Booking A Cruise - Travel Agent? Cruise Line? Discounter?
What are the advantages/disadvantages of dealing with Travel Agents? Directly with the Cruise Line? or Through a Discounter (Orbitz - Travelocity, etc) If you are in a "Frequent Sailor" club - are there any penalties/perks for booking one way or another?
I highly recommend booking through a travel agent. Most often, depending on the cruise line (and their pricing policies) you can get a better deal on the cost of the cruise, PLUS you get someone who is acting as YOUR agent, rather than someone who works for the cruise line selling you their product.
An agent provides you with service, answers your questions, and gives you somone to take your "case" to the cruise line should it become necessary.
For cruises, I don't find Orbitz or Travelocity offering very good deals anymore. There are lots of agencies offering better deals.... though with today's cruise line pricing policies you have to call or e mail to find out their best price. Simply checking web sites doesn't show their best available prices.
And there's certainly no penalties booking with a travel agent no matter how many times you cruise with any cruise line.
I booked one cruise through Priceline, got a great deal and I was very satisfied. 2 others I did with a TA and this time did it with pvp through Carnival and I have not been happy. Seems they poo-poo everything, he never gets back to me and seems they only want to tell you what you want to hear. I know they are not all that way, but I booked a cruise for this coming March last May and I feel I have not received the best service. I hope this is not a sign of Carnival as this will be our 1st cruise with them.
Carnival Dream March 2010
Carnival Freedom Feb. 2009
RC Grandeur of the Seas Oct. 2009
Carnival Liberty March 2008
RC Adventures of the Sea Feb. 2007
Carnival Liberty March 2006
Enchantment of the Seas June 2004
Monarch of the Seas March 2003
The Big Red Boat March 1997
Orbits and Travelocity are travel agencies. So is Cruise.com.
But always use a travel agent to book a cruise. He/her is a third party who will be more impartial than a cruise line. The cost is the same, although sometimes one agent is lower becasuse they're selling a specific cruise as a group. You won't know you're part of a group, it just gets you a better price.
Remember, the ship you pick is the first -- and most important decision. Then go scouting around for the best price on the ship of your choice.
But ships are going out full and people are booking far in advance now so steep discounting is a thing of the past.
Besides all the advice above, which I agree with, find a TA who is a "Certified Cruise Specialist".
Some TA's charge a minimal "research" fee ($25.00 or less), and we've found it well worth the price. We've had some problems in the past and our TA has run "interference" for us. You just can't beat a good TA!
"A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour."