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monctonguy

Better pricing though a travel website vs. RCI??

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Is there real savings to be had by using travel websites over RCI's site?!

 

I don't mean having your own personal travel agent, but just using 3rd party sites to book??

 

All these"promo's" that RCI has, and my pricing keeps going up and up, while so many others are saying there's is going down.

 

I have checked out cruisecon and vacationstogo sites, and some of their prices are HALF what RCI show's on their own website.

 

Have I been missing out and paying way more because of this?!

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Yes you have been missing out booking direct with RCI. However if booked with RCI, you have full control of your own booking. If booked through a travel agent, any changes etc will have to go through your agent which could be a hassle to some people.

 

When booking through a travel agent, the agent might book you as a group i.e with other cruisers who are using the same agent and on the same sailing. By doing this the agent can offer you better perks such as OBC or drinks package as the agent gets more incentives from RCI.

 

It is good to compare prices and see which one gives you the best offer. There is no significant drawback booking with a travel agent over RCI.

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I don't think so. Unless things have changed in the past month, RCI does NOT permit ANYone to discount their cruises. The only thing that a TA can offer you is benefits that THEY pay for - gratuities, OBC, beverage packages, etc.

 

I think you will find that those "half price" quotes are bogus. They are using the base price as their basis and then offering the same discount that RCI offers (BOGOHO or 30% or whatever special they are offering at the time). If you do a real comparison I think you will find that they are the same prices that RCI is offering. I conducted such an evaluation just last week. It LOOKED like they were offering a discount but in reality they were just offering the same published discount that RCI was.

 

That is NOT true of other cruise lines. Most of the others DO allow TAs and agencies to discount their cruises, but RCI does not...unless that has VERY recently changed.

 

If this has changed I will be very surprised.

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Hmm...2 very different answers.

 

I have done mock bookings..well as far as I can go online anyways...and the savings appear to be there. Cruisecon always has lots of promotions(drink packages, OBC, etc) constantly it seems with every cruise line  out there. Vacationstogo has some good deals as well(seems to be cheaper pricing, not so much extra incentives), but again I have not used either to book as of yet.

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Two different answers but I think the message is the same.

 

1. My TA informed me a couple of years ago that RCI does NOT allow any of their travel partners to offer a lower fare than you can get direct from RCI. On the occasions that I have checked around different sites I always come back to the exact same quote for the cruise on RCI that I get from other sites.

 

2. TA's are allowed to offer you incentives that effectively reduce the price but they cannot just reduce the price. So they can offer you OBC, Free Specialty Dinners, Free Drink Packages, Prepaid gratuities, etc. they just cant reduce the price by those amounts.

 

So ... you should always end up saving money if you give up control and book through a TA but you should never save that money directly on the price of the cruise, you save it by getting freebies added that effectively reduce the price.

 

In my case I typically plan on getting about 8% of the price back as OBC, it is actually a complex formula based on the proportion of the fare that is commissionable to the TA and then a % of that, but it typically averages about 8% of the total. I figure so far giving up the control of booking direct has saved me somewhere around $3000 or basically one of my cruises was free.

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Ok..interesting..thanks for the info...

 

Next cruise I am going to try one of those sites to do my actual booking and see what happens.

 

Seems with all my bookings, I have gotten no deals, paid top dollar when all around me everyone else seems to be getting much better deals and pricing!!

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I will say that I have booked Carnival cruises a number of times through VacationsToGo and they have always been great deals.

 

At the very least I can say that they are reputable and they deliver what they advertise.

 

I have never used any other website or discount service. I have certainly used TAs before and as jti says, the biggest drawback there is that you lose control of your reservation...any changes that you make and any payments that you make have to be handled by the TA. If you don't mind that, they will almost always give you some kind of perk/rebate even if it is just OBC.

 

As for why others seem to get the good deals, it is just like everything else. Seniority. If you have seniority in a loyalty program eventually you will start reaping the benefits. It takes a LONG time and LOTS of money to get there with RCI (some other other lines' programs seem to move a little more quickly but at heart, they are all the same). Also, I personally benefit GREATLY from my membership in Club Royale. Currently, Club Royale is rebating me 50% (which ends up being 46% for some reason...I'm sure it's how they calculate the reduction) off of the base, published cruise fare. That is a HUGE benefit. As with all things, the benefit you enjoy with such programs is based upon how much you benefit THEM...in other words, how much money do you risk and how much time do you spend, in the casino. Notice, I said how much you RISK, not how much you lose. Believe it or not, casinos (both land-based and sea-based) do not care whether you win or lose ! They know that over time, you will LOSE more often than you will win...so they only track what you risking, not whether or not you are winning or losing. Having said all of that about Club Royale, RCI is in the process of completely redoing their VIP program. I was told this morning that when they fully implement their new "tiered" program some of the lower level tiers will no longer qualify for ANY cruise fare discounts. Obviously I am not happy to hear that...but I figured it was coming. As with other things recently, Club Royale seems to be pushing this VIP program roll-out WAY to the right...just like Dynamic Dining, there seems to be some "issues" with implementing their plans. That's good news for me. I have received cruise fare discounts on cruises all the way through November 2016 and I will continue to book them when I can...they won't take them away from me once I'm booked but there may come a time when I no longer qualify for the BIG discounts I am now getting.

