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TrustMeI'mANurse

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We're new to MSC and have always booked previous cruises through a warehouse club store or .com TA.

 

The warehouse club store offered a Amazon card worth $300-$500. The .com TA offered various perks and additional OBC.

 

I'm not able to book MSC through the warehouse club store. The TA I contacted states she offers $150 total OBC.

 

Is there a benefit to booking directly through MSC? Is it worth to add the third party (TA) for only  $150 OBC

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In addition to the company being very frustrating to deal with, MSC bookings must not be as lucrative for TA's.  My experience has been if you book at full retail price the TA's can offer their normal OBC, discount or perks but if you search out MSC's better deals like Voyagers Selection or other discounts suddenly all the TA's can do is pretty paltry.  One of my Yacht Club bookings got down to an offer of $50 OBC, I just made the booking myself.  I tend to watch what's going on with MSC and can make a lot of changes to my bookings so dealing through a TA just adds a layer of complication.  It' pretty tough to find a good TA that's willing to spend the time dealing with MSC when things get complicated.  If you find that person, great, but that's definitely not going to happen with the high volume and big box TA's.

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41 minutes ago, Até said:

In addition to the company being very frustrating to deal with, MSC bookings must not be as lucrative for TA's.  My experience has been if you book at full retail price the TA's can offer their normal OBC, discount or perks but if you search out MSC's better deals like Voyagers Selection or other discounts suddenly all the TA's can do is pretty paltry.  One of my Yacht Club bookings got down to an offer of $50 OBC, I just made the booking myself.  I tend to watch what's going on with MSC and can make a lot of changes to my bookings so dealing through a TA just adds a layer of complication.  It' pretty tough to find a good TA that's willing to spend the time dealing with MSC when things get complicated.  If you find that person, great, but that's definitely not going to happen with the high volume and big box TA's.

 

Thanks so much for the input. I'm beginning to lean in that direction.

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41 minutes ago, DCGuy64 said:

TA every time. Every. Single. Time. 

 

Thanks for your input. Can you tell me why? At this point I'm trying to get a Voyager status match and dealing with MSC myself trying to make that happen. I'm not seeing the benefit and am afraid it's an added layer of stress if I need to make changes in the future and am not able to deal with MSC directly.

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36 minutes ago, TrustMeI'mANurse said:

I'm not seeing the benefit and am afraid it's an added layer of stress if I need to make changes in the future and am not able to deal with MSC directly.

Exactly my thoughts. The last time I used a TA was pre-internet in 1995. I like to do the research and planning myself, it’s part of the excitement of traveling. I have much more achieved by dealing (via eMail & phone) with hotels, airlines and cruise lined than a TA would even have considered. I admit that perks or OBC from a TA is not what I am interested in. I just don’t need/want a third party negotiating my travel plans.

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34 minutes ago, TrustMeI'mANurse said:

 

Thanks for your input. Can you tell me why? At this point I'm trying to get a Voyager status match and dealing with MSC myself trying to make that happen. I'm not seeing the benefit and am afraid it's an added layer of stress if I need to make changes in the future and am not able to deal with MSC directly.

Hi, there. Sure, I'd be glad to tell you why. 

1. Our travel agent is a personal friend and former co-worker. Whenever I email him to ask a question, he responds in a timely manner, usually within a few hours, 24 hours max.

2. He's a cruiser himself and knows a lot about the different lines. We've even been on the same ship, and he's just very informed.

3. He has a dedicated line of communication with MSC (I think it's for agents only), so if I have a question and can't find an answer online, I email him and he gets me an answer-fast.

4. He's aware of good deals and promotions and books us at the best price. 

5. He sends me and my wife a gift at Christmas, and sent us a fruit basket last December when we had a party at our house. One time out of the blue, he sent us a $100 voucher for a local restaurant. 

6. Most of all, I just appreciate someone who can compare prices for us on various cruises and someone who'll act as a liaison between us and the cruise line so we don't have to make endless phone calls. Having a professional travel agent is worth its weight in gold. 

 

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MSC must be pretty stingy with travel agents, if I book just about any other line, I get in the 10% range, mostly in refundable obs. Not a lot of online travel agencies handle MSC, hence in the two cruises I've done on MSC, the obc has been between 5-6%. They are still the best bang for my bucks (only in the Deluxe Yacht Club Suite).

