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Book direct with HAL, or use a TA?

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Keeping in mind the CC rule about not naming TA's, I just wanted to ask a 'general' question: How easy is it to book directly with HAL? My DH and I have always booked our cruises on RC and X, directly with the cruise line. Aside from the LONG wait times to talk to a 'real live person' (we don't do online bookings), that has always worked out well for us. Well, on the advice of a friend, we decided to start booking with a big on-line TA (well respected in the cruise community). However, I find myself running into problems with their customer service department, and probably will not be booking with them in the future. So, how good are the booking agents at HAL to work with, directly? Are they generally knowledgeable about their product? Do you have to deal with extraordinarily long wait times? Is it possible to get someone that you've been working with to call you back -- or do you just have to deal with whoever answers the phone? TIF for the replies!

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We have used a TA for over 26 years -- a live person that we can go and talk to or call her.  No online agencies for us.

 

We get better prices and more perks than HAL can give us.

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If you go to This Link you will have a Personal Cruise Consultant (PCC) assigned to you.  That person will be your contact for any and everything to do with Holland America cruising.  They know their product, are very responsive, and can even make things happen that non-HAL TA’s can’t.  I am happy.

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We have always booked directly with HAL. You can also call them and they will assign you a personal consultant. We have always found them to be very easy to work with. Agree with Miss G that they can make things happen that others could not. 

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Thanks guys! That sounds like a step-up from the way RCCL does things, booking-wise!

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My first upcoming cruise (18/8 Nieuw Statendam Vikings Saga) I booked myself without a TA. Learned a lot here on CC about things to think about. 

 

I looked up the same cruise at a TA and we needed to pay 250 euro per person more! 

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Used HAL PSC years ago. No benefit whatsoever. Migrated to a TA and get better rates and add ons. 

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I don’t know how responsive the link above will be.  My request online for a personal cruise consultant was ignored.   I also would not book online.  The HAL reps on the reservations line have been helpful to me and there was no long wait.   Hopefully a personal cruise consultant will be assigned and call you promptly.

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1 hour ago, Krazy Kruizers said:

We have used a TA for over 26 years -- a live person that we can go and talk to or call her.  No online agencies for us.

 

We get better prices and more perks than HAL can give us.

We have a TA through our auto club and wouldn’t switch. We get nice comps and great customer service!

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1 hour ago, wwcruisers said:

Keeping in mind the CC rule about not naming TA's, I just wanted to ask a 'general' question: How easy is it to book directly with HAL? My DH and I have always booked our cruises on RC and X, directly with the cruise line. Aside from the LONG wait times to talk to a 'real live person' (we don't do online bookings), that has always worked out well for us. Well, on the advice of a friend, we decided to start booking with a big on-line TA (well respected in the cruise community). However, I find myself running into problems with their customer service department, and probably will not be booking with them in the future. So, how good are the booking agents at HAL to work with, directly? Are they generally knowledgeable about their product? Do you have to deal with extraordinarily long wait times? Is it possible to get someone that you've been working with to call you back -- or do you just have to deal with whoever answers the phone? TIF for the replies!

You need to go shopping for a good agency.... one that gives % obc, cash rebates, offers discounted un published prices.

You can generaly save 10 to 15% over  what the cruise line will offer.    Search nation wide... not  just localy,   Ask others on your next cruise,  

  Get an agent that books your brand cruise many times a day or week...  they are given special incentives by the line.     You will never ever get as good a deal with booking direct     Booking direct  the line knows they have a fish on the line.. ready to be reeled in  why use more bait to attract..... Dont fall for the sweet and nice  ist all part of sales 101.   

GET a GOOD AGENT

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1 hour ago, dogo88 said:

Used HAL PSC years ago. No benefit whatsoever. Migrated to a TA and get better rates and add ons. 

To quote W C fields....   " Never  give a sucker and even break"......    Get  a Good Agent to negotiate for you... you have  ZERO leverage....

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1 hour ago, TheChiefNL said:

My first upcoming cruise (18/8 Nieuw Statendam Vikings Saga) I booked myself without a TA. Learned a lot here on CC about things to think about. 

 

I looked up the same cruise at a TA and we needed to pay 250 euro per person more! 

European Agents  are not at all like US agents.....Different market  Different game

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My travel friend and I have had a PCC who was very pleasant and responsive when called or emailed. However, for the upcoming Alaska cruise we booked through an auto club that was having a promotion of their own so we got HAL benefits and those from the club. The TA has been quite helpful and may use her again.

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2 hours ago, Hawaiidan said:

European Agents  are not at all like US agents.....Different market  Different game

Could I as a Dutch citizen book with an US TA? 

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We normally book while on board. It is automatically transferred to our BB TA. We get the best of both. Everything that HAL can offer then OBC from our TA. I can call them anytime for help, changes, questions, etc. We have found this to be the best deal for us.

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3 hours ago, TheChiefNL said:

Could I as a Dutch citizen book with an US TA? 

No fares are for " geographic regions"    it says so i the  terms.....Dutch business has it all  in their pocket....

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Does HAL enforce the geographic regions business?   Do other cruise lines do this?   

 

We are Canadian.  We saved quite a bit of money two years ago by purchasing  a  late booking Australian/NZ cruise directly from  RCI in Sydney.

 

The RCI agent was very aware that we were Canadian.  He brought up our file.  He gave us the $200 cabin credit that we get for booking a balcony.  Then he noticed our ages on the file and moved us three doors down to a seniors cabin.  Saved us even more. 