 

There is also an element of obsession that is required. If you do not check prices and availability EVERY day then you WILL miss the mistakes, glitches, sometimes planned reductions that pop up from time-to-time. You have to catch them when they appear or you will lose out. Some people aren't that obsessed (I clearly AM) and don't want to have to check all the time.

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Moneywise, there's no advantage of booking with a TA versus directly.  However, there is a convenience factor to consider.  When rates drop, travel gets interrupted, etc., a TA is your go to person who can take care of those issues for you.  When I ended up in the hospital before a cruise, my TA took care of all the changes that needed to be made rather than having to do it myself from my hospital bed.  Fortunately, it was just the precruise that was impacted and not the cruise itself.

 

Depending on the agency, you might get a few perks.  For instance, on my cruise next month, the agency had a promo in conjunction with RCI that included dinning at a specialty restaurant and boarding champagne.

 

When comparing prices, remember to compare apples to apples.  On some sites, I've noticed lower prices, but when I've gone through the booking process the price ends up being the same as they were not including the taxes in the initially pricing that was offered until you clicked through the booking process.

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Excellent point, Doc about the taxes and port fees. That is a old trick from way back....leaving out those mandatory charges in the up-front quote. It makes the price appear attractive but in the end, they have to add them in....so you end up right back where you started.

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When comparing prices, remember to compare apples to apples.  On some sites, I've noticed lower prices, but when I've gone through the booking process the price ends up being the same as they were not including the taxes in the initially pricing that was offered until you clicked through the booking process.

This is very true.  A lot of booking sites will skip the taxes and fees until the very end.  

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Ok..interesting..thanks for the info...

 

Next cruise I am going to try one of those sites to do my actual booking and see what happens.

 

Seems with all my bookings, I have gotten no deals, paid top dollar when all around me everyone else seems to be getting much better deals and pricing!!

Although we have never booked direct with royal, we have been using a semi retired, friend of the family, TA for years who has done a fabulous job particularly with the small details and arrangements for my elder parents. So we just continued to use her. Then thanks to this forum and others I realized the money (OBC) we were leaving on the table. I just recently booked 2 cruises through one of the large agencies in florida and was given $325 OBC for Allure, and $200 for a 6 day Freedom. Both on top of the OBC from RCCL for booking while on board. I spoke with several local agents in columbus, oh and even thought all of the prices I was quoted were all exactly the same, the local agents just weren't in a position to offer nearly as much, if any at all OBC.

 

Admittedly, it makes me very nervous not knowing the person who is acting on my behalf with the cruiseline, but so far so good.

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Yeah...not sure what to think. Pricing I see elsewhere with promo's through 3rd party sites is MUCH cheaper. Cannot be just the difference in port charges and taxes etc. Talking hundreds of dollars per person, sometimes half the cost listed on RCI site.

 

I still think something is missing here. Unless they are somehow offering for example a much lower price instead of giving an OBC or something.....

 

But even if it was the same price as the RCI site and giving hundreds in OBC as incentive to book with them..that's a no brainer isn't it?

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Its been a no brainer for me to book for the OBC everytime ... I would much prefer to manage my own reservation through RCI directly but for the money involved I have gotten comfortable with my TA being in charge.

 

Couple of data points:

 

My springbreak cruise was on Jewel, cruise price was about $2500, price was exactly what I could get through RCI (Called and had it repriced on a couple of occasions and the reprice was always to RCI advertised price), OBC was $180 from TA.

Upcoming thanksgiving cruise is on Freedom, cruise price is about $2600, originally booked through RCI, transferred to TA and knocked down on a reprice as well so again it ties to the RCI price, OBC of $180 from TA on this one as well.

Last Thanksgiving on Indy, cruise price at $2800, OBC $210.

 

The OBC is a % of commissionable cruise fare (excludes Taxes& Fees and a little bit of the cruise fare), so if you are taking 3/4 nighters only, you wont see big OBC but it adds up over a number of cruises.