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1 hour ago, grandgeezer said:

MSC must be pretty stingy with travel agents, if I book just about any other line, I get in the 10% range, mostly in refundable obs. Not a lot of online travel agencies handle MSC, hence in the two cruises I've done on MSC, the obc has been between 5-6%. They are still the best bang for my bucks (only in the Deluxe Yacht Club Suite).

 

I just went through all of this. Here's how I did it:

1. Booked online to get the cabin I wanted etc. The cruise had low availability in Yacht Club. 

2. Applied for status match and waited. Took ten days and a phone call. They applied the 5% to my booking. 

3. You can transfer to a TA at that point. I believe the limit is 60 days. I have found a couple that offered 10%, at least for my booking, in OBC. I picked one I had used before. 

 

Got the cabin I want, the status match discount, and the OBC. Just took a little patience. 

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Here's what I don't think people understand. With all the comments on "hold times", "lack of return phone calls/emails", "wrong answers", and so much more with MSC, why are you putting yourself through that? That's the TA's job to handle that stress for you. I see so many folks on here say they want control of their booking. You have control. You simply pick up the phone and tell your TA what to do and they have to deal with all the stressers above. Don't like to call you say? You're a computer person? So instead of logging into MSC's website that may or may not be working at the time, you shoot a quick email to your TA. Again, they handle the request and you've taken two minutes.

As for the OBC, do you realize that OBC you're being offered is coming out of the agents pocket? Yes, other than group situations, that money comes out of what the cruise line pays the agent. Which by the way, unless the agent works for a large agency with lots of volume, that commission is only 10% of the cruise fare. And cruise fare does not include taxes and port charges which can be anywhere from a third to nearly half of what you are actually paying depending on the cruise.

That being said, I don't know of any other occupation where you have to have money taken out of your paycheck just to try and make people happy and earn their business. So when you don't book through a TA or think $50 OBC is not enough, I hope you are thinking of the professional that counts on your business for their livelihood. And yes, we chose this profession, but some of us enjoy trying to give people memories of a lifetime for their vacation even if it means a little less for us. Unfortunately, I also agree that there are folks out there that call themselves agents that have no idea what they are doing. But most are professionals as @DCGuy64 has found.
Okay, off the soapbox. Oh and @TrustMeI'mANurse, that should be your agent's job getting you that status match. If your agent is not willing to do it, you have the wrong agent.

Bret
 

 

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Thank you, @cruiseguyinorl. I do almost all of my own travel planning based on the belief that the planning is the fun part. But when it comes to BOOKING, I love using a TA. (Note: I've never used a big-box store's travel agency or an online travel agency, so I can't comment on that). But there's something nice and, dare I say it, old-fashioned about having a professional TA to handle the phone calls and other stressers, as you mentioned. Interestingly, I found out that even if I communicated with a representative from the cruise line, my TA could still take over the reservation later on. Win-win! 

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1 hour ago, cruiseguyinorl said:

Here's what I don't think people understand. With all the comments on "hold times", "lack of return phone calls/emails", "wrong answers", and so much more with MSC, why are you putting yourself through that? That's the TA's job to handle that stress for you. I see so many folks on here say they want control of their booking. You have control. You simply pick up the phone and tell your TA what to do and they have to deal with all the stressers above. Don't like to call you say? You're a computer person? So instead of logging into MSC's website that may or may not be working at the time, you shoot a quick email to your TA. Again, they handle the request and you've taken two minutes.

As for the OBC, do you realize that OBC you're being offered is coming out of the agents pocket? Yes, other than group situations, that money comes out of what the cruise line pays the agent. Which by the way, unless the agent works for a large agency with lots of volume, that commission is only 10% of the cruise fare. And cruise fare does not include taxes and port charges which can be anywhere from a third to nearly half of what you are actually paying depending on the cruise.

That being said, I don't know of any other occupation where you have to have money taken out of your paycheck just to try and make people happy and earn their business. So when you don't book through a TA or think $50 OBC is not enough, I hope you are thinking of the professional that counts on your business for their livelihood. And yes, we chose this profession, but some of us enjoy trying to give people memories of a lifetime for their vacation even if it means a little less for us. Unfortunately, I also agree that there are folks out there that call themselves agents that have no idea what they are doing. But most are professionals as @DCGuy64 has found.
Okay, off the soapbox. Oh and @TrustMeI'mANurse, that should be your agent's job getting you that status match. If your agent is not willing to do it, you have the wrong agent.

