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Is there any benefit with using a travel agent?


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29 minutes ago, LGW59 said:

I am not arguing at all, in ALL of my posts on this subject, I have said I do what works for me, anyone can and should do what works for them.  I've not tired to convince TA users otherwise, but for some reason you all are.  Booking direct is my option, if using a TA is for you, do it.  My checkbook and my arithmetic.  

"working for you" is an emotional attachment. In this case, it's the opposite of what makes financial sense. If you're ok with giving someone $500-1,000 of your hard earned money simply because it "works for you" then have at it. That's all there is to it.

 

This discussion is like going to a furniture store and buying a couch for $1,000 with free delivery or buying the same couch for $500 with your own delivery. For $100 you can hire your own delivery guys to bring it to your house but "free delivery" has quite the emotional appeal doesn't it.

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6 minutes ago, DaCruiseBug said:

"working for you" is an emotional attachment. In this case, it's the opposite of what makes financial sense. If you're ok with giving someone $500-1,000 of your hard earned money simply because it "works for you" then have at it. That's all there is to it.

 

This discussion is like going to a furniture store and buying a couch for $1,000 with free delivery or buying the same couch for $500 with your own delivery. For $100 you can hire your own delivery guys to bring it to your house but "free delivery" has quite the emotional appeal doesn't it.

Thank$  🙄

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10 hours ago, LGW59 said:

Thank$  🙄

The last time I used a TA was for my March 2018 Eclipse sailing. I paid for a 2D balcony cabin on deck 6 an obstructed view. Two weeks prior to sailing the C2 cabins dropped in price to the same price as the 2D's.  I called my TA and requested the change. Seems X didn't want to change as I had booked with a TA so I asked him to call back and eventually on the 3rd call the switch was honoured.  The extra points per night also got me to Elite on the following cruise.  Seems easier to make changes when you book directly. 

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The recurring theme I am hearing is, "A great (or even very good) TA will do wonders for you."

 

Understanding that we have generally booked no more than one cruise per year and often going a couple of years between them, we have never found such a TA. I've booked with a TA when there is a price difference or significant benefit, but have not had much luck finding this most of the time, probably around approximately 15-20% of our total bookings. We did use the compete-for-my-booking Web site once and saved some money, but also experienced some of the worst customer service I have ever encountered in any industry.

 

I have usually found it too time consuming and exasperating to spend the effort trying to find a decent TA for the marginal savings that I have been able to obtain in using one. I respect and admire those of you who have been successful in doing so.

 

 

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3 hours ago, drakes2 said:

Seems X didn't want to change as I had booked with a TA so I asked him to call back and eventually on the 3rd call the switch was honoured.

 

Was that actually stated?  If so the rep should have been reported.   Celebrity treats TAs well as they need them to generate business.

 

The one thing I'll say to people who book direct.  It wouldn't hurt you to ask your PVP to add extra OBC or something else of value to keep your business.   I tend to book on-line then call to make deposit to make sure everything on the reservation is correct then transfer to my TA.   One time between making the booking and paying the deposit a PVP called me to "help".   When I said I was moving the reservation to a TA he offered to match the OBC.   I declined as Celebrity only offers non refundable OBC, TA give refundable which goes home with me making it a discount.

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On 2/27/2021 at 7:02 PM, NMTraveller said:

I find that I get much better pricing and OBC going through a travel agent.  When there is an issue you can have the TA handle it vs waiting on the phone with Celebrity.

Just call my X CVP. Never had to wait on hold.  

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3 hours ago, wrk2cruise said:

 

Was that actually stated?  If so the rep should have been reported.   Celebrity treats TAs well as they need them to generate business.

 

The one thing I'll say to people who book direct.  It wouldn't hurt you to ask your PVP to add extra OBC or something else of value to keep your business.   I tend to book on-line then call to make deposit to make sure everything on the reservation is correct then transfer to my TA.   One time between making the booking and paying the deposit a PVP called me to "help".   When I said I was moving the reservation to a TA he offered to match the OBC.   I declined as Celebrity only offers non refundable OBC, TA give refundable which goes home with me making it a discount.

I really don't know why X didn't want to upgrade me but I kept telling my TA to call back and finally the third agent changed the booking to a C2 midship angled balcony. It was a 14 night Caribbean cruise and it appears there were a lot of this category available and it was 2 weeks from sail date when the price dropped.  The extra points per night put me into Elite for the following cruise. 

