It happens just about every year. A Travel Agency suddenly closes its doors and leaves hundred's of travelers stranded from from home. Or, travelers find out that their long saved-for trip was never paid for by the agent to the cruise line. And those that paid by check or cash have had their dreams stolen as well as their money. And, every year travel experts tell us we should always pay by credit card. Paying by credit card will make it easier for you to work with your credit card company for possible reversal of the charges, the money the agent stole from you. But, there is a fail-safe method to know that your money went directly to the cruise line and your long awaited vacation is protected and your funds are safe.
Here are the 5 steps to protecting your hard earned investment.
1. Always pay by credit card. Never pay by cash or check. Make sure that the Cruise Line is the merchant of record for your charges and not the Travel Agent. Contact your credit card company and check it out. If the Travel Agent charged your credit card to his own account, the cruise line was not paid. Most Travel Agents pass on your credit card information to the cruise line who actually processes the transaction. The bill from your credit card company at the end of the month should show that the cruise line was the merchant of record for the charge.
2. At the time you place a deposit, facilitated by your Travel Agent to the cruise line, insist on the receiving the official cruise line reservation number. You will need it, to contact the Cruise Line about your reservation.
3. Do not accept the Travel Agent's Invoice number or their receipt as proof that your money went directly to the cruise line. Their internal paperwork is meaningless without the cruise lines own reservation number and your records, securely in their files.
4. Contact the cruise line by calling them or going online to their web site to verify your reservation is "on the books". Most cruise lines today make your reservation record available online 24/7 at their web site. At their site, you can see all the aspects of your upcoming cruise. even print your Travel Summary and Boarding Pass! All you have to do is enter your name and official booking number and your records should be there. If they are not contact the Cruise Line immediately.
5. At the time you place your final payment, some 60-75 days prior to sailing, check again online with your cruise line. Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, NCL, Princess, Holland America and others require that you pre-register for Homeland Security and they let you print your travel documents and boarding pass online at their official web site. Their is no need these days to wait for your Travel Agent to deliver your travel documents a couple of weeks prior to sailing. Two weeks before sailing is certainly not the time to find out that your not going on a cruise.
If your Travel Agent goes out of business you should check with the cruise line only to learn if your Travel Agent had paid them. If not, and you paid by credit card you should contact your credit card company immediately. You should dispute the charge and depending upon your credit card company policy, you may get a temporary reprieve from payment, while the credit card company investigates. You will have to provide them with a written explanation and appropriate documentation to substantiate your claim. It could take a few weeks for the investigation and a couple of months to get your money back, so be patient.
Often, the Travel Agent that goes out of business is underfunded, works on very low margins, or may offer too-good-to-be-true discounts. Consumers are attracted these days, to the best deals they can find, often using the internet to find them. Most do not know enough about the company they are doing business with. As a consequence, they take a huge risk. Risk that could be avoided if they follow the very simple steps recommended here.
Remember, when a deal seems too good to be true, you should know, it is!
As recent as December of 2009, an agent left hundreds of vacationers up in the air and lost at sea!
Despite the failures of a few, there are thousands of successful Travel Agents across America.
Any legitimate Travel Agent will provide you with whatever documentation you want, that proves where and when your money went.
With that information in hand, all you have to do is just, pack and go.