Q. What have you heard about the Grande Caribe? We haven't seen any good reviews on this ship and we are thinking of a Chesapeake Bay trip. Ellen & Don B.
Ellen & Don, I would investigate Clipper Cruise Line for similar itineraries, as its ships are larger and more comfortable. Tim
Q. On Holland America's new Vista Class, what kind of shows (Broadway, or Carnival Cruise Lines-type shows) can we expect in the main show lounge? Also, will the hydropool be in the solarium, and is it a room where you can see outside? Carol
Carol, HAL's shows typically meld Las Vegas and Broadway-style entertainment. They're not as lavish as Carnival, but they do have some elaborate stage shows such as CopaCabana, which was produced and choreographed by Barry Manilow. The hydropool on the Vista Class is located in the spa, just forward of the magrodome pool. There's a domed skylight overhead, but no sea views. Tim
Q. We made reservations on Carnival's Spirit to cruise from Vancouver to Seward in late August. We booked last September and haven't seen any reduction in price yet. Will we? Also, we want to stay an extra week on our own after the cruise. Should we make hotel and car reservations now, or can we wait for a while? Tami
Tami, Just ask your travel agent to watch the prices, and you should as well. In my experience, Carnival's peak-season departures do very well. Since the Spirit is a brand new ship and a very popular one, you might not see a price reduction. However, there's always a chance that you will, so keep your eyes peeled. As for your post-cruise stay, hotel rooms in Alaska are limited so it would be best to make those arrangements now, given the sheer number of cruise passengers that will be in Alaska this summer. You can always cancel or amend your arrangements if more favorable rates become available. Tim
Q. Do you know if any other ships will be porting in Houston or Galveston in 2002 besides Carnival? We took Royal Caribbean for Christmas but are looking for a cruise from Texas for fall 2002. We are only a short drive from the port and would rather not fly. Carrie
Carrie, Currently, the only major lines home-porting in Texas are Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Royal Olympic. I don't know of any plans to add more ships in the Texas market, as the itineraries and deployments for 2002 are already set. Another port you might consider is New Orleans; quite a few ships from Carnival and Royal Caribbean are home-ported there. Carnival will be basing its newest and largest ship, Carnival Conquest, in New Orleans this fall. Tim
Q. My wife and I, both seniors, plan to take our first Alaska cruise next June. We are undecided whether to opt for an Inside Passage Vancouver-to-Vancouver round-trip, or to take a one-way cruise. We would appreciate any guidance you can provide. Leslie & Helena
Leslie & Helena, If you want the most out of your Alaska cruise, I recommend doing the Seward-Vancouver cruise; if time permits, add a pre-cruise land tour of three days or so. It would be a shame to miss Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley after traveling all that distance.
Another factor to consider is time and convenience. While the one-way "Glacier Route" cruises allow you to see and experience more, the roundtrip cruises from Seattle or Vancouver are much more convenient in terms of air scheduling. The flight to Anchorage is extremely long, and requires one or two connections, which can easily consume an entire day. Once you sort out those considerations, it's just a matter of picking the right ship and departure date. Tim
Q. We plan to cruise to South America in February but are concerned about the recent rioting in Buenos Aires, our embarkation point. Do you know of an insurance company that will cover our need to cancel if the situation there does not calm down? Susan Yanowsky
Susan, I think it best to wait this one out. If Celebrity feels the situation in Buenos Aires is unsafe, it can easily alter the itinerary and embark passengers in Montevideo. I don't know of any insurance policies that will allow you to voluntarily cancel your cruise due to political instability; it is generally expected that the cruise lines will rectify the situation by altering the itinerary. Tim
Q. My husband, our son and I are considering a Greek cruise on the Costa Classica in October 2002. We have been planning this for two years, but have safety concerns because of the war in Afghanistan. I recently spoke to a travel agent, and she said all other cruise lines have cancelled their Greek islands itineraries because of instability in the region. What are your thoughts?
Because this is a medical education cruise, there is no flexibility in changing the itinerary. Should we pass on it and wait until things settle down? And is it true that no other major cruise lines will be cruising in that area next year? Kim and Dave
Kim and Dave, Most cruise lines have indeed fled the Eastern Med this year, but Costa, Festival, Royal Olympic and a few others will still call at the Greek islands. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to cruise the region as long as I didn't have to fly into/out of Athens or use that city as a port of embarkation/disembarkation.
Right now, things seem to have calmed down. If they heat up again, I'm sure Costa would alter the itinerary to keep the passengers, crew and ship out of harm's way. If this is a trip you really want to take and feel comfortable planning to do so at this point, I would go ahead. Ultimately, you are the ones who must be comfortable with the decision. Consider my advice, but follow your instincts. Tim
Q. Can you help me resolve unfair treatment by Princess Cruises in regard to a deposit refund or credit on future sailing? I canceled my cruise within the 75-day allowance as stated in their brochure. My travel agent claims Princess received notification from her one day late. They first offered a credit for a future cruise, which I declined, feeling I was entitled to the full refund. After going all the way to the CEO and not getting any satisfaction, I said I would accept the credit. They replied that because I didn't accept the $1,200 credit when they offered it, I would forfeit the entire amount. Myrna
Myrna, Personally and professionally, I have to say that I don't think Princess' decision was unfair: Ultimately, it was your travel agent's mistake and not the cruise line's. Princess and every other cruise line has a cancellation policy that they must enforce, and it is up to the travel agent and consumer to make sure they cancel within the appointed time.
Princess did offer you the credit; by not accepting it and appealing to the President of the line, technically you did decline it. The closest analogy I can draw is being offered a settlement or a plea bargain in a court of law.
If you don't accept it and appeal to a higher power, you run the risk of forfeiting the offer. Additionally, if the president of Princess followed up with customer relations in regards to your inquiry, which he probably did, he may have instructed them not to extend the offer as it is outside of company policy.
Speak to your travel agent. Perhaps if he or she pleads with Princess, they will extend the offer again. Ultimately, your agent bears responsibility for the penalty you incurred. Tim