we should consider posting here on any any successes/problems with discount brokers and travel-agents in general. hbg
Great idea and I'd be more than interested in hearing of others' experiences/website tips/bargain searches.
I can actually see different benefits of booking through either a travel agent, an online discount site or even through the cruise line themselves.
Using a local agent might come in handy, for instance, if you ever had a need to litigate any issue with the cruise line, and in that case, paying a bit more would obviously be worth it. Travel agents can also do all the 'leg work' in getting the best fares should you need to include air travel.
Booking with the cruise line directly allows you to make changes (cabin or specific preferences) without a service fee (I hear some of the online sites will charge $25 and more). These people can also book any "open" cabin for you, whether or not it's offered to the travel agents or the online discounters. You'll most likely pay a bit higher fare when booking directly with the line's actual representative, though.
I prefer to do my own research (studying a ship's deck plan over and over) and if I have no use for a travel agent, I don't see why I should pay extra for their service. VacationsToGo (based in Houston, by the way, with approx. 200 service reps), FedExed my boarding pass, luggage tags, directions to the terminal, etc. the day after I booked the cruise online. Since I'd mentioned interest in a future Alaskan cruise, the rep informed me that a bottle of wine would be waiting in my cabin with their compliments.
An acquaintance has used QuickCruise.com with good results, but even though they have really great pricing on their cruises, the fact that there's no 'human' communication available (everything is done online) makes me a bit wary. She said minor problems (misspelling of names, etc.) were dealt with satisfactorily via emails, but then, she's had no major problems crop up, either.
Your HAL cruise in Hawaii sounds great. I read the other day that Carnival owns that line. If true, I'm hoping it won't affect the great reputation of Holland America (I've only read a couple negative reviews on their ships), but most people rave about the service and amenities offered (I'm particularly hoping to sail on the Ryndam one day).
I know of one seasoned cruiser who actually enjoys sailing in rough seas. I kind of understand that, since when I fly, a little turbulence is preferable to me than just that feeling of standing still in midair. (Not the clear-air turbulence, though LOL).
Since the 7-day Alaskan cruises seem to be filling up quickly (for sailings in late summer), I'll probably make a choice and book it sometime soon (I've narrowed it to Celebrity, HAL and Princess so far). I did notice this morning that cruise.com can beat VTG's pricing but only by a few dollars, so I think I'll stick with VacationsToGo since I've had excellent treatment so far.
Be sure to check out their 90-day ticker - those can be particularly attractive price-wise.