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On 2/26/2021 at 9:01 PM, baldilocks said:

Question....We have always booked with Royal and Celebrity directly. We also purchase our excursions and dining reservations online. Is their any benefit with using a travel agent? They seem like an extra step in the process.

We always use a travel agent, in our case, an online travel agent. Why......they give us the same deal as Celebrity but always throw in about 10% OBC for using them. For example, we booked a cabin for a cost of $5,000 total and we received and additional $480 OBC from the travel agent. That, along with the cruise promotion OBC, pretty much ensures that we will not come out of pocket for the trip. Some TA's will also give you that money back in the form of a discount off the cruise fare. 

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11 hours ago, ExArkie said:

The recurring theme I am hearing is, "A great (or even very good) TA will do wonders for you."

 

....

 

I have usually found it too time consuming and exasperating to spend the effort trying to find a decent TA for the marginal savings that I have been able to obtain in using one. I respect and admire those of you who have been successful in doing so.

 

I do all my own research and do not need a TA to do wonders for me - I merely want a significant monitory benefit from them - along with the same price and perks available if booking directly with the cruise line  The TA division of my member-warehouse store - just a phone call away - provides about 8% of the cost of my cruise back in the form of a gift card for use in their store - equivalent to cash for me since I would be shopping there anyway (you have such a store in Charlotte.) And they have no additional fees for changes or cancellations and are available 7 days per week.

 

I agree with not spending extra effort to find a TA that might get me another 2% or 3% in benefits.  Not worth my time when we only cruise once per year (although, we might make it two in the first year we can get back to "normal" cruising - whenever that may be.)

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16 minutes ago, NantahalaCruiser said:

I do all my own research and do not need a TA to do wonders for me - I merely want a significant monitory benefit from them - along with the same price and perks available if booking directly with the cruise line  The TA division of my member-warehouse store - just a phone call away - provides about 8% of the cost of my cruise back in the form of a gift card for use in their store - equivalent to cash for me since I would be shopping there anyway (you have such a store in Charlotte.) And they have no additional fees for changes or cancellations and are available 7 days per week.

 

I agree with not spending extra effort to find a TA that might get me another 2% or 3% in benefits.  Not worth my time when we only cruise once per year (although, we might make it two in the first year we can get back to "normal" cruising - whenever that may be.)

That is both our approach and our TA. I would only add that in addition to the gift card (or refundable OBC, depending on the cruise line), we get an annual 2% cash back as Executive Members. Well worth the slightly higher membership fee.

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I actually had an unusual experience where booking with my "big box" travel agency caused me to have twice the deposit cost as it would have been had I booked with Celebrity online (same overall cost, but more upfront). I was booking a "Celebrity Suite" on a 9 night cruise. I had $900 in FCC deposit from cancelled cruise which is what the deposit was when I tried to book online. Unfortunately the travel agent didn't have those suites available in their system so had to call Celebrity to do the booking. Celebrity rep then told TA that the deposit was $1800 rather than $900 and said that the website price was just wrong and would not honor that.  In retrospect I probably could have booked it myself then transferred to the TA for the very substantial perks, but doing it through the TA doubled my deposit. I did talk to a supervisor at Celebrity who said the deposit is supposed to be the $1800 on these suites (and their website fine print matches that) but that their websites just haven't been updated to reflect this.  Just thought people might want to know that there are some actual times where booking direct is (initially) cheaper.

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13 hours ago, sherylc said:

I actually had an unusual experience where booking with my "big box" travel agency caused me to have twice the deposit cost as it would have been had I booked with Celebrity online (same overall cost, but more upfront). I was booking a "Celebrity Suite" on a 9 night cruise. I had $900 in FCC deposit from cancelled cruise which is what the deposit was when I tried to book online. Unfortunately the travel agent didn't have those suites available in their system so had to call Celebrity to do the booking. Celebrity rep then told TA that the deposit was $1800 rather than $900 and said that the website price was just wrong and would not honor that.  In retrospect I probably could have booked it myself then transferred to the TA for the very substantial perks, but doing it through the TA doubled my deposit. I did talk to a supervisor at Celebrity who said the deposit is supposed to be the $1800 on these suites (and their website fine print matches that) but that their websites just haven't been updated to reflect this.  Just thought people might want to know that there are some actual times where booking direct is (initially) cheaper.

