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Is there any benefit with using a travel agent?


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18 hours ago, tfred said:

how much attention do the big box (or any of them) pay attention to price drops along the way?  Is that something that I have to do?

 

The value part of the TA seems to be on more complicated trips that involve airfare, hotels, tours etc or locations where the traveler really needs help to plan and organize.  

 

 Struggling to see what they add beside OBC for straight up "I know what I want" trips

 

2 hours ago, tfred said:

This is my thoughts ands preference as well.  I traveled for business for business for 25 years so making and researching reservations is "easy" for me.  I am retired so I have plenty of time

 

The  big box TA uses the Visa store credit and it is about 10% or so of the fare - pretty good.  Just want to make sure that they are responsive as needed.  Has that ben your experience?


I just wanted to respond to a couple of these questions about the big box TA.  In my experience there is no way that they would call me about a reduced fare.  I don't have enough experience yet with an individual travel agent to know if she monitors fares and calls, but I know for sure that the big box does not.  I call them and they get the price drop if it is available to me.  

To answer your other question, they are responsive to any request that I make.  The issue is, you never get the same agent twice, so you sort of have to give them the background as to what you are requesting and why.  They will find detailed notes in the system, but you still have to bring them up to date if it is a continuing story.  And you can't contact them individually by phone or by email.  You just have to call in and it is the luck of the draw as to which agent you get.  They are generally good but not always.

 

Tom & Judy

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2 hours ago, tfred said:

This is my thoughts ands preference as well.  I traveled for business for business for 25 years so making and researching reservations is "easy" for me.  I am retired so I have plenty of time

 

The  big box TA uses the Visa store credit and it is about 10% or so of the fare - pretty good.  Just want to make sure that they are responsive as needed.  Has that ben your experience?

Yes, I've found them to be responsive. The most recent example was when we L&S'd a March 2021 cruise to March 2022. At the time of our original booking, our cabin of choice wasn't available, and I explained to the TA who handled the L&S that we'd like to switch to the preferred cabin should it be available. It wasn't, and we retained our originally assigned cabin, but the TA said he'd keep an eye out and let us know if the preferred cabin became available. Later that weekend, he phoned to tell us that the cabin had freed up and was available should we still want it. We did, and look forward to enjoying next year. 

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There is a huge difference between a professional travel agent and an order taker.  I have been working as an agent/owner for 30+ years and have experienced many things that are never considered at time of booking.

 

Phone calls at 2:00 am because flights were cancelled in Rome by cruise line

Husband had heart attack in Alaska and needs to get home... no insurance

Hurricanes, snow storms, volcano ash, 911...

Hours on hold with Covid related problems

 

So many more things I could list but sometimes the value of a good agent is ignored.

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, drakes2 said:

I use the TD first class travel visa. 3 points for every $ spent and 9 points on travel purchases. Usually have enough points to cover flight and 1 night hotel pre cruise.  Card also gives medical insurance and trip cancellation. 

That is the card we use 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Trixsea said:

There is a huge difference between a professional travel agent and an order taker.  I have been working as an agent/owner for 30+ years and have experienced many things that are never considered at time of booking.

 

Phone calls at 2:00 am because flights were cancelled in Rome by cruise line

Husband had heart attack in Alaska and needs to get home... no insurance

Hurricanes, snow storms, volcano ash, 911...

Hours on hold with Covid related problems

 

So many more things I could list but sometimes the value of a good agent is ignored.

 

 

 

Judging from comments I read here, I don't get the sense that folks that use a TA ignore the value of a good agent, many/most have said as you stated, is exactly why they do so.  I've not used a TA, partly because I feel like I have more control on my planning, making any changes as I want.  Though perhaps I would reconsider if I ever encounter some of the issues you do mention.

Edited by LGW59
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On 3/1/2021 at 4:40 AM, edgee said:

Reason is that you are in effect paying between 8 and 11 percent more for your cruise by not taking advantage of cash rebates or cruise credit offered by a TA. My agency rebates me via check about 10% of the cruise fare  3 weeks prior to sailing for most cruises.