Bret
 

 

They make up the money in volume. Would you rather have all the commission for booking 20 cruises a week or half the commission of booking 50 cruises a week?

Several years ago we did a group cruise transAtlantic with our online travel agency of choice, and they had two travel agents aboard. They had talks which included a Q&A session. This exact question was brought up and both of them were adamant on how much more money they made than their friends made at the local brick and mortar agency, and it was all because of the volume. They didn't get into specifics but they said "they were compensated really well", but they worked hard for the money.

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10 hours ago, cruiseguyinorl said:

Here's what I don't think people understand. With all the comments on "hold times", "lack of return phone calls/emails", "wrong answers", and so much more with MSC, why are you putting yourself through that? That's the TA's job to handle that stress for you. I see so many folks on here say they want control of their booking. You have control. You simply pick up the phone and tell your TA what to do and they have to deal with all the stressers above. Don't like to call you say? You're a computer person? So instead of logging into MSC's website that may or may not be working at the time, you shoot a quick email to your TA. Again, they handle the request and you've taken two minutes.

As for the OBC, do you realize that OBC you're being offered is coming out of the agents pocket? Yes, other than group situations, that money comes out of what the cruise line pays the agent. Which by the way, unless the agent works for a large agency with lots of volume, that commission is only 10% of the cruise fare. And cruise fare does not include taxes and port charges which can be anywhere from a third to nearly half of what you are actually paying depending on the cruise.

That being said, I don't know of any other occupation where you have to have money taken out of your paycheck just to try and make people happy and earn their business. So when you don't book through a TA or think $50 OBC is not enough, I hope you are thinking of the professional that counts on your business for their livelihood. And yes, we chose this profession, but some of us enjoy trying to give people memories of a lifetime for their vacation even if it means a little less for us. Unfortunately, I also agree that there are folks out there that call themselves agents that have no idea what they are doing. But most are professionals as @DCGuy64 has found.
Okay, off the soapbox. Oh and @TrustMeI'mANurse, that should be your agent's job getting you that status match. If your agent is not willing to do it, you have the wrong agent.

Bret
 

 

As a fellow TA...well said.

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I book direct mostly because I want to take care of things myself and asap.

I usually cancel/rebook a few times until I get the best price and best room. I don't want to put TA into the hassle and I want to do it asap so I can secure the room/price that I want.

Personally I think TA is obsolete. Web 3.0, everything should be easily done online. I hope these companies can develop functional websites with online customer service.

Edited by thetaro

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1 hour ago, thetaro said:

I book direct mostly because I want to take care of things myself and asap.

I usually cancel/rebook a few times until I get the best price and best room. I don't want to put TA into the hassle and I want to do it asap so I can secure the room/price that I want.

Personally I think TA is obsolete. Web 3.0, everything should be easily done online. I hope these companies can develop functional websites with online customer service.

Personally, I would disagree that TA's are obsolete. If you do even a cursory check of threads on CC, you will see that web issues abound, ditto issues with phone reps from cruise lines who don't know things or who give conflicting and/or inconsistent information. If anything, there's an even GREATER need for live humans to run interference between passengers and cruise line staff. That might be different if you're retired and have all day to send emails and make phone calls, but I'm not and I don't. 

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32 minutes ago, DCGuy64 said:

Personally, I would disagree that TA's are obsolete. If you do even a cursory check of threads on CC, you will see that web issues abound, ditto issues with phone reps from cruise lines who don't know things or who give conflicting and/or inconsistent information. If anything, there's an even GREATER need for live humans to run interference between passengers and cruise line staff. That might be different if you're retired and have all day to send emails and make phone calls, but I'm not and I don't. 

 

So they should improve the website and the system. Giving $$$ to a middle man wouldn't have been necessary if they have a functional website and customer service. 

I don't need an agent to buy stuffs on Amazon. I don't need an agent to buy insurance, booking a ticket, hotel. Everything can be done online, why would I need a middleman?

 

If these companies want to attract millennials customers, they would need to work on the site.

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On 9/26/2019 at 9:35 AM, TrustMeI'mANurse said:

 

Thanks for your input. Can you tell me why? At this point I'm trying to get a Voyager status match and dealing with MSC myself trying to make that happen. I'm not seeing the benefit and am afraid it's an added layer of stress if I need to make changes in the future and am not able to deal with MSC directly.

