As I mentioned, it's always better to use a credit card when purchasing something of this nature for several reasons;
1) You want the cruise line to charge your credit card and not the agency. That way, should the agency get your money, then go out of business, they have your money and not the cruise line. So now you're out the money and out the cruise.
2) Should you have any problems with the charges, your credit card company can be of assistance with the disputed amounts.
3) Often, a credit card company offers extra protection in the form of travel or life insurance whenever travel is charged.
4) If you have a credit card that offers points, miles, or money back for purchases, a vacation can add up to alot.
I understand that some people don't have credit cards, in which case a check must be used. In that case, it's often a good idea to use a friend's or relative's credit card and send the check to them so you can still get the benefits of using a credit card.
If there are no other options available and a check must be used, then it's vitally imperative to make sure you get a confirmation from the cruise line to verify your reservation and that the amount you paid was given in full to the cruise line.
But I would still highly recommend only paying the deposit and then not paying the rest of it until final payment is due. Put the extra money in a savings account until it's time to make the payment. Otherwise, you're giving the agency your money and they may just keep it until final payment is due, so they're getting the use of your money for free.
Also, if you give the agency payment in full many months before it's due and the price changes, they may charge you a fee to cancel or to process a refund. Or they may not even provide the refund at all. They have all your money, so they may be less apt to want to part with it.
And lastly, keep in mind that you can make as many payments as you want towards your cruise. Once the deposit is made, you can make payments in any amount up until final payment is due.
I just read and hear too many stories about agencies taking money from clients and not sending it to the cruise line. Unfortunately, in every business there are those who look to take advantage of people. And while it's still highly advisable to use an agent because their services can be invaluable, it pays to be careful.
Thanks for sharing with us.