The thing is we don’t base our decisions in general on whatever is the cheapest, for us there are other factors to take into consideration. Certainly many of the stories on here over last year regarding some TA’s have been an eye opener, we’ve had fantastic service from start to finish from our Celebrity rep who provided us with his email and he’s the only rep we ever have to deal with, not having to go through a middleman has been worth every  penny extra to us. We pay extra to have our car looked after by a franchise dealer we trust rather than a cut price mega market dealer for exactly the same reason. Different strokes for different folks, neither is wrong just a case of what works for each individual.

Edited by yorky
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4 hours ago, Trixsea said:

There is a huge difference between a professional travel agent and an order taker.  I have been working as an agent/owner for 30+ years and have experienced many things that are never considered at time of booking.

 

Phone calls at 2:00 am because flights were cancelled in Rome by cruise line

Husband had heart attack in Alaska and needs to get home... no insurance

Hurricanes, snow storms, volcano ash, 911...

Hours on hold with Covid related problems

 

So many more things I could list but sometimes the value of a good agent is ignored.

 

 

 

Thank you for putting in words exactly the distinction that I have come to appreciate.  After booking our first cruise, we became aware of the extra cash value we could get by working through the big box store.  That seemed like a no-brainer at the time, but they clearly are order takers and not anything like full service, professional travel agents.  Most of the time, I suppose an order taker was all we really needed.  Over the past year, even though the big box has not messed anything up for us, I have come to appreciate the value that a professional travel agent can bring to bear, which is why we did our most recent bookings through an individual agent affiliated with a large travel company.

Tom & Judy

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4 hours ago, LGW59 said:

Judging from comments I read here, I don't get the sense that folks that use a TA ignore the value of a good agent, many/most have said as you stated, is exactly why they do so.  I've not used a TA, partly because I feel like I have more control on my planning, making any changes as I want.  Though perhaps I would reconsider if I ever encounter some of the issues you do mention.

I do not think my approach is uncommon.  Like you I do all my own planning and tracking of potential cost reductions/changes.   If my total cost were the same or even just slightly more, I would book direct.  I book (or transfer) all cruises to a TA for the Celebrity refundable OBC (8% -10%).  I develop a relationship with a competitive TA and receive a quote via an e mail.  (Never on line).  I find that I receive my highest amount of refundable OBC by operating this way.  When cruising with Princess, I receive a discount instead of OBC.

As you have stated many times, you place a greater value on the direct booking/on going monitoring process.  It is easy to understand why you value this process.  Many of us place more value in the refundable OBC.  No doubt in my mind that there are travel agents that I would never use, so it is not a blind decision.  
 

By the way, the two travel agents that I use were found with help from other CC members.  One while on a previous cruise.  Thank you, Wine-O.

 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, jagoffee said:

I do not think my approach is uncommon.  Like you I do all my own planning and tracking of potential cost reductions/changes.   If my total cost were the same or even just slightly more, I would book direct.  I book (or transfer) all cruises to a TA for the Celebrity refundable OBC (8% -10%).  I develop a relationship with a competitive TA and receive a quote via an e mail.  (Never on line).  I find that I receive my highest amount of refundable OBC by operating this way.  When cruising with Princess, I receive a discount instead of OBC.

As you have stated many times, you place a greater value on the direct booking/on going monitoring process.  It is easy to understand why you value this process.  Many of us place more value in the refundable OBC.  No doubt in my mind that there are travel agents that I would never use, so it is not a blind decision.  
 

By the way, the two travel agents that I use were found with help from other CC members.  One while on a previous cruise.  Thank you, Wine-O.

 

 

 

Very interesting.  So yes, my cruises, 2 upcoming in 2022 are booked direct with Celebrity.  I have seen a number of responses here saying talk to a TA about moving to them, for multiple reasons.  Thus a few questions, if you know the answer:

 

APEX April 2022, Transatlantic, $800 OBC, reasonable cruise rate for Edge Villa

 

APEX Oct 2022, Israel, Turkey, Med, $800 OBC and again reasonable cruise rate for Royal Suite

 

I know no definitive answer, but generally, do you know would OBC and/or cruise fare be impacted in my favor?  TIA for any info.  Then I have no idea how to begin if I do this.