 

I'm not DCGuy (although we lived in Arlington for decades 😁) but we booked our first MSC through our usual on-line TA.  It was well worth it and instead of adding stress she took care of everything. She made sure we received the 10% civil service discount (only one discount is allowed so that was much better than the 5% Voyager discount) and then we received a 7% discount from her.  Our usual cruise discount from her for lines we use (Princess and Uniworld) varies from 7% to 10%.

 

thetaro - We do it to save a considerable amount of money!

 

10 minutes ago, thetaro said:

 

Everything can be done online, why would I need a middleman?

Edited by capriccio

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39 minutes ago, thetaro said:

 

So they should improve the website and the system. Giving $$$ to a middle man wouldn't have been necessary if they have a functional website and customer service. 

I don't need an agent to buy stuffs on Amazon. I don't need an agent to buy insurance, booking a ticket, hotel. Everything can be done online, why would I need a middleman?

 

If these companies want to attract millennials customers, they would need to work on the site.

Well, I obviously take issue with a number of things in your post. For one thing, I haven't had any problems with the MSC website. For another thing, I'm not paying any "middle man" to do anything, I just have a professional TA do the booking & I receive all of the discounts I'm entitled to. For a third thing, as an Amazon customer since 1998, I have had a handful of snafus with them and I appreciate being able to call them up or emailing them to resolve issues-websites aren't a substitute for a phone call. I agree that MSC need to work on the site if they want to attract millennials. I will leave it at that and not comment further, because I have VERY strong opinions about millennials and they aren't positive. 😏

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1 hour ago, DCGuy64 said:

Personally, I would disagree that TA's are obsolete. If you do even a cursory check of threads on CC, you will see that web issues abound, ditto issues with phone reps from cruise lines who don't know things or who give conflicting and/or inconsistent information. If anything, there's an even GREATER need for live humans to run interference between passengers and cruise line staff. That might be different if you're retired and have all day to send emails and make phone calls, but I'm not and I don't. 

I agree TAs are not obsolete. I am retired but I have better things to do than send emails and make phone calls. We decide which cruise we want, call our TA and we are done. Recently, we decided to go with a TA we found who specializes in the type of cabin we like to sail in on a certain cruise line. It's just too easy to have someone else deal with anything that occurs with our booked cruise. 

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4 hours ago, thetaro said:

I book direct mostly because I want to take care of things myself and asap.

I usually cancel/rebook a few times until I get the best price and best room. I don't want to put TA into the hassle and I want to do it asap so I can secure the room/price that I want.

Personally I think TA is obsolete. Web 3.0, everything should be easily done online. I hope these companies can develop functional websites with online customer service.

You think travel agents are obsolete? What do you base that on? I know they're not, based on facts. Searching online, I found in an article dated last year, that 68% of all travel was booked through travel agents. That was up 4% and 5% the previous two years.

Before I retired I worked for one of the biggest paper converter in the U.S. and didn't own any finished product warehousing. We paid to have it done for us. Why? Because we got a better return on our money by investing in our product through R&D and modernization than warehousing.

I think the cruise lines feel the same way. Just think of the cost, they would have to incur to process another 68% of customers above and beyond what they are now. They can't develop a regular functioning  web site now, why would that change?

 

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I can definitely see the benefit of using a TA but you know technology would replace a lot of smaller guys. It would just be like how you book all the flights and hotels through expedia, priceline, hotels.com. The benefit is negligible but you use it because it's easy.

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1 hour ago, thetaro said:

I can definitely see the benefit of using a TA but you know technology would replace a lot of smaller guys. It would just be like how you book all the flights and hotels through expedia, priceline, hotels.com. The benefit is negligible but you use it because it's easy.

 

I agree, I either book through Choice Air, if there is a financial benefit to me, or directly through the airline.

If there were no financial benefit, I would book directly through the cruise line, until then I'll take my 10+% kick back and live happily ever after.

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I use a TA because I always get OBC and/or pre-paid gratuities.

Just booked a $10,000 YC suite for next fall, was received $1,000 OBC, no hassles.

Takes a little of the sting out of the cruise costs....

Happy Cruising!!

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I'm just not finding that kind of return. When we booked Celebrity and spent around 10k (on 3 rooms) we got about 10% in a warehouse club card.  When we booked Celebrity with a large online agent we got about 10% OBC. Looking around with MCL we're looking at a return of about 3% on a YC suite. I was kind of surprised.

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