Customer Concerns: Weather, Spring Break and Scandal

Tim, Hi Tim, I am interested in the new Norwegian Star's year-round sailing of the Hawaiian islands. We were thinking of going in February. Any comment as to the weather we can expect? We usually go to the Caribbean in the winter, but Hawaii looks interesting! Robert

Robert, Hawaii's temperatures average around 80 degrees in February, with an average of about 2.5 inches of rain for the month. This is quite similar to the Caribbean (80-85 degrees with scattered rain). I'd do this cruise in a heartbeat!


Tim, After reading a review of Viking Cruise Line on this web site, we booked a trip from Amsterdam along the Rhine and Danube to Vienna starting August 13. What kind of weather can we expect? Also, is what we here wear in sunny Southern California during the summer appropriate for this type of trip, or are they more conservative? Lisa

Lisa, For the most part, weather should be pleasant; with days averaging 70-80 degrees and evenings in the 50s and 60s. Just be aware that depending on how the weather fronts move, you could get weather that is considerably cooler or warmer. It's not unusual for the region to experience an odd heat wave in August with temperatures climbing into the 80s and 90s. As for attire, always err on the conservative side. Shorts and T-shirts are fine, but pack some slacks and nicer shirts, which may be required for visiting certain historical sights. Stay away from anything too skimpy/revealing and you'll be fine Tim

Tim, Tim, My husband and I are planning a cruise through the Panama Canal next winter. This will be our 25th wedding anniversary, so we want things to go well. We are planning to book a stateroom with a verandah. I know there is never a guarantee on weather, but is any time between December and March usually better or worse than the rest? Any suggestions of other things we should be careful of? Marion

Marion, What a wonderful way to celebrate your 25th anniversary! Depending on the ports you visit, the weather will vary. In the Caribbean, the rainy season should mostly be over and you can expect temperatures to average 80-85 degrees during the day. Once you start to hit the subtropical region around Central America and the Canal Zone, expect temperatures in the 85-95 degree range and high humidity. This is where you must be wary of overexposure to the sun and heat stroke; make sure you wear adequate sun block. You should also carry appropriate rain gear should you get caught in a passing downpour, which are very common in Central America. Overall, I think you'll find the weather just fine!

Hi Tim, We are considering a transatlantic crossing with HAL in spring 2002. We located the ships and dates from their web site but not the ports of call. How can we find out this information (not by telephone because we live in Australia)? The ships are: Noordam April 14th Rotterdam April 16th Amsterdam April 30th Also the Amsterdam returning on August 20, 2002 Thanks, Sandra

Sandra, Unfortunately, HAL has not yet published the schedules for these cruises on its web site, nor has it published the brochures. HAL will be publishing the full schedule of itineraries and fares shortly. Please be aware that with the addition of the Prinsendam to the fleet in June 2002, the schedules for the Rotterdam and Amsterdam have been significantly altered. The Rotterdam will remain in North America for most of the summer and the Amsterdam will now have her Europe season extended, remaining in Europe through November. Tim

Hello Tim. Is there anyone on board that you can tip to get a room upgrade....a la Las Vegas? Thanks in advance. John

John, I've never heard of this happening, but you can certainly try! Let us know if it works! Tim

Dear Mr. Rubacky: My wife and I were part of an Elderhostel group on the Greek boat Diogenis V for 10 days in April. Although we contracted for a cruise on the Galileo, at the last minute the Diogenis V was substituted. It was unsafe, unsanitary, and uncomfortable. Unsafe because the life raft canisters were bolted and sealed shut, the loudspeaker system did not work, emergency overboard lights were non-existent or unsealed, etc. Unsanitary because toilets didn't flush, scuppers didn't drain and leaked water into cabins, showers didn't drain and leaked water into the cabins, the single public toilet next to the saloon never had soap or towels, etc. Uncomfortable for a long list of reasons. Most of the participants have documented similar problems with the boat. Further, my wife and I both have our USCG Captain's licenses; we ran a charter yacht business and lived aboard our own boat in the Caribbean for many years, giving us the expertise to make such judgements. After we sent a 21-page report to Elderhostel detailing the problems (with pictures), they sent partial refunds to all participants. However, many participants are claiming major rebates (up to 100%), and they have looked to us to take the lead in getting cooperation from Elderhostel. Our major concern is preventing further use of the boat, especially for seniors. I have two questions for you: First, do you know how I can obtain a history of the Diogenis V? We were told it was built in 1984, but have many reasons to question this, and believe it is an old dog. Second, despite Greece being in the EU, their ships do not meet SOLAS requirements, as demonstrated by both the Zeus III sinking, and the conditions on the Diogenis V. What suggestions do you have for us to remove the Diogenis V from use? Allen F. Gates

