Cruising, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Travel Value vs. Travel Bargain

More Marvelous Brochures
Another Marvelous Brochure


So, last week I was talking about my conversion to travel agencies for booking cruises over doing it myself online.  I bragged on getting our Norwegian cruise online cheap, cheap, cheap! I don’t recall which site finally won our travel dollars, but we couldn’t believe how inexpensively we were going cruising. Then the nickel and dime-ing began – and some of the nickels were pretty hefty: airfare, taxis, hotels, gratuities, special dining, shore excursions, wine packages and the list goes on. We quickly doubled the price of the “all-inclusive” cruise.  I wish I would have called CTC, the travel agency who sponsored a recent travel show here in Dallas.  They know sort-of-all-inclusive from truly all-inclusive.

Cruising with an Agent

Had I called CTC, they would have asked me where I wanted to go, why I wanted to go and what my budget was. If I’d done that, instead of looking for a cheap cruise,  they wouldn’t have let me return to ports of call I had already visited or allowed me to hang about for so many days at sea on a ship loaded to the gills with screaming kids. More importantly, there is no way they would have signed me up to go on the shore excursion with Josie.

A good travel agent will not sell you a cruise based on price point, because they know there are price points and then again there is the real price.  If you don’t know what you’re doing you could go broke saving money. A travel agent takes your travel budget, gives you the most cruise you can get for your travel dollar and they’ll made sure you’re on the right cruise. That’s their business.

How They Do What They Do

Time and again at the show, from company rep after company rep, I heard that the earlier you book a cruise with your travel agent, the better your deal will be and the more bang you will get for your buck. The cruise lines schedule their cruises and then they let the big boy travel agents choose their blocks of cabins at the absolute best price anyone is going to get them for – ever. The bigger the boy, the better the block and the lower the price. CTC has been booking cruises for almost thirty years and they are a very big boy. If you book your own cruise, there are cabins that you never even get to know exist and if you did find out it existed, you’d never be able to book it.

Sure, you can go online and see prices that seem to be cheaper than a travel agent’s, but you are not looking apples to apples. Though all cabins on any particular deck may seem to be the same, they’re not. Cabins may be right next door to one another, but a travel agent is privy to which one has something obscuring the view, adding to the noise level or limiting the storage space. The better cabin is not going to be on the bargain website.

What’s more, when CTC books their block there is some heavy negotiating going on. CTC knows the value of their reputation and they know the cruise lines want them to be the ones filling their rooms. Along with being able to negotiate the very best prices for the very best cabins and suites, they are able to score some pretty amazing perks which you would never be able to get on that website.

See, the travel agents are the cruise lines best customers. Even if you cruise full-time, you are never going to be able to buy as many cruises as your travel agent does.  So why would the cruise line give you the kind of discount your travel agent is getting?  Why would they give you perks?  The truth is, they wouldn’t.

Why You Should Let Them Do What They Do

It’s called service.  Who do you think is going to be more willing to discuss shore excursions with you? A wholesaler who depends solely on volume or a retailer who heavily depends on repeat customers? And should something go wrong along the way (which happens more frequently than anyone wants to admit) who do you think is going to be more responsive? Good luck getting the wholesaler to respond to your calls and emails. At the show I heard about a cruise line who held an Australian cruise for several hours for one couple who booked with CTC.  Who cares how cheap your cruise was if you never got to take it due to our weird weather in Dallas?

The Cruise Lines Know

A travel agent could have told me all this stuff and I would have listened politely while thinking, “uh huh, sure.”  In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard most of this awhile back at a travel show from a travel agent.  Then I went ahead and booked my cruise online.  But these were the cruise lines talking.  Many of them can take your reservation online and never have to involve anyone, not a wholesaler or an agent, but they know the score.  They know all about the perks they give to the travel agents and who has access to the best prices for the best cabins and suites.  They know the travel agent isn’t going to steer you to their decks unless you are the right cruiser for their ship and that you are more likely to cruise with them again if you are that right cruiser.

Yep, someday I’m taking that luxury river cruise and I can tell you right now that I’m booking with CTC.  Next week we’ll talk about the Travel & Adventure Show, then (if I don’t get too long-winded) we’ll get back to the nostalgia!

Accommodations, Attractions, Cruising, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Travel Show Tidbits

Don’t you just love a gorgeous travel brochure?


Allow me to interrupt my nostalgic travel stories to share some tidbits I picked up at a recent travel show.  It was presented by CTC Travel, a local travel agent.  Unlike the Travel and Adventure extravaganza landing in Dallas in a couple of weekends (I have my tickets.  Do you have yours?) which fills up a large section of the Dallas Convention Center, this show fits nicely into a couple of meeting rooms in Richardson’s Hyatt Hotel.  There were only forty or so vendors and no zip-lining, belly dancing or cooking shows.  However, for me, the afternoon was well-spent and I thank CTC for offering it to us, especially since they do so for free.

Gorgeous Travel Brochures  

There is little that gives me more pleasure than a gorgeous travel brochure.  Sure, I love to watch travel shows on TV and I spend a lot of time researching destinations online, but what really gets my juices flowing and makes me think about what I’m willing to sacrifice to go to faraway places is a delicious catalog like the Oceania brochure above.  SCORE!!

My very own travel library
My very own travel agency (minus the agents)

The CTC travel show was a bonanza of travel brochures.  Just in case someone there thought that lady (me), who was grabbing up every brochure in sight, merely took them home where they were never looked at again, just take a look at the impromptu travel agency I set up in my den.  The ottoman features luxury and river cruising, the desk samples yachts and clipper ships, while the sofa has your standard ocean-going lines and the table holds land packages.  Where would you like to go?

But Why a Travel Agent?

After gathering up two tote bags of travel brochures to warm up my winter hibernation, I made my way over to the lecture room just about the time the land package group started a panel discussion.  I stayed there for the rest of the afternoon soaking up travel tidbits.  As I drove home, I realized I had been converted.  For my next cruise I will be calling CTC.

I love planning my rambling road trips and have a great time sifting my hidden gems from Trip Advisor, Expedia et al.   Our trips last from ten to fourteen days and if I choose a loser from time to time, we might have an uncomfortable night or even waste an hour or two, but that’s OK, because there’s plenty of other wonderful experiences waiting for us along the way.  However, if I make a mistake choosing a cruise, then I’m screwed for the whole trip.  I know that from experience.

Our last cruise was a Freestyle Cruise on Norwegian, one of the most frequently-awarded cruise ships on the seas.  I was with my handsome husband and my best friend, so how could that be a bad thing – but I knew we were on the wrong cruise ship.  That’s not Norwegian’s fault.  Thousands of folks will tell you what an amazing cruise Norwegian serves up.  The fault was all ours.  We were looking for a bargain online and we got one.  I am quite sure CTC would have steered us in another direction completely.

Oh my, I’ve already worn out my welcome for today and I have more to tell you.  Well, come back next week and I’ll tell you the rest of the story.