Bottled Water, Bargains and FMC bonds

Tim, We are going on Carnival Victory; can we bring bottled spring water aboard without any problems? We drink a lot of water and prefer a certain brand, not to mention what it would cost us if purchased on the ship. Do you know if this is allowed? Joan

Joan, You can bring water aboard, but be aware that the cruise line reserves the right to confiscate beverages that are not purchased on the ship. It is also accepted etiquette that any beverages you bring on board should be consumed in your stateroom and not in public areas. Just be discreet and you should be fine.


Tim, We cruise two or three times a year and I am always looking for bargains. Any suggestions where to find them on the Internet?

For one thing, try CruiseMates' own Bargains area and classifieds. The try the websites of major cruise retailers such as, MyTravelCo, American Express, Carlson-Wagonlit, Uniglobe and others. You should also sign up for e-mail specials from the cruise line websites themselves. You'd be amazed at what you'll find!

Hi Tim, I am planning to book a cruise for my 12 employees, and I am a bit concerned about one employee leaving the company prior to the cruise. Would travel insurance cover me if she left and was unable or unwilling to go on the cruise? Cathy Volpe

Cathy, Most travel insurance will not cover you for that reason. Most policies only cover for medical reasons. However, most cruise lines will be willing to make a name change, and some of them, such as Holland America, offer Cruise Protection Plans that allow you to cancel or change for any reason.

Tim, On two message boards, I saw postings about a fire on the new Star Princess now being built. Would you know how severe it was, (assuming it is true) and the chances of this ship being delayed in its inaugural? We cannot get home to L.A. much later than the ship's scheduled arrival in March. When a company thinks there will be a delay, do they inform passengers of that possibility? Eric & Rochelle

Princess did confirm that there was a fire aboard, and several workers were injured. However, at this point it is too early to determine if it will put the ship behind schedule. My contacts at Princess in L.A. and P&O in London say they don't believe the ship's delivery date will be compromised. If the cruise line does find that the ship will be delayed, it will contact you as far in advance as possible, but there is no telling when or where a major delay may occur. For now, I'd say you are safe. And I must say I'm envious of you making that inaugural voyage! What a trip that will be!

Tim, We are booked on HAL's Amsterdam Dec. 3 Panama Canal Cruise, with the two-night pre-cruise in Costa Rica. I have seen articles referring to "soft" vs. "strong" bookings. In your opinion, what type of passenger load can be expected for the week after Thanksgiving? What are the pros and cons of a verandah or no verandah during the Canal Passage? Sulver

Sulver, I'd anticipate that the ship will be full, or close to it. While bookings may be "soft" at the moment, HAL very rarely lets a bed go out empty. If they see the sailing is not filling, they'll come out with a promotion or special fare that will help them fill it. There are lots of pros--and no cons--as far as verandahs are concerned! Especially for a voyage such as this, I find them extremely enjoyable. You'll have your own private perch for viewing the Canal transit, and you'll have all the comforts of "home" steps away--no fighting for rail space and the comfort of your fridge, air conditioning and room service! Hope this helps!

Tim, We had reservations for a cruise last fall, right after the company that owned this ship filed for bankruptcy. We have yet to receive any refund of port charges, which I understand would have been held separately, and would potentially be recovered from the bond they were required to post. Have you heard anything about this? The travel agency (we won't be using them again) hasn't been much help. Mary

Disbursements from the required Federal Maritime Commission bond can sometimes take years to administer. When Regency went bankrupt in September 1995, some passengers didn't receive any proceeds from the bond until 1998. And in many cases, the proceeds one receives from the bond are pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, travel agents can't do anything to speed up the process, so you really shouldn't hold it against the agent.

Tim, Do the cruise lines have any restrictions regarding pregnant women? I'm traveling on Explorer of the Seas next month, and I'm four months pregnant Tedra

Most cruise lines don't allow pregnant passengers aboard who are at or beyond the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy at the time of their disembarkation. RCI's policy is not to accept guests who have entered their third trimester at the time they embark.

Dear Mr. Rubacky, I am booked for Royal Olympic Voyager's October 27 cruise from Piraeus to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. I have heard that the cruise line may be in some financial difficulty. How ominous is this? Could it go the way of Premier and Commodore? I have third party travel insurance (Travel Guard), which I took out when I made my deposit. I am keen on taking this cruise due to the past reputation of Royal Olympic and the quality of this ship. My vacation time is earmarked for this. Should I cancel? Try another cruise? I am a part-time travel agent, and would like to have some experience of some cruises behind me. I realize this is open to all sorts of interpretations, etc. But I would appreciate any advice you might have. Richard

I'm no soothsayer, so it is tough to gauge at this point. However, Royal Olympic's parent company recently posted financials that were somewhat encouraging. While I certainly would retain my third party insurance and pay with a credit card, things look a little better now than they did a few months ago. Stay tuned for Anne Campbell's upcoming review of this ship and that itinerary, as she just returned from it!

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