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MEI vs Big Box online travel agency


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Pick and choose your travel agency wisely. Ask questions and read the fine print!
Last year I reached out to @AnnetteJackson at MEI regarding a possible upcoming cruise. She had booked several cruises for us over the last few years, but I stumbled across a deal from a Big Box online travel agency that seemed to good to be true. Unfortunately she was unable to match the Big Box travel agencies low low "clearance" price so I thought wth, I will give them a try. The deal seemed so good that I started researching other sailings and booked two. Doh!
All good until you need to make changes or cancel. A few of the fees that I can think of that we have been hit with:
$50 per person to cancel
$35 for a date change
$35 for a ship change
$25 if you replace passenger with someone else
$25 to adjust for price drops
$25 for cabin changes
Next I fear they will start charging a fee for calling!
The discounted upfront cruise rate was eventually eaten up with fees. The lack of customer service is laughable. You never talk to the same person and wait for days to get a reply via phone or email. This was even before the virus. Now it's longer. Still waiting for a reply to an email I sent last Friday.
MEI has never charged me or anyone I have referred to them a single penny for the above listed services. That's because they don't charge any fees. I learned my lesson and wanted to warn others who might think about trying one of the so called discount online agencies.
 
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12 hours ago, Wilson said:

Pick and choose your travel agency wisely.

I agree wholeheartedly!! My wife and I did a group excursion (5 families) to Universal Studios Florida a few years ago.  A friend of our group is a TA, so we reluctantly went with her - I'd only ever used AAA as a TA prior and always just booked my own after that.  When my wife and I asked for a rate for the Hard Rock, her response was, "That's just a restaurant."  When I sent her the link the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal, she realized her mistake, but that soured our view on TAs further.  

Fast forward to a blow out cruise we did for our kid's 21st birthday... 2 bedroom aquatheater with my sister-in-law and her kids joining us.  I decided to use a TA for convenience, since we had family from different areas.  On recommendations from @WAAAYTOOO and some others, we selected @michelle with MEI.  I have done a complete 180 on my view of TAs.  The attention and service cannot be be beat.  She has now saved us more money than I ever could have imagined - probably enough to have paid for another crusie.  Honestly, I'd never looked for fare reductions prior (did 5 cruises on a competitor's line and probably always paid full price, d'oh).  I can't imagine having traversed this Covid-19 fiasco without her help.  When I used AAA for one of my first cruises (back in the day when they actually had large cruise magazines for each ship), the best they could do is look through the details with me... couldn't tell me anything about the rooms, the amenities, etc.  A good travel agent makes all the difference.

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4 hours ago, bdtrex said:

If I booked directly through Royal and my cruise was canceled, can I use MEI to book a future cruise and still use that FCC?

Yes, you can. I reached out to @michelle at MEI and she was able to rebook my cancelled cruise, that I had originally booked thru RC myself, apply my FCC and answer all my questions. 

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23 hours ago, mathbees said:

I agree wholeheartedly!! My wife and I did a group excursion (5 families) to Universal Studios Florida a few years ago.  A friend of our group is a TA, so we reluctantly went with her - I'd only ever used AAA as a TA prior and always just booked my own after that.  When my wife and I asked for a rate for the Hard Rock, her response was, "That's just a restaurant."  When I sent her the link the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal, she realized her mistake, but that soured our view on TAs further.  

Fast forward to a blow out cruise we did for our kid's 21st birthday... 2 bedroom aquatheater with my sister-in-law and her kids joining us.  I decided to use a TA for convenience, since we had family from different areas.  On recommendations from @WAAAYTOOO and some others, we selected @michelle with MEI.  I have done a complete 180 on my view of TAs.  The attention and service cannot be be beat.  She has now saved us more money than I ever could have imagined - probably enough to have paid for another crusie.  Honestly, I'd never looked for fare reductions prior (did 5 cruises on a competitor's line and probably always paid full price, d'oh).  I can't imagine having traversed this Covid-19 fiasco without her help.  When I used AAA for one of my first cruises (back in the day when they actually had large cruise magazines for each ship), the best they could do is look through the details with me... couldn't tell me anything about the rooms, the amenities, etc.  A good travel agent makes all the difference.

Thank you and so happy I can save you money $$$.  

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