 

Yes it can be pretty hit/miss with the double deposit on the upper suites (CS and above).   This has been the policy for several years now.   I think in the 1/2 dozen booking or so we got charged the double deposit only once and that was by my TA (who is very good so understands the rules).

 

Now what I usually do is place the cabin I want on hold and then call Celebrity (Captains Club number) and finalize and pay the deposit.   Then I email my TA to get it transferred to him.  Unless the Celebrity agent catches it they will just charge the regular deposit.

 

The double deposit policy has been in effect for several years.   So if their IT department isn't competent enough to modify their web site to correct after this amount of time I don't feel obligated to correct Celebrity and give them more money.

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On 3/2/2021 at 10:52 AM, drakes2 said:

Just call my X CVP. Never had to wait on hold.  

I've had 3 different CVP's and never once had one answer a call. All calls went to voice mail and I waiting for a call back.  

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12 minutes ago, jelayne said:

I've had 3 different CVP's and never once had one answer a call. All calls went to voice mail and I waiting for a call back.  

If my call goes to voice mail he always calls back same day. If its the weekend and he's off and my matter is urgent another agent will make the change.  I'll probably book my next cruise after final payment and look for the best price and some OBC in which case I could go with a TA.  I mostly travel solo so a bit hard on the wallet. 

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18 hours ago, Fouremco said:

That is both our approach and our TA. I would only add that in addition to the gift card (or refundable OBC, depending on the cruise line), we get an annual 2% cash back as Executive Members. Well worth the slightly higher membership fee.

 This had been my approach for quite some time, but I've recently switched to a TA.   Often times I didn't get a group rate with the warehouse club TA and it seemed like people were getting groups rates that were better deals than my 8% return.  Perhaps I was just getting rookie TA's at the warehouse club, that I think I've ended up paying more than I would with some independent TA's.

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1 hour ago, drakes2 said:

I'll probably book my next cruise after final payment and look for the best price and some OBC in which case I could go with a TA.

 

Just remember when booking after final payment that you can't transfer a booking made directly with Celebrity to a TA.   You have to book direct with the TA if you want to use a TA if it is after final payment.

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35 minutes ago, ipeeinthepool said:

 This had been my approach for quite some time, but I've recently switched to a TA.   Often times I didn't get a group rate with the warehouse club TA and it seemed like people were getting groups rates that were better deals than my 8% return.  Perhaps I was just getting rookie TA's at the warehouse club, that I think I've ended up paying more than I would with some independent TA's.

In Canada, travel agents and travel agencies generally offer very little in the way of perks or savings. If you are lucky, you might get a bottle of cheap wine. Some group rates with large agencies, of which there are precious few, but nothing compared to what's available in the US.

 

Then a few years ago, the warehouse club opened a Canadian arm of its travel agency and we immediately switched to them. While some of the other agencies have few the pressure and started to improve their perks to a minor degree, I always comparison shop and the warehouse club TA continues to the best deal. 

 

Over the years, we've booked direct with cruise lines, booked direct and transferred to a TA, and booked directly with a TA. I do all the research first, tell the TA what I want, but remain open to a better deal that I might have overlooked.  

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24 minutes ago, Fouremco said:

In Canada, travel agents and travel agencies generally offer very little in the way of perks or savings. If you are lucky, you might get a bottle of cheap wine. Some group rates with large agencies, of which there are precious few, but nothing compared to what's available in the US.

 

Then a few years ago, the warehouse club opened a Canadian arm of its travel agency and we immediately switched to them. While some of the other agencies have few the pressure and started to improve their perks to a minor degree, I always comparison shop and the warehouse club TA continues to the best deal. 

 

Over the years, we've booked direct with cruise lines, booked direct and transferred to a TA, and booked directly with a TA. I do all the research first, tell the TA what I want, but remain open to a better deal that I might have overlooked.  