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15 minutes ago, LGW59 said:

Very interesting.  So yes, my cruises, 2 upcoming in 2022 are booked direct with Celebrity.  I have seen a number of responses here saying talk to a TA about moving to them, for multiple reasons.  Thus a few questions, if you know the answer:

 

APEX April 2022, Transatlantic, $800 OBC, reasonable cruise rate for Edge Villa

 

APEX Oct 2022, Israel, Turkey, Med, $800 OBC and again reasonable cruise rate for Royal Suite

 

I know no definitive answer, but generally, do you know would OBC and/or cruise fare be impacted in my favor?  TIA for any info.  Then I have no idea how to begin if I do this.

@LGW59: I have a sort of apples to apples comparison for you on the transatlantic.  We are on the same transatlantic with you, but in an S3 Sky Suite.  Our fare is way below the current price for an S3 cabin on that sailing (about 63% of the current price), because we were able to L&S from the Edge 2021 transatlantic and keep the same pricing for the 2022 sailing on Apex.  We have 4 perks, including the premium beverage package and $750 OBC through Celebrity.  We are booked through the big box, and upon return we will receive an $805 cash card from the big box.  The L&S required higher-up approval because the 2021 TA was 15 nights, and the 2022 TA is 14 nights, so it was not an exact match.  You could say that the big box got that approved for us, but really it was just a matter of any TA (or Celebrity direct) being asked to put in a request for approval and then waiting for the response.  So I don't credit the L&S to the big box, just the cash card.

 

Tom & Judy

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2 hours ago, LGW59 said:

APEX April 2022, Transatlantic, $800 OBC, reasonable cruise rate for Edge Villa

 

APEX Oct 2022, Israel, Turkey, Med, $800 OBC and again reasonable cruise rate for Royal Suite

 

Just to give you an idea my TA gives me 10% of the base cruise fare minus NCCF rounded down to $25 increment as refundable OBC.   This refundable OBC is in addition to the OBC provided by Celebrity as part of your Indulge package which comes with the Retreat booking.  It is purchased by the TA from Celebrity and is added to your onboard account usually by the second day of the cruise.

 

Any refundable OBC remaining on our onboard account is returned to your credit card at the end of the cruise.  If you are like us when traveling in a suite we have a hard enough time spending the $800 non refundable OBC so we treat the TA refundable OBC as a discount on the cruise fare.

 

The real trick is finding a TA who is compatible with your needs and always ask them if they charge any fees for changes/cancellations etc.  There are many that charge no fees.  The best way is to ask fellow cruisers on your next cruise.

 

The other thing to know is you only have 60 days after original booking of a reservation to transfer to a TA so yours may be past that point.

 

Today's refundable deposit of Edge Villa on 4/22 TA on Apex price is $12,562 pp.

($12,562-$230)*2 = $24,664 * 10% = $2466 rounded down to $25 increment = $2450 OBC

 

Royal Suites appear to be sold out on the Oct 2022 sailings so lets just say $9000 pp.

($9,000-$375)*2 = $17,250 * 10% = $1725 rounded down to $25 increment = $1725 OBC

 

As you can see it's easy to plug your numbers in and see what to expect.  Occasionally my estimate is off by $25 but most often it's smack on.

 

The hardest part is finding the NCCF (non commissionable cruise fare).  I have found that several TA sites use this recognizable booking engine which displays this as "Port Charges" in their fare display.  It varies by cruise but is the same for all stateroom categories.  It's generally buried in the "Cruise Fare" which is shown on the Celebrity Guest Invoice.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, wrk2cruise said:

Any refundable OBC remaining on our onboard account is returned to your credit card at the end of the cruise.  If you are like us when traveling in a suite we have a hard enough time spending the $800 non refundable OBC so we treat the TA refundable OBC as a discount on the cruise fare.

 

If you don't mind a suggestion.  Instead of letting the OBC credit go back to your credit card and having them take the cash back reward on the amount refunded, why not go to guest services and have them peel the cash out to you?  That's what I do. 

 

On my Apex S1 suite next year, I'm getting $550 refundable OBC from my TA on a Base Cruise price of $4,812.  It's about 11.5% additional savings.  That's the reason why I use the TA instead of booking directly because I'm still getting the $300 NR OBC and the retreat perks. Taking the cash at guest services let's me keep the $16.50 reward.  BTW the current price for the same cabin category is now $5,800 more than my booking.

