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As these look like very old posts, I'll toss in my 2 cents as a professional travel consultant. I've been arranging escorted travel for 22 years and the really good companies are booked thru travel agents as they ar enot available to the general public for booking.
Travel agent services for booking with these companies are free, but some agents are now charging, so be sure to ask if there is any sort of booking or cancellation fee by either the gaent or agency.
Booking travel, any travel on any online, unknown agency is risky . I use online booking engines and I have my personal favorites, When i go online, I make sure the company is a member of IATAN, USTOA, or CLIA
If thhey are, you can be sure your travel is protected. If a company is a member of one o the above, they must pay a fee and meet guidlines set by these institutions. They also have topay into these memberships upwards of $100K to garantee their travel products. if a company is NOT a member of IATAn, USTOA or CLIA, regard it with suspicion and check it with the BBB.
I'd still recommend a travel agent for cruise or land vacations, especially one who is a CTA (Certifed Travel associate) or a CTC ( Cetrified Travel Counselor). These agents have gone thru a tough course of study and have passed a written examination to be certified. Keep this in mind, without a TRavel agent, you are on your own.