 

I have generally been very happy with the warehouse club TA's but prior to the pandemic and business was good I did encounter several new inexperienced TA's that were not very knowledgeable.  I would just excuse myself and hang up and call again.  During the pandemic the TA's have been very good because they have laid-off many TA's and only kept the experienced TA's.  Actually the TA's were offered other jobs in the warehouse club.  However when cruising resumes they will need to re-staff and I would expect to encounter many new TA's.  Many experienced cruisers can probably deal with the new TA's but they could be a problem for new cruisers.

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33 minutes ago, Fouremco said:

In Canada, travel agents and travel agencies generally offer very little in the way of perks or savings. If you are lucky, you might get a bottle of cheap wine. Some group rates with large agencies, of which there are precious few, but nothing compared to what's available in the US.

 

Then a few years ago, the warehouse club opened a Canadian arm of its travel agency and we immediately switched to them. While some of the other agencies have few the pressure and started to improve their perks to a minor degree, I always comparison shop and the warehouse club TA continues to the best deal. 

 

Over the years, we've booked direct with cruise lines, booked direct and transferred to a TA, and booked directly with a TA. I do all the research first, tell the TA what I want, but remain open to a better deal that I might have overlooked.  

 

As a canadian are you not able to use a US based travel agent?

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26 minutes ago, DaCruiseBug said:

 

As a canadian are you not able to use a US based travel agent?

Yes, and for some time I did do some comparison shopping that included US sites, but I didn't find anything that enticed me to book with a US TA. Part of the issue is that I usually book very early, and I never know with the fragile Canadian dollar what the final payment will actually amount to. Maybe there are US TA's willing to book in Canadian dollars, but I haven't noticed any. I know that there are other Canadian CC members who use US TAs, but without the ability to name names here, I've not been able to find one that meets my needs.

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I will just give our experience as fairly recent cruisers (we have only done 6 ocean and one river cruise to date).  We have always used a travel agent for our cruise bookings, so I don't have any experience with booking through a specific Celebrity travel planner.

Once we discovered the add-on value of booking through the big box store and getting a significant bonus in the form of a cash card upon returning from cruises, we were pretty much sold.  Until recently, we booked all our past and upcoming cruises through the big box.  However, three little anecdotes will explain why I am more inclined to use a real personal travel agent in the future.  First, we were booking a Uniworld River Cruise together with old friends.  The old friends had already connected up with a local travel agent, with an actual brick and mortar storefront, but one that is affiliated with a big international travel company that everyone recognizes.  We talked to the travel agent but pointed out that we could book through the big box (since they also deal with Uniworld) and get a big cash card after the fact.  She went to bat with her Uniworld contact and they basically matched the value we would have received through the big box.

 

Second, we were on a European Celebrity cruise booked through the big box, when we became aware of something we wanted to take advantage of on another future Celebrity cruise we had booked through the big box.  I don't remember exactly what it was, but probably something like a price drop on our cabin with only a few cabins left available in the category, so that once they were all sold we could not get the benefit of the price drop.  So I had to call the big box from Europe, at a time when they were open and I was free, using my few international minutes on my European Sim card, and try to get them to get the price adjusted.  There was a wait getting through to Celebrity, so I had to beg the agent to let me hang up and have her just handle it (they normally insist that the customer stay on the line with them).  By contrast, if I had used the individual travel agent, I could have sent her an email in the middle of the night, and she would have handled it when she got up in the morning.

 

Finally, in the last couple of weeks I have been considering booking two new Celebrity cruises in the next 15 months.  I initially booked them through the big box, where I got the same price as I could have gotten by booking them myself.  The advantage, of course, is the cash card at the end of the cruise.  But I talked to our river cruise agent about these two cruises, and she was able to get group booking fares for us on both cruises, at significant savings, which will make up most or all of the value of the cash cards we would have received.  So we rebooked them through the individual, and cancelled the big box booking.  I have never yet been offered a group booking fare through the big box (in fairness, I don't always ask about this, but when I do, there never is a group booking available).  They obviously have enough market power to get group bookings, but other than a few affinity type cruises (for wine lovers or whatever), maybe they just don't do this as part of their business model.

Anyway, our preference is shifting in the direction of the individual agent.  But this all comes down to personal preferences and interests.   We book all our other travel by ourselves, and would be happy to do the same with cruises.  But working with some travel agent, as opposed to directly with Celebrity, provides additional value that we appreciate.

