Online Travel Agencies Vs. Real Travel Agents



Photo courtesy of Carol Watts

The Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, Alaska.

If you watch TV at all, you’ve seen commercials for online travel agencies, hereafter known as OTA. You know, the little gnome or the space ship captain. There are OTA for all kinds of travel, or hotels and cruises specifically.

While you might be tempted by their low prices, remember that value does not always equal price. You may get a really cheap vacation that doesn’t suit your lifestyle at all. For example, Carnival usually has the least expensive cruises, but unless you like to party until dawn and have many raucous young people as travel companions, a cruise with them might not be enjoyable for us older persons.


Photo courtesy of Carol Watts

Arizona Memorial in Oahu.


Photo courtesy of Carol Watts

A whale’s tail off the coast of Hawaii.

How would you feel if you called one of the OTA and the call center employee said, “Oh, the Amsterdam to Alaska. I was just on that cruise last month.” Well you would be a very lucky caller indeed, because most of these call center employees don’t cruise. And if you call a particular cruise line directly, the representative might have been on a particular itinerary, but they can’t compare that sailing with those of another cruise line. You need an agency that actively cruises to get firsthand, been there done that experience. This is the value of certified travel agencies. We not only cruise, we take webinars and courses to stay current on changes within the cruise lines and itineraries.

So if you see a great price from an OTA, just call and ask if we can meet that price. Our experience in the past has been that we can sometimes even get a better price by moving the date of travel a few weeks. If we can’t match the price, we’ll be honest and tell you so.

Let me just say right now, that all the cruise lines have a no discount policy. That means no provider or agent can sell a cruise for less than the price offered by the cruise line. So how do some of these OTA get such “discounts”? They either are promoting last-minute discounts, which are available directly from the cruise line or from any certified travel agent. Or they have a group on a particular itinerary, and can offer the reduced cabin prices and amenities (like on board credit) that are available from the cruise line for groups.

As an individual agency, we are limited to the number of groups that we can create in a calendar quarter. This is one reason that we are affiliated with Avoya Travel. As a countrywide agency with a huge booking volume, they can create many more groups.

Now for some current specials:

Princess Cruises is offering “Sun Drenched Deals” on specific itineraries and fall sailings for seven-night eastern Caribbean, 10-day Panama Canal round trip Ft. Lauderdale sailings, and their 14-night Hawaii round trip Los Angeles.


Photo courtesy of Carol Watts

Mira FLores Locks, Panama Canal.

Apple is offering great deals on Mexico resorts for summer travel.

Did you know that there is only one all-inclusive resort in the U.S., West Palm Beach specifically, and it is through Club Med. If you are hesitant to travel to Mexico or the Caribbean because of reported violence, this might just be the all-inclusive for you.

Trafalgar is offering savings of up to $600 per couple on their 2012 USA, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica vacations if booked by Aug. 31.

Several of the river cruise providers are offering 2 for 1 savings or huge discounts for early bookings for 2012 cruises and last-minute fall 2011 river cruises.

Also important if you are a smoker. Holland America and Princess Cruises have just changed their smoking policy effective Jan 15, 2012. Don’t expect an OTA to advise you of that little inconvenience.

Cruise Port Travel is your local Payson certified travel agency. We actively cruise, and can advise you not only on the differences between the various cruise lines and their itineraries, but also what to see in various ports of call. Is it better to book shore excursions through the cruise line or wait and get a better deal on the dock from a local tour company. That depends, and we can tell you why. Do you really need trip insurance? Not if you can afford to lose the cost of your trip if you can’t go for some reason. Did you know that when on any cruise, Medicare does not cover you for sickness or accidents? The one exception of NCL’s Pride of America, which is registered in the USA. Medicare considers you to be in a foreign country, even if the ship you are on is docked in an American port of call! For valuable advice, call us at 928-472-7878 and make an appointment for a consultation. Or visit our blog spot and “specials” page at

Read past newspaper articles on Alaska, cruising and touring in the blog spot at


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