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DISCOUNT TRAVEL AGENTS

 
 
Reply Sun 3 Apr, 2005 04:31 pm
we have done a number of cruises during the last few years and always booked through a regular travel agent - usually SEARS. while we have been very satisfied with the personal service, we've noticed that discount travel agents(such as 'vacations-to-go') have sometimes - what look like - "unbelievibly" low rates. does anyone have any experience with discount travel agents ? what has the experience been ? has it been
satisfactory ? any major problems ? i'd be interested in your comments. hbg
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 2,571 • Replies: 20
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Apr, 2005 08:00 pm
i guess i'm out of luck here ? no one used a discount travel agent yet ? hbg
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margo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Apr, 2005 08:36 pm
G'day hamburger

May I suggest you post this question on one of the travel websites.

One I frequent is fodors.com - look for the forums or travel talk or something, and perhaps post on the American board - or there may be a cruising section.

Another is called Frommers.com - I'm not sure how good this one is in the area you're interested - I only look at Oz, and it's not that good there.

pm me is you have any questions. I'm still a travel tart - but unfamiliar with the Nortamerican scene. Smile
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Apr, 2005 08:43 pm
I use expedia or orbitz.com to book flights, but I don't think that is what you are looking for, though they might have cruises and I haven't noticed. I never take cruises, so am no help on that. But C.I might be, if he sees this.
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2005 12:32 pm
margo and ossobbuco : thanks for your replies. i have used expedia for hotel and flight bookings and have been quite satisfied with the service. recently picked up a hotel bargain through 'travelzoo' - marriott resort on hilton head for over 50% off, great deal ! when we were checking in the deskclerk remarked : "do you realize that the regular rate is more than $300 per night, sir ? ", my reply was : "yea, but i'm not paying that". we had a superior oceanfront room for $119 - that was a bargain. i'm familiar with fodor and other travel sites. i was just interested to find out if any able2know members had made use of 'deep-discount-travel-brokers'. we'll probably give it a try again later this year. travelzoo actually did not serve as a booking agent but only supplied the booking code to be used for the marriott deal. thanks ! hbg
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2005 01:07 pm
When I just want a hotel within the next few days, I only use this site.

When I plan it on a longer sight, I'm really very pleased with hrs (Both sites are awailable in several languages - you'll have to switch to English resp. your preferred currency)
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2005 01:24 pm
thanks , walter ! i bookmarked both sites. i have come across the hrs site previously but not used it. when we booked our hotels in vienna and berlin we used the local boking sites and got rates much below the regular advertised sites (when we booked the kempinski in berlin , i re-checked with the hotel before booking with the tourist office. the front desk stated that there was no such rate - when we checked in with the reservation, the frontdesk clerk was a little surprised and asked the manager to have a look at it. we did get the rate ! ). i've noticed that the tourist office now lists the kempinski rate WITHOUT breakfast . breakfast for two was EURO 54, a little steep, but it kept us going during lunchtime without having to stop - except for a coffee). hbg

p.s. my brother-in-law who came up from hamburg with his wife - mrs h's sister - quickly discovered that breakfast included a SEKT BAR - we didn't need it - but he was quite impressed.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2005 03:19 pm
I did get an excellent deal via Orbitz for hotel and flight when I went to san francisco last year for the a2k meeting there. It was close to the price the flight would have been by itself, and the hotel was excellent, not a four star, but as I remember, a three star and delightful.

Again, I don't know a thing about cruises.
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JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Apr, 2005 07:46 am
Re: DISCOUNT TRAVEL AGENTS
hamburger wrote:
we have done a number of cruises during the last few years and always booked through a regular travel agent - usually SEARS. while we have been very satisfied with the personal service, we've noticed that discount travel agents(such as 'vacations-to-go') have sometimes - what look like - "unbelievibly" low rates. does anyone have any experience with discount travel agents ? what has the experience been ? has it been
satisfactory ? any major problems ? i'd be interested in your comments. hbg


hamburger - Some friends and I booked a Western Caribbean cruise sailing from New Orleans later this month through VacationsToGo. Their service has been great and we're now negotiating an Alaska cruise (7 day) for August (although their website has some really great bargains for May/June sailings).

Be sure to check out their 'repositioning' cruises. There's a transatlantic one on their fastdeals (16 day & port intensive) that's REALLY a bargain (even more so if you have airline mileage).

Each day, they 'feature' a cruise, discounting the fare for that one day only. Some good deals to be had if you keep an eye out. I've compared their pricing with at least five or six other websites and have yet to find any that can beat them dollar-wise.

Tom Parsons' bestfares.com just started selling cruises, but pricing and availability is restricted to members only ($60 annually). This site has some very good deals on air-travel, though, both member and non-member.

