Cabin Service, Port Safety and Alcohol

| July 5, 2005

Art Sbarsky, CruiseMates Consumer Affairs Editor, answers letters and comments on key issues posted by readers. If you have a question about cruising, send it to .

Subject: Bad Stateroom Service

One cruiser wrote in recently to talk about his frustrations due to the cabin steward's bad service throughout the cruise.

Art says: I don't blame them for being frustrated. According to their letter, they did the right things to resolve the problem: They spoke to the steward, they went to the front desk, and they talked to the hotel director. The room was not being made up until late in the day, trash was uncollected, and dirty glasses were left around. Now, some people will go with the flow and make do -- but in this case, the steward's conduct was simply not up to the standard provided by the line in question.

There are three more things these guests could have done as a result. First, by the middle of the cruise, I would have put my complaint in writing to the hotel director and kept a copy. Second, if there was no improvement, I'd certainly have changed the tip for this steward. Even though the tips were put on the guests' folio automatically, they had the option of changing the amount. Third, at the end of the cruise I would have sent the letter to the customer service department at the line's headquarters, citing the name of the hotel director and the steward. Then at least someone in charge would be aware of this unsatisfactory situation.

Subject: Port Safety

The recent incident of the missing U.S. teenager in Aruba sparked letters about the safety of cruise ship guests in port.

Art says: No cruise ship is knowingly going to put its guests at risk. Way back in the '80s, St. Croix was the site of various attacks on tourists. Cruise lines took it off their itineraries as a result, and it's taken nearly two decades for ships to start calling there again. Thus it is in the best interest of ports to make sure their streets, beaches, etc. are as safe as they can be. Other ports, such as La Guaira for Caracas, or Cartagena, are periodically taken off itineraries if things look too risky.

I certainly hope the Aruba situation is an isolated event, but there are still common-sense things any guest can do to prevent problems. Especially when traveling by oneself, any guest, male or female, should be extremely careful going down less-populated streets, taking taxis to less-frequented beaches, wearing jewelry or flashing cash in public, etc. It's always best to travel in groups and, even in tropical paradises, keep as alert as you would in any major city. Be cautious when approached by strangers. At night, be extra careful.

Subject: Personal Alcohol on Board

Several cruisers have written lately about cruise line policies preventing them from bringing their own alcohol on board.

Art says: Most large lines have polices prohibiting guests from bringing liquor on board, whether they brought it from home or purchased it ashore during the cruise. The lines make a lot of money selling booze in their bars, and they do not want guests cutting into this profit center.

One major line clearly states that alcoholic beverages may not be brought on board at embarkation; all such beverages bought in port will be held until the end of the cruise; fine wine or champagne may be brought on board, but it is subject to a $10 corkage fee if you drink it in the dining room. I don't understand this latter portion, as I consider wine and champagne to be alcohol. But that's their policy.

Some lines are more restrictive, some less so. Some monitor it very carefully; some have a more lenient approach. It's pretty easy to argue both sides of this issue, depending on your point of view. I suggest cruisers carefully read in advance the information they get from the cruise line to clear up any doubt before the cruise starts.

I'm off the soapbox for this month. If you have any comments on these or other issues, please let me know. Send a note to my e-mail address listed above.

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