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TA for a River Cruise?


Travel R
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I have a handful of ocean cruises under my belt and have never used a TA to book any but my first few since they were in the days before the Internet.

 

I am a planner, and over-planner actually, so have made the arrangements for our last few sailings myself. I perform a crazy amount of research, and like to know the ins and outs of my vacation.

 

Our 25th Anniversary vacation was cancelled by COVID (land tour of Italy with a cruise to Greece). We were going with another couple, and our discussions have been to reschedule this vacation as a few days in Rome followed by a River Cruise. [There is plenty of time, due to scheduling conflicts, this 2021 cruise will not take place until 2024.]

 

I believe I am fairly knowledgeable when it comes to Ocean Cruising, but even after two weeks of research on River Cruises, I know that there is still probably a lot more that I do not know (especially as a novice). I have found a few posts about using a TA for booking Viking, but nothing about a TA in general for other lines.

 

I have a few questions:

 

1) Would it be recommended for a first-time river cruiser to use a TA or with enough research would I have the sufficient information to book the best river, cruise line, options, for myself?

2) What are the benefits and drawbacks of using a TA for a river cruise (and I am sure that they are different than an ocean cruise)

3) Stupid question - I have read that people use TAs for ocean cruises for perks (OBC, upgrades, etc.) or for handling price drops.  Are any of these even a thing when it comes to river cruising?

 

Thank you for your help,

 

Travel R

 

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Hi @Travel R.  Welcome to river cruising.  I've done 3 cruises on Uniworld and have a Tauck cruise booked for this coming December.

 

A good place to start is @Host Jazzbeau's excellent article here.  It's one of the stickies at the top of this forum.

 

 

I have a TA that I use for my river cruises who's different than the TA for my ocean cruises.  She's helped me in a lot of ways - airline reservations, pre-cruise tours, trouble shooting, etc.  I've received some OBC from her, but on Uniworld there's not much to spend it on because it's pretty much all inclusive.  

 

Post any specific questions you have.  There's a pretty helpful bunch of people in this forum.

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Posted (edited)

I always recommend using a TA, it's nice (especially now with flight cancellations/changes etc) to have someone else do your legwork. I still do all my planning, then go to my TA to have her do all the work. It's free, so why not?

 

It's up to your TA as to whether or not they will give you any perks, that comes out of their commission. Some do, some don't, there is no set thing.

 

Prior to selecting your line, I recommend you reading the stickies at the top of the main page so that you have a good idea about river cruising. There is a saying that the only thing the same with river & ocean cruising is that you are on a ship on water.

 

Contact the TA you normally use, and see if they have any experience with River cruises, or if someone in their office does. You probably won't have problems finding someone in the office that has experience.

 

Good luck, and have fun.

 

 

 

****Edited****

 

Roz and I were both posting at the same time...as she says, the stickies are good information.  

 

Also, you can't mention any TA on this board. We can give advice (like get one), but not mention any agencies by name.

Edited by Daisi
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First of all, check the various stickies at the top of the River Cruising forum to help determine which river, which cruise line, read comparisons, etc. There’s excellent info there whether you plan to use a TA or not.  I’m also a planner and have taken some very complicated trips.  Cruises are the easiest to plan but no matter how much planning I do, I’ll turn it over to my TA to further my planning and research and then to book.  I'm lucky to have an excellent one and she is well worth it for her opinion, expertise, guidance and perks.  It’s true that there are fewer things to spend OBC on but if the river ship has a spa, charges for laundry or has an upgraded wine list the OBC can come in handy.  A good TA can also provide hotel perks such as breakfast, upgrades, early check in, late check out, spa credits, etc.  

 

Have fun with your planning!

 

 

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I always use a TA.  When we started river cruising, she was a novice in this type of travel.  But, we have learned together.  

 

I am a planner - and very detail oriented.  But, when she has booked our trip - and our flights - she is always there to help out as needed.

 

An example: Before Covid, we had a trip booked to Peru (with a cruise on the Amazon...).  We missed our flight out of Miami (delayed flight from Toronto) which meant we would miss our flight to Araquipa (pre-tour extension on our own...)  Before we went to bed (we were given a hotel room - but didn't get there until 3 am), I sent her an e-mail explaining about the flight delays - and asked her to move the Araquipa flight to the earliest flight the following day.  We went to bed, and when we woke up a few hours later, the flight changes had been made and e-tickets were already in our in-box.  She has our credit card on file so did all of that when she first came into the office. 