Allen, Thank you very much for this note. I've written a few articles about safety and was particularly interested in the sinking of the Zeus III. I am not familiar with the boats that you reference, but I do know that there are many unsafe "charter yachts" in use around the Med and Greek Islands. First off, shame on Elderhostel for continuing to use boats that are unsafe and unsanitary! I'd be very concerned that they continue to use them and continue to endanger the lives of so many people. Unfortunately, the only place I can think of to obtain a history on the vessel is through the flag state, which is unfortunately, Greece. And getting the vessel removed from service would likely prove a long and grueling battle as the Greek Government does not have a stellar reputation for upholding safety regulations. If you would be so kind, I'd love to get a write-up from you about your experience, along with pictures. The best thing we can do is to expose the operator and the conditions and hope that the appropriate governing bodies take notice. Tim

Hi Tim! A group of friends and I want to go on a cruise next Spring Break (March 2002), and since we are only 18 years old, we wondered if we would have to have adults with us on the ship. Could you also tell us if there would be an age limit, and on what ships? Also, what our restrictions would be on the boat? Erin

Erin, You will need to bring adults along; the specific restrictions vary by cruise line. Most cruise lines require a minimum age of 21, with most major lines enforcing a minimum age policy of 25 years old for at least one occupant in the cabin. So yes, you will need to have adults along. Your first step should be to contact a travel agent and have them check to see what is available for your time period and budget. Try Regal Cruises (From Tampa) and Norwegian Cruise Line, as they seem to be the most lenient. There is a good chance that you will need at least one adult per stateroom, if not one adult for every two or three that are under 25. Additionally, most cruise lines now have policies that limit the consumption of alcohol for passengers under 21; you may encounter situations where anyone under 21 will be refused service completely.

Hello Tim. My husband and I are cruising November 25 aboard RCCL's Adventure of the Seas. Can you tell me what type of weather to expect in the southern Caribbean at that time of year? I know it's the tail end of hurricane season. We will be leaving from San Juan and sailing to Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and St Thomas. Lois

Lois, You should encounter weather that is pleasant albeit humid, as this is the tail end of the rainy season. Temperatures should be pleasant and range from 75 to 95. Aruba and Curacao should be the driest but also the warmest, with St. Maarten and St. Thomas slightly cooler but more humid with a better chance of rain. Bon Voyage! Tim

Tim, Do you know if the bankruptcy court has ordered any other cruise line to take over the ships that were sailing from New Orleans? John

John, The bankruptcy courts can only order the sale of assets, but they cannot order any other cruise line to take over the ships and routes affected by Commodore's bankruptcy. The Crown Dynasty has been sold, the Enchanted Capri has been repossessed and the Enchanted Isle, at last report, is still laid up in Violet, La. Hope this helps.

Tim, I've booked a 22-day cruise on HAL's Rotterdam leaving Barcelona in mid-November, cruising to Italy and back along the French coast before swinging south along the Spanish coast, along the West African coast to the Canary Islands, and then across the Atlantic to St. Thomas and Fort Lauderdale. What type of weather should I expect? Thanks, Julie

Julie, Be prepared for weather that runs the gamut from 50 degrees to upwards of 90 on this cruise, and pack accordingly. The weather in the Med should be pleasant, although you may encounter some cool, cloudy or rainy days (or a combination of all). Hopefully, you will get weather that is in the 60s and 70s. This time of year is great for extensive sightseeing as the temperatures are more moderate and the crowds should have dissipated. Once you swing out to the West African coast and the Canary Islands, the weather should grow steadily warmer from that point down into the Caribbean, where you can experience temperatures that range from 70 to 90.

Hi Tim, Would you know all the cruise lines that sail to Hawaii in 2002? We are looking for a fairly new ship with balconies. John

John, Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean will all offer cruises to/from Hawaii during 2002; all offer ships that range from brand-new to a few years old and all offer staterooms with balconies. Norwegian will offer the most departures with the most balconies: 110 departures aboard the Norwegian Star (seven-night cruises), Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Wind (10-12 night cruises).

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