Edited by ChucktownSteve
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All of you are talking about a monetary savings. What I offer my clients is a savings of time which cannot be replaced.

 

When a client’s cruise last year from Dubai to Singapore was turned around in India and set sail back to Dubai, it was one email from me of the situation. Their flights were changed, post cruise transfers and hotel in Singapore cancelled and transfers and a day room in Dubai were all changed with confirmation sent to them.

 

The others on board with agents who offered that big OBC spent hours in line waiting at customer service to make changes. 
 

I don’t take on new clients unless repeats or referrals nor do I pay them to book a cruise with me. You are going to find less and less agencies and agents offering OBC. They need to rebuild their business and there will be less of them around and the TAs can afford to choose our clients going forward. No longer will you see them giving up their commission to beg for clients. 

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1 hour ago, flagger said:

All of you are talking about a monetary savings. What I offer my clients is a savings of time which cannot be replaced.

 

When a client’s cruise last year from Dubai to Singapore was turned around in India and set sail back to Dubai, it was one email from me of the situation. Their flights were changed, post cruise transfers and hotel in Singapore cancelled and transfers and a day room in Dubai were all changed with confirmation sent to them.

 

The others on board with agents who offered that big OBC spent hours in line waiting at customer service to make changes. 
 

I don’t take on new clients unless repeats or referrals nor do I pay them to book a cruise with me. You are going to find less and less agencies and agents offering OBC. They need to rebuild their business and there will be less of them around and the TAs can afford to choose our clients going forward. No longer will you see them giving up their commission to beg for clients. 

Once upon a time, the only way that the average person could reliably arrange travel was to use the services of a TA such as yourself. Then came the Internet and cellular telephones, and the world changed in many ways, including how we arranged travel. While I agree with your comment that you offer savings of time, many of us prefer monetary savings.

 

While the Dubai situation may have been a bit more complex, I've had two cruises in the past few years for which I had to change arrangements on the fly. On a Caribbean cruise, my DW experienced a medical issue mid-cruise which necessitated flying back to Canada from the next port. The second situation occurred at the end of a Norwegian cruise, when my DW was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Amsterdam. After spending several hours in the emergency ward, she was advised that she wouldn't be admitted, but that she shouldn't fly for several days, even though we were booked to fly home that day. In both cases, a couple of phone calls took care of new flight arrangement and, in Amsterdam, our hotel booking. 

 

Here in Canada, most agencies operated in a manner similar to yours, offering good service but not much else. You were lucky to get a bottle of cheap wine for booking a cruise with them. Then a big box store opened a travel arm, mirroring its US parent company, and I've noticed that an agency that I had used previously is now offering a few hundred dollars in OBC in an attempt to remain relevant. 

 

I've no doubt that there are travellers who don't have the time or inclination to arrange travel, or would be completely lost without a TA such as yourself when there's a major hiccup in their travel plans. Nevertheless, I suspect that the business model offered by the big box and similar TA's is here to stay. And thrive. There are simply too many people who don't need hand holding or time savings and are quite willing to forego them in favour of decent monetary rewards.  JMO

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It never even occurred to me to contact my travel agent when I fractured my knee and could not board the ship.  I was fortunate enough that I had good health insurance, got myself to the ER, contacted the cruise line, (I was suppose to board the next day), and changed my flight reservations.

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59 minutes ago, Fouremco said:

Once upon a time, the only way that the average person could reliably arrange travel was to use the services of a TA such as yourself. Then came the Internet and cellular telephones, and the world changed in many ways, including how we arranged travel. While I agree with your comment that you offer savings of time, many of us prefer monetary savings.

 

While the Dubai situation may have been a bit more complex, I've had two cruises in the past few years for which I had to change arrangements on the fly. On a Caribbean cruise, my DW experienced a medical issue mid-cruise which necessitated flying back to Canada from the next port. The second situation occurred at the end of a Norwegian cruise, when my DW was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Amsterdam. After spending several hours in the emergency ward, she was advised that she wouldn't be admitted, but that she shouldn't fly for several days, even though we were booked to fly home that day. In both cases, a couple of phone calls took care of new flight arrangement and, in Amsterdam, our hotel booking. 