 

We have great travel insurance, so were able to claim the change fee, as well as the cost of the hotel room for the 1st night.  By the time we got home, she had all documentation ready for us to submit for our claim.  I don't book any river cruises without involving her (# 16 coming up next month...)

 

Fran

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13 hours ago, Roz said:

Hi @Travel R.  Welcome to river cruising.  I've done 3 cruises on Uniworld and have a Tauck cruise booked for this coming December.

 

A good place to start is @Host Jazzbeau's excellent article here.  It's one of the stickies at the top of this forum.

 

 

I have a TA that I use for my river cruises who's different than the TA for my ocean cruises.  She's helped me in a lot of ways - airline reservations, pre-cruise tours, trouble shooting, etc.  I've received some OBC from her, but on Uniworld there's not much to spend it on because it's pretty much all inclusive.  

 

Post any specific questions you have.  There's a pretty helpful bunch of people in this forum.

 

Thank you for sharing the article, very concise, yet informative.

 

Over the past few months, I have been reading many articles (such as the ones posted on these boards) as well as various videos, once we began to talk about a river cruise (although I had been more focused on my recent cruise to Alaska).  We went over our friends house soon after we had returned and everyone seems more emphatic about a river cruise (followed by a few days in Rome), I had doubled my efforts in researching river cruises.

 

With three decades of ocean cruising under my belt there are still things I do not know.  I would not be so naïve to think that I know more than a drop in the bucket when it comes to river cruising.  Which is where or why I have come to the epiphany to inquire about a TA.

 

I very much appreciate the offer to answer questions.  I am sure that I will have many specific questions. For instance, one of the "little things" I have not seem mentioned yet is the quality of the water on the ships. Large cruise ships have some of the best filtration systems in the world - how do they compare to river cruise vessels?

 

I have been a long-time member of CC, and have learned a great deal from its members, and I have always tried to give back when I could. Many times through answering other's questions, and the last few cruises in the form of writing long and detailed reviews so people can learn from my experiences (both the good and the bad). I do appreciate yourself and others taking their time out to answer my questions.

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I use a Cruise agent who handles both river cruises and ocean cruises (she has done both extensively). I have cruised a ton and still do a lot of planning but still find it beneficial to use a travel agent. It is always helpful to have an expert on your side when something goes wrong. Plus, there are more benefits when using an agent (OBC, cheaper prices, etc....). 

 

I would not book anything this expensive with out an expert on my side.

 

There are some great river cruise books out there. A good place to start. One by Avid Cruiser and Berlitz.

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13 hours ago, Daisi said:

I always recommend using a TA, it's nice (especially now with flight cancellations/changes etc) to have someone else do your legwork. I still do all my planning, then go to my TA to have her do all the work. It's free, so why not?

 

It's up to your TA as to whether or not they will give you any perks, that comes out of their commission. Some do, some don't, there is no set thing.

 

I believe I used a TA for my first two (maybe three) ocean cruises in the early 90s.  There was no internet, and that was the only way I knew how to book.  Once I was able to perform my own bookings I have done it on my own since. Although I have read the TA vs. No TA threads on a few of the forums over the years (RCI, NCL, Carnival).

 

I've seen the perks being offered by some of the online sites for ocean cruises, but have always liked to have the total control over my bookings.  The one except was last year in the midst of COVID, when my DW and myself decided to get away for a long weekend in Vegas. Although I have been there a few times in the past, it has been a while, and had absolutely no time to research or plan anything. I have a long-time friend that is starting up a TA business, so to save myself time and help her out, I used her to book flights and hotel - it was a great experience, but still booked our last ocean cruise myself, and will do so for our ocean cruise next year.

 

I believe the river cruise schedule for summer 2024 will open this Fall (please correct me if I am wrong), so want to get a jump on it, and maybe a TA will also have some early notification as to when bookings will open.  From what I understand, river vs. ocean cruises are similar in the respect that the earlier you book the better.

 

 

13 hours ago, Daisi said:

Prior to selecting your line, I recommend you reading the stickies at the top of the main page so that you have a good idea about river cruising. There is a saying that the only thing the same with river & ocean cruising is that you are on a ship on water.

 

Contact the TA you normally use, and see if they have any experience with River cruises, or if someone in their office does. You probably won't have problems finding someone in the office that has experience.

 

Good luck, and have fun.

 

 

Thanks. I have already read many of the stickies over the past few weeks. Good articles/information. I will continue my reading. Right now my strategy is to make sure everyone knows the differences between river and ocean cruises so no one says "I did not know."  The second item on our agenda is to chose the river we want to cruise. Once we have decided upon a river, we can look at which lines are operating there - and if we (probably) chose the Rhine or Danube, I am sure that all seven of the US-marketed lines will be sailing, but at least we can look at the actual vessels (110 or 135) being offered.

