. I would be happy to have you email me if you would like some further assistance. I will also give you the names of a couple of good agents that I feel comfortable in recommending. My email: [email protected] Please put Not Spam in the subject line so it doesn't go to my junk box. And no, I am not a travel agent, just love planning cruises!
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Old Oct 18th, 2011, 05:18 AM
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Some seem to think a $5000-$7000 budget is high. My question is for how long a cruise and does that include air from the U.S.? I've found that Med. cruises are running close to $1,000 a day when you throw in air, tips, insurance, at least a 1 night stay in the departure city, tours, drinks, lunchs ashore, transfers at both ends of the cruise, photos, internet usage, spas, souvenirs, and other sundries I can't think of now. Don't be suprised if your budget only buys you a 1 week cruise.
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Old Oct 18th, 2011, 05:22 AM
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You can e-mail my cruise.com agent Alex at [email protected] he's great. Tell him spurs sent you.
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Old Oct 18th, 2011, 11:18 AM
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Good questions, Frank. That DOES include air. We're hoping for a 7-10 day cruise, but of course, if we can afford more, we'll go for it!
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Old Oct 21st, 2011, 05:49 AM
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I see that mostly discounters names were put here. That's great but I have used some of these and price may be good or equal but service on some has been abysmal. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] and I can give you a few travel agents well worth their salt in the customer service department.
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 10:04 AM
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You sound like you might really enjoy Azamara Cruises for your trip! They are doing overnights in some of the smaller ports to allow passengers to experience the ports in the evenings, attend cultural events, plus they have wonderful food, smaller ships. The focus is more on the destination than the ship.
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Old Oct 25th, 2011, 07:41 AM
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We usually get the best cruise rates from:

http://www.CruiseCompete.com

You select your cruise and let agents compete to offer you the best deal. You can also read reviews of the agencies from other consumers before deciding who to book with.

Good luck!
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Old Oct 29th, 2011, 06:40 AM
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I will 2nd Azamara as a good possibility. They have 7 & 10 day Med cruises which should fit within your budget.
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Old Oct 29th, 2011, 12:03 PM
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If you are a AAA member, check to see if they have a cruise that will meet your needs. They have a good long term track record.
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Old Oct 30th, 2011, 06:24 PM
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Thanks for all the great advice! We're definitely curious about Azamara.

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but do travel agents get commissions? Will they pressure us to do a lot of packages and add-ons?
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Old Oct 31st, 2011, 06:34 AM
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Travel agents do get commissions from the cruise line, that's how they can undercut the price offered directly by the cruise line. They give a portion of their commission back to the customer. They do generally try to add on the insurance package, but we usually reject it and get our own through insuremytrip.com.

If you book through a travel agent and wish to add the cruiseline's air, hotel or transfers you will have to do that through the travel agent, unless you make your own independent arrangements. Tours you can booked directly through the cruise lines website.
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Old Nov 1st, 2011, 02:58 PM
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I assume you live in Nth America so I can't recommend an agent up there but if you're an Australian I can certainly NOT recommend Travel the World. They are the most unethical travel agents we've ever encountered. Anyone who uses their services do so at their own risk.
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Old Nov 21st, 2011, 10:55 AM
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Canal Barge Cruises is great! I know the owners and they're super sweet and knowledgeable about cruises over there!

www.canalbargecruises.com
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Old Nov 21st, 2011, 11:25 AM
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Pick a smaller ship over a mega ship. Fidnna ship around 600 to 800 passengers. That size of ship big enough to have all the goodies but not big enough to have crowds and distractions. Smaller ships also can go to "different" desinations that the big ships can't. Your price range is reasonable enough.

Azamara would be a decent choice as well. As would the small Princess ship. "Good" food is a relative term. On a ship, the main dining room food is typically better than your big city convention center banquet meals. To serve a few hundred (or thousands) people all at once, that is the real comparison.

The specialty restaurnts are truly much better and is good value. They server about 100 epopel instead of thousands at a time. However, you still cannot compare them to a Michelin 5 star restaurant (or even 3 star for that matter)

My suggestion would be an Eastern Med. cruise heavy on the Greek islands, with a stop or two in Turkey.
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Old Dec 1st, 2011, 12:01 PM
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Look for a CLIA accredited agency, preferably one with a CLIA accredited agent. This means that they have a taken required courses and have had to tour ships as well as cruise themselves. You can't competently sell something you have never experienced. Book with a local travel agency that you can call or visit in the event of any kind of problem. There are NOT better deals online and if there is a problem, who knows what call center you will be calling. Your local agent is a member of your community, not working for volume but working for a continuing relationship with you, or at least he/she should be!
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Old Dec 3rd, 2011, 08:01 AM
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Travel Agents... well as one... I'd like to add the look for bargain. If you decide to support you "local" mom and pop agency that is great, they are regular people trying to keep a business afloat..!!! They should be experienced with IATAN and/or CLIA. Check with the BBB... The big guys... just train their phone agents without giving them any experience. They book up large spaces to sell on line where YOU do all the work for them and they make the commissions.

As for commissions.. this is what keep the agencies in business... 10% on base rate. Cruises are the least commissionable product. No extras giving unless you do more business with one cruise line so the "big guys" make 17% and may give back 5% to you and keep 12%. AIrfare, transfer, shore excursions... no commissions made.

The cruise line directly are make a run past the travel agents. The do not provide with with luggage tags, booklets for you trip but make either YOU or the agency print them.

I'm with Fantasy Travel www.fantasytravel.net
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Old Dec 7th, 2011, 07:04 AM
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Summer 2012 cruise now is the time to book if you haven't already. Last year we took a cruise around Italy from Rome to Venice aboard Oceania. Great cruise experience because the ship was wonderful, food fabulous, and ports amazing. Azamara does have nice Mediterranean cruise itinerary as well. Both are right in your price range, and since drinks are not included you will not be paying up for the "all inclusive" such as on Seabourn. Both Azamara and Oceania will not have the family activities, which you are not looking for. Oceania will have great food, which you are looking for. Many say Oceania has the best food on the high seas and we certainly did enjoy scrumptious meals on board. Another plus in both Oceania and Azamara column is they go to great ports around the Mediterranean. For our booking we used http://italycruise.us - they specialize in cruises around the Med and Italy tours. Besides hooking us up in every port with wonderful shore excursions, they gave us pre-paid gratuities and on board cash to spend, which I used at the spa!, which didn't leave much leftover for my husband but oh well. We have used them numerous times for land and Italy cruises and we have found them to be great if you are looking for not only the best price but also very knowledgeable Mediterranean cruise travel agents. Have fun!
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