Her “personal cruise consultant” dropped the ball — should I pick it up?

Ruth Peterkin /
Ruth Peterkin /
One of the cardinal rules of my consumer advocacy practice is to never get between a travel agent and a cruise passenger. Agents, and especially cruise specialists, tend to react defensively, take my interest in the problem personally, and the result is almost never a happy ending.

But when has a rule ever stopped me? Which is why I’m asking about Sally Radicali’s Holland America cruise to Tahiti.

From the beginning, things didn’t go as planned. Her home-based agent never sent her a receipt for the $3,500 deposit. And then, a few months ago, she tried to cancel her cruise because of a work-related issue.
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Should I fire my travel agent?


Question: My fiancée and I are planning our destination wedding in Jamaica this summer and are using a travel agent. We’re also using the travel agent for our honeymoon at a different resort on the island. We will be in Jamaica for two weeks. There are about 40 people booked at this time, with only a couple more to book. She has been going through Apple Vacations to help book the flights and hotels.

Our problems began back at the beginning of this year. Our agent had a couple of relatives pass away. We have tried to call and email the agent several times with little or no response. We even went to her house (she works from home) and talked with her in person, voicing our concern of the lack of communication.

We also have asked her, on a couple of occasions, to charge part of our stay to our credit card, she has not done this yet. We would like to space out the charges so we don’t get hit with it all at once.
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The Insider: How should I buy my next cruise?

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a new Insider series on cruising. Here’s the first installation. As always, please send me any suggestions on topics or content I may have overlooked.

Not so long ago, you had to pick up a phone and call your local travel agent to book a cruise. No longer.

Although 90 percent of all cruise vacations are still bought through travel agents, not all agents are the same. You can turn to a full-service, “bricks-and-mortar” agency or an online agency. Or you could deal directly with the cruise line, in some instances.

But which option is right for you?
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Airline tells hospitalized passenger “people pretend to be sick all the time”

When Rela Geffen was hospitalized after suffering from congestive heart failure recently, she assumed her airline would take care of her. She was in Georgia on a business trip, but she’d paid an extra $19 for trip interruption insurance on her US Airways tickets.

And this is one of those times when I’m happy to say that the insurance came through for her. US Airways charged her a $125 change fee and a fare difference to fly back to Philadelphia a few days after her originally-scheduled flight, plus a $25 fee for making the change by phone, and her insurance picked up the tab.

“They were great and paid the $325 promptly after I returned home,” she says.

But that wasn’t the problem.
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TSA watch: Confessions of a rogue Transportation Security Officer

“As a proud American, I served my country with loyalty and dedication in the aftermath of 9/11 by joining the TSA and the fight on terror,” the letter begins. “After publishing a book about the TSA and Airport Security, with full knowledge of the FSD and his assistants, I’ve now been targeted for removal along with the evidence, while the cover-up for the truth is in effect.”

The missive, sent from Transportation Security Officer William Touzani directly to the president, landed in my “in” box yesterday afternoon. I’m not the first person he approached with this story. He published the entire letter on CNN’s iReport a few weeks ago.
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Hotel reservation agent: “I feel very guilty about lying”

Mary is an in-house reservation agent for an upscale, full-service hotel in a major American city. I’m not using her last name for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

Mary has a lot on her mind. People who call her hotel to reserve a room are getting ripped off, and she wants to come clean about it. Here’s our interview, which was conducted by phone this morning.

Tell me about what you do.

I work in the in-house reservations department of [a hotel]. When people call the hotel to book a room, they’re put through to me.

What do they say when they’re connected to your department?

Normally, they ask for the best room rate.

And what do you tell them?

I give them what we call the “bar” rate — it stands for “best available rate.”

Is it?

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Do predators want to buy your “pre-foreclosure” house?

Maybe it’s a sign the real estate market has hit bottom. Maybe I look like a “distressed” homeowner. Either way, this new come-on is worth noting.

A few days ago, I received the following “personal” letter in my mailbox.

Dear Christopher,

My wife, Lois, and I want to buy your house at [address.] Please call us at [number redacted].


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