 

As mentioned the TA I have used recently is new to the industry and not sure if she has dealt with cruises, nonetheless river cruises as of yet.  The TAs I used 25 years ago have unfortunately either passed or are retired (they were my mother's friends, so although I stopped using them, I have remained in contact with them and their families through the years).

 

13 hours ago, Daisi said:

Also, you can't mention any TA on this board. We can give advice (like get one), but not mention any agencies by name.

 

Yes, that I am very aware. Although naming TAs has never been an issue with me before, the naming of third party excursion/tour operators has been a recurring one (especially when writing a pre-review discussing the excursions we will be taking).  At least for these, you are able to mention them by name (as long as there is no link) after you have used them, which I think is fair.

 

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5 minutes ago, Travel R said:

For instance, one of the "little things" I have not seem mentioned yet is the quality of the water on the ships. Large cruise ships have some of the best filtration systems in the world - how do they compare to river cruise vessels?

Ocean cruise ships actually have full desalination systems on board as they are creating potable water from sea water. There is filtration involved as well but not like you might thinking. On the river ships, they get their water from shore and store it onboard in tanks. You are drinking the same water you would get asking for a glass at a local restaurant. I'm sure there is some level of shipboard filtration but the water from the shoreside provider is highly sanitized and treated. Generally water in Europe is extremely safe to drink. 

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13 hours ago, Gourmet Gal said:

I’m also a planner and have taken some very complicated trips.  Cruises are the easiest to plan but no matter how much planning I do, I’ll turn it over to my TA to further my planning and research and then to book.

 

That is what I am considering.  Instead of thinking of a TA as someone to handle everything, work with them as a partner.

 

13 hours ago, Gourmet Gal said:

A good TA can also provide hotel perks such as breakfast, upgrades, early check in, late check out, spa credits, etc.

 

Thanks - I did not consider that aspect of a TA. As mentioned, I could also use them for booking the hotels in Rome and the day or two pre-cruise from whichever port we are leaving from.

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9 hours ago, franski said:

I always use a TA.  When we started river cruising, she was a novice in this type of travel.  But, we have learned together.  

 

I am a planner - and very detail oriented.  But, when she has booked our trip - and our flights - she is always there to help out as needed.

 

As mentioned, I do have friend that is new to this industry.  Although I know that she would do whatever she can, and go out of her way to ensure we had a great trip - but I would be weary that she has no expertise in this area - but I may ask her how she would feel about doing something like this.

 

9 hours ago, franski said:

An example: Before Covid, we had a trip booked to Peru (with a cruise on the Amazon...).  We missed our flight out of Miami (delayed flight from Toronto) which meant we would miss our flight to Araquipa (pre-tour extension on our own...)  Before we went to bed (we were given a hotel room - but didn't get there until 3 am), I sent her an e-mail explaining about the flight delays - and asked her to move the Araquipa flight to the earliest flight the following day.  We went to bed, and when we woke up a few hours later, the flight changes had been made and e-tickets were already in our in-box.  She has our credit card on file so did all of that when she first came into the office. 

 

For this Alaska cruise, less than 24 hours before we were to board the airplane, both that flight and the connecting flights were both cancelled.  They tried to offer me a flight (for half my family) that would have arrived 4 hours after the ship set sail.

 

I uncharacteristically purchased my air through the cruise line's Air2Sea program.  This, for us, was a blessing. Whereas we met many people that were waiting one, two, or more days to get their next flight (many flights were cancelled that weekend by many of the airlines) - the agent was able to find us flights that got my entire family to the cruise on time (and even paid for the hotel accommodations during the 10 1/2 hour layover). [The full story is in my review; see signature.]

 

I only used it as a back-up emergency "just-in-case" policy. Although I went with it thinking that COVID may affect us, it came in very handy.  I am now leaning towards a TA as a back-up.

 

9 hours ago, franski said:

We have great travel insurance, so were able to claim the change fee, as well as the cost of the hotel room for the 1st night.  By the time we got home, she had all documentation ready for us to submit for our claim.  I don't book any river cruises without involving her (# 16 coming up next month...)

 

Good to know - and enjoy your next cruise!

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3 minutes ago, Travel R said:

 

That is what I am considering.  Instead of thinking of a TA as someone to handle everything, work with them as a partner.

 

 

Thanks - I did not consider that aspect of a TA. As mentioned, I could also use them for booking the hotels in Rome and the day or two pre-cruise from whichever port we are leaving from.