 

Here in Canada, most agencies operated in a manner similar to yours, offering good service but not much else. You were lucky to get a bottle of cheap wine for booking a cruise with them. Then a big box store opened a travel arm, mirroring its US parent company, and I've noticed that an agency that I had used previously is now offering a few hundred dollars in OBC in an attempt to remain relevant. 

 

I've no doubt that there are travellers who don't have the time or inclination to arrange travel, or would be completely lost without a TA such as yourself when there's a major hiccup in their travel plans. Nevertheless, I suspect that the business model offered by the big box and similar TA's is here to stay. And thrive. There are simply too many people who don't need hand holding or time savings and are quite willing to forego them in favour of decent monetary rewards.  JMO

When I was much younger, and me and my ex started travelling, though it was not frequent, we did use a TA.  Generally had very good results, but the trips we were taking were kind of easy peasy, they did do a good job for us!  The past 15 years or so, I take much more inclusive trips, both land and cruise, generally one of each per year.  I very much enjoy planning on my own.  It helps me build up to the excitement of the journey.  This is not in any way to take away from the value others feel about working with a TA, it just works for me.  

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Fouremco said:

Here in Canada, most agencies operated in a manner similar to yours, offering good service but not much else. You were lucky to get a bottle of cheap wine for booking a cruise with them.

I remember the first cruise DH and I took we booked with a large travel agency in Canada.  He spent two hours talking to us and never even got so much as a cheap bottle of wine.  We were charged extra for return shuttle from San Juan to and from the terminal when we could have used a taxi at less than half the cost.  Never even heard of cruise critic back then.  

Edited by drakes2
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Trust me, most travel agents won’t be in need of new clients or those who demand gifts for the honor of booking with their agency. Those who survive this will be in such demand they can turn away business. 

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3 minutes ago, flagger said:

Trust me, most travel agents won’t be in need of new clients or those who demand gifts for the honor of booking with their agency. Those who survive this will be in such demand they can turn away business. 

I certainly hope so, many many on CC attest to the value of their TA, hope it will continue after all of this. 

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8 minutes ago, LGW59 said:

When I was much younger, and me and my ex started travelling, though it was not frequent, we did use a TA.  Generally had very good results, but the trips we were taking were kind of easy peasy, they did do a good job for us!  The past 15 years or so, I take much more inclusive trips, both land and cruise, generally one of each per year.  I very much enjoy planning on my own.  It helps me build up to the excitement of the journey.  This is not in any way to take away from the value others feel about working with a TA, it just works for me.  

Yes, a lot of seasoned travellers do the planning themselves, then turn to a TA or directly to the companies to make their bookings. I don't see that changing.

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1 hour ago, LGW59 said:

When I was much younger, and me and my ex started travelling, though it was not frequent, we did use a TA.  Generally had very good results, but the trips we were taking were kind of easy peasy, they did do a good job for us!  The past 15 years or so, I take much more inclusive trips, both land and cruise, generally one of each per year.  I very much enjoy planning on my own.  It helps me build up to the excitement of the journey.  This is not in any way to take away from the value others feel about working with a TA, it just works for me.  

I think you will find that the majority of us here do exactly as you do.  We often book 60 day+ trips including air, VRBO rentals, hotels, car rentals, land trips.  And a cruise.  And the only thing we have handled by our TA is the cruise.

The savings of which often pays for some of the other arrangements mentioned above.

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We always transfer our booking to a travel agent, strictly for the OBC or cash back.  Our loyalty is to the travel agent who gives us the best cash back deal.   We enjoy following up and watching open cabin availability ourselves and really enjoy researching our future travel trips.  The need of a travel agent to help plan our trip stopped some 25 years ago.  Times have changed.

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I want to thank everyone who posted for their advice and experiences with travel agents. My wife and I talked about using a TA. We have come to the conclusion that if we do a compound trip...air, lodging, non-ship excursions and possibly a rental car, using a TA would be a good idea (i.e. a trans-Atlantic cruise with lodging and tours) . Right now, we drive to and from our departure ports and we use our timeshare location for both pre and post lodging. We will still book direct for these trips.

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