 

There was a significant net  difference  between what our NA on line TA quoted us and the price that we obtained from the RCI Sydney rep.

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4 hours ago, Hawaiidan said:

No fares are for " geographic regions"    it says so i the  terms.....Dutch business has it all  in their pocket....

Hmm... OK. I will look into that for a cruise in the future. 

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6 hours ago, iancal said:

Does HAL enforce the geographic regions business?   Do other cruise lines do this?   

 

We are Canadian.  We saved quite a bit of money two years ago by purchasing  a  late booking Australian/NZ cruise directly from  RCI in Sydney.

 

The RCI agent was very aware that we were Canadian.  He brought up our file.  He gave us the $200 cabin credit that we get for booking a balcony.  Then he noticed our ages on the file and moved us three doors down to a seniors cabin.  Saved us even more. 

 

There was a significant net  difference  between what our NA on line TA quoted us and the price that we obtained from the RCI Sydney rep.

What is a SENIORS cabin?  On HAL about 80-90% of the customers would qualify!

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I use a HAL PCC.  I like talking to the same person all the time and normally get a quick (but not immediate) response.  I am able to make changes via email, even to snag a lower fare!

 

Going through a TA may get you a better deal (usually more OBC or other perks), but since I like to play the "upsell" game, going through HAL gets me a better chance (they email me directly, not through a TA).  Plus, some large Travel companies do not even bother to forward these upsell offers to their customers (it has been reported on CC).

 

So, the answer is clear - IT DEPENDS - on which way to go with booking.

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7 hours ago, iancal said:

Does HAL enforce the geographic regions business?   Do other cruise lines do this?   

 

My sister lives in England.  She is able to book via a US online TA only because they already had her on their files before this policy started being enforced.  There is an old thread where others have stated varying degrees of the same thing.  If someone in North America includes someone from overseas in their booking (eg, when I book for my sister and I) they are perfectly fine with that.  I imagine if my sister was here and purchased a big box store membership she might then, austensibly, be allowed to book with them.  I do not know but it would be interesting to find out.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, DaveOKC said:

I use a HAL PCC.  I like talking to the same person all the time and normally get a quick (but not immediate) response.  I am able to make changes via email, even to snag a lower fare!

 

Going through a TA may get you a better deal (usually more OBC or other perks), but since I like to play the "upsell" game, going through HAL gets me a better chance (they email me directly, not through a TA).  Plus, some large Travel companies do not even bother to forward these upsell offers to their customers (it has been reported on CC).

 

So, the answer is clear - IT DEPENDS - on which way to go with booking.

 

While our experience is different that’s not to say one of us is wrong.  We book with a TA and never with a PCC from any cruise line.   Our TA is basically Internet based but indeed they have a brick and mortar office also so kind of a blend.  Unlike some Internet agencies I have a specific agent who I have dealt with for almost eight years so I’m always dealing with the same agent.   She also has a support team so that means I have virtually 24/7 support if I need it.   Maybe the really big difference is we don’t play the “upsell game”.  We have never booked a guarantee and prefer to book a specific verandah level cabin and have always cruised in the cabin we booked day one.   The big advantage for us is that our present agent consistently gives us a 10-12% cash discount and even manages to throw in a nice OBC as a “thank you” for our continued business.   Though we did change TAs eight years ago we’ve been booking with an Internet agent since 2004 so 15 years experience and have always gotten the service and support we wanted and needed.  

Edited by Randyk47

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16 minutes ago, Randyk47 said:

 

While our experience is different that’s not to say one of us is wrong.  We book with a TA and never with a PCC from any cruise line.   Our TA is basically Internet based but indeed they have a brick and mortar office also so kind of a blend.  Unlike some Internet agencies I have a specific agent who I have dealt with for almost eight years so I’m always dealing with the same agent.   She also has a support team so that means I have virtually 24/7 support if I need it.   Maybe the really big difference is we don’t play the “upsell game”.  We have never booked a guarantee and prefer to book a specific verandah level cabin and have always cruised in the cabin we booked day one.   The big advantage for us is that our present agent consistently gives us a 10-12% cash discount and even manages to throw in a nice OBC as a “thank you” for our continued business.   Though we did change TAs eight years ago we’ve been booking with an Internet agent since 2004 so 15 years experience and have always gotten the service and support we wanted and needed.  

Glad you were able to find a great TA!  Best of all worlds of course.  We have not been so lucky as our local TAs have been close to worthless.

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12 minutes ago, Randyk47 said:

While our experience is different that’s not to say one of us is wrong.

 

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.  There are benefits to both.  I did do the online TA for a number of years but found I now place greater value on the benefits that @DaveOKC has listed.  

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5 minutes ago, DaveOKC said:

Glad you were able to find a great TA!  Best of all worlds of course.  We have not been so lucky as our local TAs have been close to worthless.

 

Luckily a fellow HAL Cruise Critic member took me “under their wing” back in 2004 on the Oosterdam and educated me on Internet agencies/agents.   Certainly got my attention that he’d paid less for what was then called a Deluxe Verandah Suite, now called a Neptune Suite, than I had paid for a Superior Suite, now called a Vista Suite.   I used his recommended agent for the next eight years getting a combination of cash discounts and OBCs.   Come 2012 and I got another recommendation for an agent who gave what sounded like great service and a better discount.   Tried her for our next cruise and have been with her ever since.   Finding a good to excellent PCC, brick and mortar agency, or Internet based agent is a real crap shoot and we’ve been very lucky to get excellent referrals.

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