When I booked my first river cruise, I had been researching for about 2 years….reading online forums, Facebook groups, googling, and watching videos on YouTube. By the time it came to choosing a TA, I knew what line & cruise I wanted. Fortunately for me, the line I chose had it’s own recommended TA specialists, and one of them was in a village that wasn’t to far from where I live. The last time we had flown was 25 years previously, so there were lots of changes.

 

I met with our TA, and while I had everything already organized, right down to the cabin we wanted, she was the one who put it all together for us. We did our own pre & post cruise, she helped with hotels, train tickets and everything. Yes, I could have done it myself, but it was nice to have someone experienced who knew all the little things I overlooked. 
 

I think she probably dreaded opening up her email every morning, as I kept trying to stay updated, but she did a lot for us to make our first overseas trip great, and has continued to do so over the years.

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21 minutes ago, Coral said:

I use a Cruise agent who handles both river cruises and ocean cruises (she has done both extensively). I have cruised a ton and still do a lot of planning but still find it beneficial to use a travel agent. It is always helpful to have an expert on your side when something goes wrong. Plus, there are more benefits when using an agent (OBC, cheaper prices, etc....). 

 

I would not book anything this expensive with out an expert on my side.

 

There are some great river cruise books out there. A good place to start. One by Avid Cruiser and Berlitz.

Thanks.

 

I did find a website that lists all of the Berlitz ratings - very good information to have.

 

Although I will note that from how I interpreted the Berlitz ratings, they seem to place a heavy bias on the alcohol being served.  I unfortunately cannot drink alcohol (due to an allergy) and my DW is a very light drinker. On the the other hand, our friends are not heavy drinkers, but can put it away. Finding the right median will be interesting - especially, as I have noticed the cost of the cruise lines seems to be directly in-line with their alcohol offerings.

 

 

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Just now, Travel R said:

Thanks.

 

I did find a website that lists all of the Berlitz ratings - very good information to have.

 

Although I will note that from how I interpreted the Berlitz ratings, they seem to place a heavy bias on the alcohol being served.  I unfortunately cannot drink alcohol (due to an allergy) and my DW is a very light drinker. On the the other hand, our friends are not heavy drinkers, but can put it away. Finding the right median will be interesting - especially, as I have noticed the cost of the cruise lines seems to be directly in-line with their alcohol offerings.

 

 

In our case, I drink an occasional beer, and wife will occasionally sip on a glass of wine, so cruise lines that include full bar do not interest us-----wine and beer at lunch and dinner (Viking and others offer this) is perfect for us.

 

Same thing with spas, butlers---no need.

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22 minutes ago, Haqdeluxe said:

Ocean cruise ships actually have full desalination systems on board as they are creating potable water from sea water. There is filtration involved as well but not like you might thinking. On the river ships, they get their water from shore and store it onboard in tanks. You are drinking the same water you would get asking for a glass at a local restaurant. I'm sure there is some level of shipboard filtration but the water from the shoreside provider is highly sanitized and treated. Generally water in Europe is extremely safe to drink. 

 

Thank you - very interesting, I did not know that.

 

We have been to Europe a number of times over the years (many times without a cruise), and have always shied away from the water (except for maybe in England) - and the further east we get the more weary we. Although our actions are based more on ignorance than fact.

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12 minutes ago, Daisi said:


When I booked my first river cruise, I had been researching for about 2 years….reading online forums, Facebook groups, googling, and watching videos on YouTube. By the time it came to choosing a TA, I knew what line & cruise I wanted. Fortunately for me, the line I chose had it’s own recommended TA specialists, and one of them was in a village that wasn’t to far from where I live. The last time we had flown was 25 years previously, so there were lots of changes.

 

I met with our TA, and while I had everything already organized, right down to the cabin we wanted, she was the one who put it all together for us. We did our own pre & post cruise, she helped with hotels, train tickets and everything. Yes, I could have done it myself, but it was nice to have someone experienced who knew all the little things I overlooked. 
 

I think she probably dreaded opening up her email every morning, as I kept trying to stay updated, but she did a lot for us to make our first overseas trip great, and has continued to do so over the years.

 

Thank you for sharing your story.  I am an over-planner just as you (if you want to see how much, see the pre-cruise review for this last Alaskan cruise (in my signature). I dot every "i" and cross every "t" - and your last sentence had me laugh to myself. I am a writer and write a lot - I can imagine that whoever is lucky enough to get me as a TA will also dread seeing my emails. 🙂

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9 minutes ago, sharkster77 said:

In our case, I drink an occasional beer, and wife will occasionally sip on a glass of wine, so cruise lines that include full bar do not interest us-----wine and beer at lunch and dinner (Viking and others offer this) is perfect for us.

