A Wealth of Information

| Oct. 6, 2006

One reality of living in the Information Age is that there is simply no way to truly safeguard our personal information. Too many companies, organizations, and local firms all have data concerning each of us, and the potential danger there was recently spelled out to me all too clearly when my name got crossed up with another loyal customer in one of the major cruise lines' computers.

Last July, I received an invoice for payment for a fourteen-day cruise in the Greek Isles onboard the NCL Jewel. Sounds like a wonderful cruise, but I hadn't booked it. Imagine my shock when upon examining the paperwork I discovered my lovely wife was all set to cruise on that ship in September with an English gentlemen I had never met. So, what was I to think? In the memorable words of Ricky Ricardo, "Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do!"

Did my lovely bride have a scheme to fly off to Europe and sail on a luxury cruise with another man? If so, she had a pretty good thing going, since she and I were also scheduled to cruise in October onboard the Crown Princess.

Or was it all a big mistake? Trust and confidence in my wife's loyalty winning out, I presumed the latter. Not to mention previous experience with the same computers accidentally deleting seven of our nine cruises with them, crediting only our two recent cruises to our Latitudes membership. So now, up to their tricks again, NCL's Lattitudes Club's computers had married my wife off to a complete stranger in the United Kingdom. I heard they had revamped the program, but I had no idea it included this service.

After checking my wife for nervous ticks, and sharing a giggle, a sense of personal responsibility to set these affairs straight came over me, for the sake of an innocent British couple who could miss their cruise.

So what could I do about it? Checking the invoice it became apparent that NCL Europe had crossed my wife's Latitude number with a couple in England with the same last name. The husband's first name was different than my own, the wife's name the same. Not wishing to make a call to Europe and be placed on hold I instead called NCL in Miami, and was promptly placed on hold. Thirty minutes later I surrendered and hung up.

My next step was to search the internet for contact information for NCL Europe. Locating a good email address for them, I emailed the pertinent information noting the obvious error and attaching a copy of the invoice. To NCL Europe's credit, I received a quick reply, apology, and a "thank you" for alerting them to this error. Guest services had been informed to correct this problem. Satisfied with the response, my wife's assurance that she wasn't planning to skip town, and that the UK couple would get their bill, the matter was put to rest. Or so we thought!

Scheduled to sail the Crown Princess in October we had been anticipating the arrival of our documents, as cruiseaholics are known to do. It was no surprise that upon returning from the mailbox my wife yelled upstairs, "Our documents are here!" I replied, "wonderful," and said I would be right down to peruse them with delight. "No, you don't understand," she replied. "ALL our documents are here -- for BOTH of our cruises!" Lo and behold, not only had our documents from Princess arrived, but so had the documents for that very same fourteen-day European cruise on the NCL Jewel. You know, the one scheduled for MY wife and "that man" from the U.K. Yes, there was the NCL package from the Royal Post Office in England containing tickets and all.

So once again, accepting my bride's assurances of fidelity, I contacted NCL Europe; this time to advise them I was sure the U.K. couple had received the invoice I contacted them about previously, because the proof was in my hands -- their cruise tickets! Once again, I quickly received a response assuring me that this would be corrected and the couple in the U.K. would receive their tickets in time for the cruise they paid for, scheduled to sail in no less than 15 days! Though not asked to, I advised NCL that I would be shredding the documents and information I received and discarding it securely.

As we reviewed our tickets for the upcoming Crown Princess cruise I felt a sudden shiver in my spine. What, I asked myself, could happen if our documents were sent to a stranger in Europe? Reading over our tickets, I realized that not only our names and addresses were neatly printed, but so were our passport numbers, issue date, expiration dates, our birthdates, our emergency contact information complete with names, addresses and phone numbers! Answers to many of the questions one would be asked if applying for a credit card or the like. Was all this necessary on my ticket? Of course not! This was merely a decision by Princess to make their check in process easier. Thankfully, Princess sent our tickets to us. Or were we the only ones? How would we know?

So, hopefully all is now corrected. The couple in the U.K received their tickets and flight information in time, never knowing how their information flew across the ocean. Being an honest fellow, the U.K. couple did not have their identity stolen; at least not by me. Most importantly, my wife is not running off to England with a David Niven-like stranger. However, should I be wrong, be aware, I now know more than enough about him to hunt him down and make him pay for his deeds, and anything else I might want to charge to his name!

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