Thursday, July 19, 2007

Who do you book with?

Picking a travel agency may not sound like a big deal, but for some it can be. There are three kind of agencies to pick from. First is the "brick and mortar" agency, where they have an office you can visit and most of the contact is either in person or by phone. The second is the online agencies. The third is the cruise lines in house booking agents. Each have pros and cons as always.

Brick and Mortar

  • Pros: Its nice to be able to talk to a person. Most questions you may have can be addressed quickly. Making changes can be easier (sometimes). Some agents can get deals that you wont find elsewhere. Building a relationship with your travel agent can pay of on future vacation deals.Many brick and mortar agencies also have web pages to help with frequently asked questions that may not require making a phone call,
  • Cons: Many agents specialize. Having an agent that normally does land based vacations help book a cruise may not be any more informed than you. With large agencies, you may not deal with the same person every time, and lose the personal touch that a smaller agency would give. Once booked, most cruise companies will not discuss your booking with you and require all inquiries got through the travel agent.
  • Tips: When going the route of Brick and Mortar, make sure its a credible agency by doing a search online, and checking the Better Business Bureau. Take take to talk to the agent before laying down money. Try to make sure the person you deal with is adept at booking cruises.
Online Agencies: (Travelocity, Orbits, Priceline)
  • Pros: Finding rates and dates online is easy. Many offer package deals with hotel and flights. Making the booking is quick and convenient.
  • Cons: Online booking may not be good for the first time cruiser because (unless you have spent a lot of time reading sites like this one) small details can be left out. There wont be anyone call with simple questions. Due to cruise line rules, you wont find many deals online because many cruise lines require that online prices cannot be lower than the ones offered on their site.
  • Tip: When online agencies are your choice, the best thing to do is to have more than one you may like to work with, and see what kind of perks may be offered if you use a certain credit card. Try to find out what day of the week the site is updated on.

In house booking agents:
  • Pros: They know more about specials offers that are not advertised. Many cruise lines will assign one person to address your account but any in house agent can talk to you if your agent is not available. Specific requests can be addressed directly.
  • Cons: While building a relationship may help with future cruises with the one line, it doesn't help with other cruise lines or other types of vacations.
  • Tip: Don't be afraid to call and ask for a discount or on board credit if you see that the cost of the cruise has gone down since you booked. You can try this with a TA as well, but I have seen it work the most thru the cruise lines more.


Anonymous said...

Hi, great blog! But what about a 4th type? Mine is a TA who specializes in cruises only. I found her online through Cruise Compete. She is an independent TA with her own company name, works from her home and she has a "host" agency Cruises N More. When I used Cruise Compete she was one of several agents that made me an offer and saved me over $1400 from the price NCL quoted me for a 9-day, balcony, latitude's member cruise. Needless to say I've referred 3 people to her already (6 weeks). I'm even seriously looking into doing this kind of work myself.

I get the personal attention of a brick & mortar agent (we're in touch all the time) yet, we're in two different states.

Hope this is helpful.


J and D said...

Thank you for the comment Romy. We have yet to use Cruise Compete, and after your comment, I think its going to be on my list of places to check for our next booking.