 

Same thing with spas, butlers---no need.

 

Thanks.

 

We have gone on other vacations with our friends, and unless at the pool (hotels or their house), I have rarely seen them drink outside of dinner or lunch, and only a beer or two.

 

Although - my DW does like her one spa treatment each cruise.

 

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As an FYI - yesterday I had already performed a search of river cruise agents and have found a handful that look like good candidates.  One agency looks particularly good - the two agents listed have both been on multiple river cruises and have all of the necessary certificates for river and ocean cruising. The one thing I like about them is that they provide a great deal of detailed information on their website comparing the different river lines and information about each - in very much the same manner as how I would present it. So I may reach out to them by the end of the week after I have performed a bit more research.

 

I also want to check with some friends that have been on over 100 ocean cruises to see who they use (if anyone) and if their TA also books river cruises (and how much experience they have).

 

I want to wholeheartedly thank everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. THANK YOU!

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17 hours ago, Travel R said:

I have a handful of ocean cruises under my belt and have never used a TA to book any but my first few since they were in the days before the Internet.

 

I am a planner, and over-planner actually, so have made the arrangements for our last few sailings myself. I perform a crazy amount of research, and like to know the ins and outs of my vacation.

 

Our 25th Anniversary vacation was cancelled by COVID (land tour of Italy with a cruise to Greece). We were going with another couple, and our discussions have been to reschedule this vacation as a few days in Rome followed by a River Cruise. [There is plenty of time, due to scheduling conflicts, this 2021 cruise will not take place until 2024.]

 

I believe I am fairly knowledgeable when it comes to Ocean Cruising, but even after two weeks of research on River Cruises, I know that there is still probably a lot more that I do not know (especially as a novice). I have found a few posts about using a TA for booking Viking, but nothing about a TA in general for other lines.

 

I have a few questions:

 

1) Would it be recommended for a first-time river cruiser to use a TA or with enough research would I have the sufficient information to book the best river, cruise line, options, for myself?

2) What are the benefits and drawbacks of using a TA for a river cruise (and I am sure that they are different than an ocean cruise)

3) Stupid question - I have read that people use TAs for ocean cruises for perks (OBC, upgrades, etc.) or for handling price drops.  Are any of these even a thing when it comes to river cruising?

 

Thank you for your help,

 

Travel R

 

 

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I would say YES to the first question....MANY things to the second...and to the third, there are no stupid questions...Soooo We always use a TA, even though I do an enormous amount of research myself. She books all of our pre and post of any cruise we do, she gets us better buss class air, OBC's even on the river cruises...books all of our transfers, and hotels, and our private tours...Once I gather my info, I hand it off so she can do her magic......Enjoy your trip

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Just want to mention that using the services of a TA who is also a friend could be awkward when something goes wrong that may be a result of that person’s inexperience or outright error.  That happened to me before my current TA and I find I can never talk about my travels around her lest she wonder why she doesn’t get to book it.

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I too am an overplanner but use a TA because my problems become THEIR problems to solve.

 

It's embarrassing when you know more than they do.  My TA jumped up and down insisting that the Blue Lagoon is a natural phenomenon.  It uses the effluent from a geothermal plant.  But she insists it's natural!

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One thing about the alcohol included part. Most lines have much more affordable (like you would pay in a restaurant) pricing, because you are more than welcome to bring your own alcohol onboard. We get our cabin attendant clear out our fridge, and stored our water, treats etc. in it. You may get a corking fee if you wish to have your wine served with dinner, but otherwise, you are free to pour yourself a drink and enjoy it outside or in your cabin. You can also ask for a glass of wine or beer at the end of your meal to enjoy up on the sundeck or in the lounge...as long as it's meal time, drinks tend to flow pretty freely. 

 

If you are an avid tourer, your wife may not have time for a spa. The only real days you have onboard are either a long trip to the next port or a scenic area to view. We took every tour we could, so out from about 8:30/8:00 to 11:30, back for lunch, then out on another tour from around 1:00/1:30 to 4:00/4:30. Time to freshen up, have a quick briefing on what would happen the next day, and dinner.  We cruised the Rhine, and apart from the trip from Amsterdam to Cologne, and the Rhine gorge, we were off the ship all day.  Sailing is usually done at night.

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To @Daisi's point, there's not much down time on a river cruise as opposed to most ocean cruises.  The emphasis is on touring and there are few if any "sea days".

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