Alaska, Luggage Security and Discounts

Tim, My husband and I are looking into a cruise/land deal with Princess to Alaska, but we're confused about the best time to go. My husband, a retired science teacher, is particularly interested in the best month to see wildlife. Would you recommend Princess over Holland America? Fran

Fran,

Princess and HAL are both great companies with a lot to offer. The basic difference is that Princess' ships are larger and offer more dining and entertainment venues. Holland America is more traditional and the ships are smaller, but by no means inferior. The area where Princess truly stands out is their properties in Alaska. All of the Princess lodges are either brand new or very young, and among the best accommodations available.

You might also want to take a look into Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, as they now offer some spectacular cruise-tours.

Personally, I would choose to go in mid to late June. It tends not to be as crowded and the weather (IMO) tends to be enjoyable.

Tim, I have never been on a cruise. My Mom always wanted to go on a paddlewheel cruise on the Mississippi. When I go on the Internet, it appears the only organization doing such cruises is Delta Queen. I understand they just filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. They say they are still running cruises on one of their ships. I would like to make arrangements for four of us in March 2002, but I don't want to risk losing a down payment. Can you advise? Denise

Denise, To be blunt, don't waste your time. Delta Queen Steamboat says it will operate the published schedule of the Delta Queen, and after a hiatus, that it hopes to return the Delta and Mississippi Queens to full service in the fall of 2002.

But I am confident that someone else will acquire the steamboats and resume operations at some point. Stay tuned; I'm sure you'll be able to take a steamboat voyage later next year with a more financially stable company, be it a newly reorganized Delta Queen or some other.

Tim, I just returned from a New England cruise where I had some concern over the security of my luggage. I think this is a dilemma that many cruise passengers will face if they really think about it.

A few days before disembarking, I asked the Purser's Desk how my luggage would be handled from the time it was picked up at my cabin until I retrieved it on the dock the next morning. Since I was going directly to Logan Airport, I wondered how I could answer the airline agent's question about whether the luggage had been out of my control since I packed it. The Purser's Desk said that they were handling it just like they always had. I asked to talk to the ship's Security Officer, and he said the same thing--no new actions were being taken since the terrorist attacks, and the airlines agree that the ship is handling it properly.

Later, the Security Officer told me he had discussed this problem with other officers, and their position is that the luggage is never out of the control of bonded ship personnel or longshoremen on the dock, which he said is acceptable to the airlines.

From the time I put the luggage outside my cabin at about 8:30 p.m. until it was picked up a few hours later, my luggage, and about 1,500 other pieces, were in a hallway with no one guarding them. After they were picked up, I presume they were stored on luggage carriers on a lower deck. I have no idea if they were in a secure area. I next saw my luggage in a dockside warehouse about 9:30 the next morning. When checking in at Logan, I told the agent that I turned my luggage over to the cruise line people, and they told me it had been in a secure area. He sent it to the plane without opening it.

I still do not feel that the situation is under control; most passengers are probably just saying that they haven't allowed it out of their sight since packing it. In this case, passengers from two cruise ships arrived at the airport at the same time. If the airlines had to search all this luggage, the airport could be shut down for hours--or days.

I think this has to be addressed by cruise lines/airlines/FAA. Maybe the cruise line could put some kind of official seal or band on the luggage to verify it was in a secure area. Hobie Gaar

Hobie,

While I share your concerns, and I'm sure many others do, I don't see a lot to worry about. If your luggage is locked and you use luggage ties (similar to customs seals), the chances are slim that any one can tamper with it. What you were told on board is true: Luggage loading and unloading is closely supervised both on ship and in the terminals. However, to be safe, I always inspect my luggage before leaving the cruise terminal and I suggest you do the same. That way you can rest assured no one has tampered with it and you can answer the airline's security questions honestly and with confidence.

Tim, My family booked and made final payment for the Grand Princess western Caribbean sailing Dec. 23, but our travel agent said the prices hadn't gotten any lower than we were quoted months ago. With all the discounted cruises in the marketplace, what happened to this particular one? Is it just because it's a Christmas sailing, or aren't we getting the truth? Debby

Debby,

Not all cruises are experiencing price reductions on every departure. True, many sailings have been heavily discounted, but in many cases, not all cabin categories on a sailing are being offered at lower prices. Whenever you're in doubt, you can usually check pricing on the cruise line web sites.


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