My wife (Sarah) and I just returned from a Western Mediterranean Cruise on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Navigator of the Seas. Just a little about us, I'm 36 and Sarah is 29 (as of September 2010) and we live in Orlando, Florida, USA. I'm a Vice President in the field of healthcare and Sarah is an Audiologist. I include that information so you know what perspective we have. If you're reading this and you're 80 years old and have lots of money to burn then you may not share my viewpoints and that's okay. Hopefully you will still find some of my thoughts helpful to you.
We found the cruise tickets by subscribing to weekly e-mail alerts. This was my 9th cruise and Sarah's 6th cruise. We booked this cruise for $1,299 per person in an inside cabin with $250 onboard credit. They had a few weeks for $1,199 per person, but the week we chose caused us to burn less vacation time because Labor Day is already a holiday in the US.
I normally don't like to book through a travel agency because you lose flexibility and their hours of operation are not as good as going directly through the cruise line. For example, one weekend we wanted to see how much it would be to upgrade to a balcony and the agency either wasn't open or had very limited hours; I can't remember which. But in this day of instant information and a heightened demand for customer service, consumers want what they want and when they want it. Travel agents are perfectly fine for most people but I like to book directly through the cruise line. But in this case even the last minute prices through RCCL were something like $400 more expensive so, for us, price almost always wins! And to finish my earlier thought, the TA wanted an extra $800 per person for a balcony stateroom, so we decided to stay with our inside cabin. I can think of better things to do with $1,600.