There are some excellent websites offering discussions of various cruiselines, destinations, ports of call, and personal passenger reviews of individual ships within a cruise line. (I now know how to smuggle liquor aboard, LOL).
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Apr, 2005 07:35 pm
just wonders : thanks for your comments ! as i said, so far have not used a discount-broker, but have had my eye on vaccations-to-go for some time. we are planning for a cruise in the fall - possibly repositioning - and we'll see what offers come up. thanks again !

we should consider posting here on any any successes/problems with discount brokers and travel-agents in general. hbg
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Apr, 2005 07:46 pm
i forgot to mention that after we had booked a december 2004 hawaii-cruise (15 days with holland-america from san diego, booked through sears), we received a flyer from holland-america with a promotional offer about 10% less than what we had paid. i contacted our travel agent and i had no prblem having the cruise price reduced by another 10% - it was already a fair bit below the "original sale price". i think one of the problems is trying to figure out what the true end-price is.

some years ago we booked a cruise with a small cruise line operating just one ship on short cruises on the st. lawrence river . we got a terrific offer because a large travel-group had cancelled. we also received a friendly letter asking us to "please not tell the other passengers that we received such a large discount".

btw, the hawaii cruise was great even though we had quite a stormy start to the cruise - beaufort 8 to 9 for four days. hbg
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JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Apr, 2005 09:39 pm
hamburger wrote:
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.
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JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2005 06:25 am
Another tip for bargain-hunting travel nuts! Sign up for email on each cruise line's/airlines' websites!

Holland America just sent me an email with info on specials that are "not available on the internet". One is a 3-day cruise from San Diego to Vancouver for $169.00 on the Ryndam!! I'm thinking this may be a 'repositioning' cruise (sailing early May), and if I wasn't already booked on another cruise, I'd give serious consideration to this one.

I also sign up for newsletters from my favorite hotels and, so far, they don't appear to have sold my info to any spammers.
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Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2005 06:50 am
I have used several discount travel agencies. I have never used an on-line discount travel agency, except for one in which I have already dealt with personally. My experiences have been mixed. I have had some excellent bargains and stayed at some of the nicest resorts and I have had a couple not so good experiences - and one horrible start (hotel was overbooked) - but in the travel company's defense after staying the first night at a horrible place, they came through and put us up at an even nicer resort, with a daily credit to use at the hotel.

Bascially if you book with a discount place, I found they're main goal is to sell. They seem to neglect to tell you if it is rainy season for example and they will tell you any resort you seem interested in is just wonderful (far from it in one case). However, if you are do the research yourself on the property/cruiseline/weather conditions/entertainment/etc., you can really get some excellent deals. The key here is the discount travel agent is looking to make the hot sale, whatever destination(s)/resort(s)/cruiseline(s). They may push to one location/resort, etc., you really need to do your own research and not count on their suggestions.
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2005 04:06 pm
yes, holland-america is now part of carnival cruises, along with princess, cunard, costa and a couple of other lines. our first three cruises were with the "original" holland-america line, two on the old ss. rotterdam and one with the old ms. westerdam (now with costa, i believe). while the ss. rotterdam was a 30 year old ship at that time and was showing her age, she was a very smooth sailing ship - she started out on the regular year-round north-atlentic route and was built to take rough seas. our last cruise was with the statendam to hawaii in early december and we found the service to be very good. can't really compare it to carnival since we've never sailed on a carnival ship.
we did take a cruise from london-st. petersburg-london with norwegian's norwegian wind in 2002 and were quite happy with the service. it's perhaps a little less 'regimented' than on holland-america since it's 'free-style' dining. so if you want a nice table better be early for seating, but we found that a $10 tip helped get us a good table for the whole cruise ! hbg
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JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Apr, 2005 07:40 am
I've been using http://www.itasoftware.com/ to search for airfares to various destinations. It's saved a few of my friends a few bucks as well as the headache of searching out the 'best' fares.

For instance, it lists a fare to London that's $300 less than what I could find on my own (going to all the websites of the airlines that fly to London), but even after I check there first, I still do tons of my own 'research'.

Still, a good and useful tool to have in one's travel 'arsenal' Smile

hamburger - Have you heard anything (good or bad) about NCL's Star? I had taken it off my list of possibles for the Alaskan cruise, but after reading some recent reviews, I'm thinking of putting it back!
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duce
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 May, 2005 10:08 am
I too am looking for a CHEAP way to do Universal Studios ORLANDO. (A short 3-day day NO Disney needed...)

I have been flooded with SPAM/telemarketers for inquring on WEBSITES and am OVERWHELMED by info. ANYBODY GOT GOOD PRICES down there. I can drive -- no flight necessary. Rolling Eyes
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JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 May, 2005 03:34 pm
Duce - check eBay, perhaps. Sometimes people get passes to amusement parks in promotions (I got two to Seaworld/San Antonio once) and if they have no use for them, they might put them up for sale there.

Try Googling for discount tickets, also. Sometimes buying online is cheaper than park prices.

Good luck and have a fun vacation!
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 May, 2005 06:45 pm
duce : when we go to florida we usually stop at the welcome center as soon as we cross into florida from georgia. while i am not sure about universal studio tickets, we've always found plenty of discount tickets, example : a discount card for 10% reduction for all disney attractions. you could also send an email to universal and enquire about discounts, ditto florida tourist offices. hbg
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thanhnguyen
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 May, 2005 12:02 am
duce : when we go to florida we usually stop at the welcome center as soon as we cross into florida from georgia. while i am not sure about universal studio tickets, we've always found plenty of discount tickets, example : a discount card for 10% reduction for all disney attractions. you could also send an email to universal and enquire about discounts, ditto florida tourist offices. hbg

I agree with you man
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