Everyone who starts thinking about cruise vacations has a dilemma (except my loyal customers!): where to start??
- Cruise line
- Online Cruise Agency – XXXXXXX.com OR
- Traditional travel agent, also known as travel professional, cruise advisor, or cruise counselor.
Cruise Fares Are More Complicated Now
Cruisers-to-be Google the Internet to find as much information as they can, shop around, obtain as more quotes as they can simply to figure out they can’t compare apples to oranges.
Even a few years ago it was more apples to apples and clear: stateroom category + perks in form of onboard credit or pre-paid gratuities.
Promotions came with choices:
- $$ onboard credit OR
- 50% for a second guest OR
- Pre-paid gratuities OR
- Free dining in specialty restaurants+ plus free spa treatment
Some cruise lines can’t even give you a quote correctly without personal information: your loyalty number, age, residency and occupation (police, firefighter or military.)
It is funny, that some online cruise agencies promote themselves as “exclusive” for senior or resident rate discounts.
When somebody inquires and mentions that xxxxx.com has a very special rate – I send a screenshot from my computer. Those rates are in the cruise line’s system: enjoy!
Cruise Lines and OTAs
Another story: cruise lines create limits and aren’t allowed to discount their product (for a good reason!).
So, OTAs created tactics: they open groups far in advance at the lowest rates possible and sell at those rates. In many situations, current prices may be higher compared to group rates.
Finding group rates is a #1 goal for shoppers.
Shoppers, you have to know that OTAs take the lowest categories of staterooms mostly on double occupancy.
Ok, you get it! When you book a double stateroom for your brother, he has a very low price; but when you quote your family of four – price jumps up!
To promote prevailing rates cruise lines made modifications:
- They limit number of groups pre departure
- They don’t allow OTAs to have too many groups – this translates – that they may not have group rates at all departures
- They don’t allow suites and family staterooms to be in group without being named. Sounds great for me as a suite specialist!
- They create bundle promotions with a lot of extras, so shoppers are confused with options
So, we came to the point why cruise lines are not in love with online cruise agencies, and most of them are in an affair with travel professionals.
Cruise Lines and Travel Professionals
Cruise lines pay commissions to booking agent – online or off-line and expect from them to do their work: plan cruise vacation and answer all questions, handle all issues.
In reality, online cruise agencies take commissions, but don’t provide service expected.
So, guests call cruise lines with a lot of questions that translate into high call volume, additional expenses on call centers: salaries, real estate, and utilities.
Combinable, OTAs have more advertising budget that all others parties in this love triangle. They teach cruising public that nobody can beat their prices. Really?
So, think critical: separate price from value.
You can win in price, but lose in value.
If pickpockets stole your passport in train from Rome to Civitavecchia, you may be proud of yourself that you paid $50 less and have pre-paid gratuities – it doesn’t matter. You can’t cruise without a passport in Mediterranean!
This is because your travel agent didn’t explain the different options for transfers from Rome airport to Civitavecchia and how to protect your valuables in public transportation in Italy.
That is why Royal Caribbean International has a prompt for travel agents’ hot line: “Royal Caribbean International recommends the use of travel agents. Thank you our valuable travel partners for making us the most preferred brand in travel industry.” Great!
Call me at 772 777-1337 if you need a cruise expert to take care about your cruise vacation.