Behind the scenes, major cruise lines put a great deal of effort into courting travel agents, and rightfully so. 80% of cruise bookings still come to them via travel agents. Common tags in cruise line advertising include something to the effect of “see your travel agent or contact us directly”, giving travelers a choice, also rightfully so. Not everyone has a travel agent in their back pocket to watch out for their best interests. Still, a recent promotion by MSC cruises is raising eyebrows in the travel agent community as the line offers special discounted rates apparently available only by calling MSC Cruises directly.
Called the MSC Deals To Sea promotion, 7-night Europe cruises are advertised as low as $379 per person + government taxes and fees. (see fine print details below) A good deal, but nothing a travel agent can not get. So why bother with the “call us directly” mumbo jumbo?
The services of travel agents cost consumers nothing. Agents are paid a commission by cruise lines to bring them business and handle the details of the transaction. Here, MSC Cruises is cutting out that expense and, in the process of doing so, silencing a voice that often works in favor of the consumer. Its a very dangerous situation for consumers to be in, especially when the advertised rates of this MSCCruises promotion may or may not be available.
In the September issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, booking cruises through an agent is recommended. “The playing field is pretty level in terms of what vendors can sell a cruise for,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com, verifying what we preach regularly here.
In other words, travelers have everything to gain and nothing to lose by booking through travel agents. Down the line, those good travel agents that travelers have worked with to build long-term business relationships, will have our best interests in mind. For example, should another promotion or special offer come along that benefits us further, our travel agent can get that for us. The cruise line will never, ever call a booked passenger to say “A new promotion is a better deal, we are moving you to that promotion”.
Removing the travel agens from the equation benefits no one but the cruise line and is good reason to be highly suspect of the motives behind a promotion such as one that demands we “call the cruise line directly”.
*Rates are USD, per person, double occupancy, cruise-only valid for new retail bookings only on select sailings and stateroom types for residents of U.S. and Canada. Suites are excluded from this promotion. Offer cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion and may be withdrawn without notice. Offer is capacity controlled, subject to availability and restrictions apply. Government taxes and fees for all guests are additional. MSC Club Discount applies to this promotion . MSC Cruises reserves the right to pass on any fuel surcharge without notice to all guests. MSC Cruises reserves the right to refuse to honor any prices/sailings that are erroneously printed or quoted. Ask for “MSC Deals To Sea” promotion when booking. Offer Expires September 5, 2012. Ship’s registry: Panama.