 

Tom & Judy

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1 hour ago, Fouremco said:

Yes, and for some time I did do some comparison shopping that included US sites, but I didn't find anything that enticed me to book with a US TA. Part of the issue is that I usually book very early, and I never know with the fragile Canadian dollar what the final payment will actually amount to. Maybe there are US TA's willing to book in Canadian dollars, but I haven't noticed any. I know that there are other Canadian CC members who use US TAs, but without the ability to name names here, I've not been able to find one that meets my needs.

Years ago I think it was 2008 and 2009 when our rates were favorable I booked with a US based agency in US dollars. At the time I also had a USD credit card so I knew exactly what I was being charged without any conversion fees.  Lately I've booked with X, received substantial on board credit, 2 bottles of excellent quality wine waiting for me in my cabin and great customer service. 

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1 hour ago, TFree said:

I will just give our experience as fairly recent cruisers (we have only done 6 ocean and one river cruise to date).  We have always used a travel agent for our cruise bookings, so I don't have any experience with booking through a specific Celebrity travel planner.

Once we discovered the add-on value of booking through the big box store and getting a significant bonus in the form of a cash card upon returning from cruises, we were pretty much sold.  Until recently, we booked all our past and upcoming cruises through the big box.  However, three little anecdotes will explain why I am more inclined to use a real personal travel agent in the future.  First, we were booking a Uniworld River Cruise together with old friends.  The old friends had already connected up with a local travel agent, with an actual brick and mortar storefront, but one that is affiliated with a big international travel company that everyone recognizes.  We talked to the travel agent but pointed out that we could book through the big box (since they also deal with Uniworld) and get a big cash card after the fact.  She went to bat with her Uniworld contact and they basically matched the value we would have received through the big box.

 

Second, we were on a European Celebrity cruise booked through the big box, when we became aware of something we wanted to take advantage of on another future Celebrity cruise we had booked through the big box.  I don't remember exactly what it was, but probably something like a price drop on our cabin with only a few cabins left available in the category, so that once they were all sold we could not get the benefit of the price drop.  So I had to call the big box from Europe, at a time when they were open and I was free, using my few international minutes on my European Sim card, and try to get them to get the price adjusted.  There was a wait getting through to Celebrity, so I had to beg the agent to let me hang up and have her just handle it (they normally insist that the customer stay on the line with them).  By contrast, if I had used the individual travel agent, I could have sent her an email in the middle of the night, and she would have handled it when she got up in the morning.

 

Finally, in the last couple of weeks I have been considering booking two new Celebrity cruises in the next 15 months.  I initially booked them through the big box, where I got the same price as I could have gotten by booking them myself.  The advantage, of course, is the cash card at the end of the cruise.  But I talked to our river cruise agent about these two cruises, and she was able to get group booking fares for us on both cruises, at significant savings, which will make up most or all of the value of the cash cards we would have received.  So we rebooked them through the individual, and cancelled the big box booking.  I have never yet been offered a group booking fare through the big box (in fairness, I don't always ask about this, but when I do, there never is a group booking available).  They obviously have enough market power to get group bookings, but other than a few affinity type cruises (for wine lovers or whatever), maybe they just don't do this as part of their business model.

Anyway, our preference is shifting in the direction of the individual agent.  But this all comes down to personal preferences and interests.   We book all our other travel by ourselves, and would be happy to do the same with cruises.  But working with some travel agent, as opposed to directly with Celebrity, provides additional value that we appreciate.

 

Tom & Judy

We used the  big box for 5 or 6 years 3-5 cruises a year.  We had no complaints and were generally pleased.    Then they changed from refundable OBC to the gift card, added a change fee & cancellation fee so we moved on.  We don’t live near a store so a gift card was of little value. In the 5 or 6 years we booked with them we never saw a group rate.   So now we have been using a large on-line TA, frequently have gotten group rates always refundable OBC and agent who has gone to bat for us and won.  

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So I know we can't speak of specific names here, but hopefully this question is allowed - how does one go about finding a good TA?  I have been using a very popular online big box TA for years but have really been very disappointed in how they have handled things through the last year, even allowing for the conditions they (we!) are dealing with.  I would like to find another one that offers similar perks and has better customer service.  I know you can't say who, but can you say how you found them if you have a good one?  Don't really have friends that cruise so that isn't an avenue I can pursue.

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