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All such great points love these discussions:

-_Remember when being given onboard credit, spend it - cruise lines refund the original

agency or credit card the OBC comes from, and not the clients.  This issue does come up

with clients.

 

--Agents offer a service, just like other entities in your life.  I'm excited to see some of you

that have stuck with yours for years - its a career and our livelihood and if you are a

good agent that comes across.  But we are human too.

 

Nothing wrong with the big cruise giants either as long as they give you what they say they will

 

Its a great business!

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I booked through cheap caribbean with Jim Cassidy and got a much lower price on a better floor through him. I had originally booked thru RC but cancelled after i got his quote. He has been great. I email him any questions and he gets back to me that day. Plus I got 50 OBC PER CABIN.

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Well to answer my own question with experience now..YES, it can be much cheaper and better perks booking with a  3rd party site or TA!!

 

I just booked Brilliance for almost $600 cheaper(CAD) than if I went through the RCI site...PLUS I got double the OBC that RCI offers on their site.

 

Wow...looks like I could have saved myself a lot of money over my past 7 cruises if I had known this... :(

 

Also, there was a huge sale with another site....Ocean view Balcony room for what RCI would have charged me for an inside cabin on Oasis and an OBC of $150 compared to 0 with RCI.....I didn't pull the trigger on that as I already have 3 cruises booked in a 4mth period but what a deal!!

 

So, there are MUCH better prices to be had out there quite often from what RCI has on their site......

 

I am usually pretty savvy when it comes to deals when travelling....except in this case obviously.

 

Fool me once, shame on you.....fool me twice......won't happen!..lol

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Yes, it is true that Royal Caribbean states that they have the best or same prices but, you have to book it at the right date, and even time, or you'll miss it. Then once you book your cruise through RC you can not add other bonuses or add on reductions. You can call them if you notice a reduction in pricing of a room in your category, but you have to be stern with them and they will always not give you the better price. It is a real pain to go through RC for any reductions once you have booked the room.

 

A good travel agent will get you the best price and include some of the extra mandatory charges that Royal Caribbean attaches to your bill (ie: gratuities, beverage packages, etc.). Also, they usually add some On Board Credit to your account.

 

It can, and usually is, less expensive to book through an outside, independent  agent. We have booked quite a few cruises through Royal Caribbean and if they assign you an RC agent, you again, will not be able to change anything on your reservation without going directly through your RC agent. This is a pain, and they do not offer anything extra to go through them other than the advertized bonuses. And any agent can get you those plus a lot more.

.

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Two different answers but I think the message is the same.

 

1. My TA informed me a couple of years ago that RCI does NOT allow any of their travel partners to offer a lower fare than you can get direct from RCI. On the occasions that I have checked around different sites I always come back to the exact same quote for the cruise on RCI that I get from other sites.

 

2. TA's are allowed to offer you incentives that effectively reduce the price but they cannot just reduce the price. So they can offer you OBC, Free Specialty Dinners, Free Drink Packages, Prepaid gratuities, etc. they just cant reduce the price by those amounts.

 

So ... you should always end up saving money if you give up control and book through a TA but you should never save that money directly on the price of the cruise, you save it by getting freebies added that effectively reduce the price.

 

In my case I typically plan on getting about 8% of the price back as OBC, it is actually a complex formula based on the proportion of the fare that is commissionable to the TA and then a % of that, but it typically averages about 8% of the total. I figure so far giving up the control of booking direct has saved me somewhere around $3000 or basically one of my cruises was free.

I think this is an excellent post!!!

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So a related question:

 

Are you able to select your cabin from all those available using a TA or just the cabins that the TA has available???

TAs have access to same cabins as booking with RC.  

 

The exception is if the TA is using a room block.  This is usually not the case.

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In my case the TA just serves as a middleman making the booking with RCI so they have always been able to pick any room that shows as available on the RCI website.

 

I understand there is an option where a TA can reserve a block of rooms and then try to sell you one of those specific rooms but have never experienced it to comment on how it actually works.

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I understand there is an option where a TA can reserve a block of rooms and then try to sell you one of those specific rooms but have never experienced it to comment on how it actually works.

For the first group cruise we did on Quantum of the Seas, we started out with a room block. If someone completely unrelated to this site had inquired about that cruise, the TA could have sold them a room in the block for a different price.

 

Buying room blocks is like going to Costco: You buy in bulk to save money.

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Buying room blocks is like going to Costco: You buy in bulk to save money.

Too bad Costco doesn't sell Royal Caribbean gift cards.  I'd love to save the 20% they offer on other gift cards. 

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