Is it finally safe to take a cruise?

Nan/Shutterstock
Nan/Shutterstock
If you’re one of the 303 million Americans who won’t take a cruise this year, you might want to reconsider your vacation plans. This may be the time to head out to sea.

The reason has little to do with cruise prices, which are rapidly sinking. The average cabin for two costs just $143 per night, according to Priceline. That’s down 13 percent from last month and a four-year low.

It isn’t even the barrage of bad publicity from a series of embarrassing mishaps, including last year’s sinking of the Costa Concordia and Carnival’s infamous “poop” cruise earlier this year, which some say is pushing prices downward as cruise lines vie for your business.

The real sea change has gone practically unnoticed, as the industry is finally getting its act together in many small ways.
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Is your credit card safe at cruising altitude?

Maybe it was the Bloody Mary that got Jean Shanley into trouble on a recent flight from Louisville to Las Vegas.

She paid for the $5 beverage with her American Express card and then slipped the card back into her pocketbook, where it stayed for the rest of her vacation. When she returned home, Shanley, a sales associate for a department store in Burlington, Ky., found $1,300 in fraudulent charges on the card — and she suspects that Southwest Airlines is responsible for the security breach.
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How safe is a cruise? Even after new law, it’s hard to say

The Costa Concordia / Photo courtesy EU.
As Carnival Corp. announced plans to salvage the Costa Concordia last week, the world’s attention focused again on cruise safety — or rather, lack of it.

The Concordia struck a reef off the coast of Italy in January and partially sank, claiming the lives of 32 passengers. Carnival will refloat the hull in a $300 million salvage operation said to be the largest in history.
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Passenger forced to stand for a seven-hour airline flight

At nearly seven hours, US Airways flight 901 is one of the longest domestic nonstop airline flights. And Arthur Berkowitz knows how long it takes to get from Anchorage to Philadelphia down to the minute. That’s because he says he had to stand for most of the flight when he returned to Philly last July.

Why would anyone stand for that long? Because he says a morbidly obese passenger seated next to him was spilling into his personal space, making it impossibly to sit in his assigned seat, and the flight was completely full.

“I didn’t fly from Alaska to Philadelphia on flight 901,” he says. “I stood.”

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How safe is a cruise?

The debut of two brand-new new cruise ships — Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth earlier this fall and Royal Caribbean’s massive 16-deck Allure of the Seas in December — coincides with the beginning of “wave period,” a time of year when most people book their cruise vacations.

But talk of cruises inevitably raises the subject of cruise safety. A few weeks ago, a 79-year-old British man disappeared from a cruise ship in the English Channel. He’s only the latest in a list of passengers who either vanished or fell overboard.

The cruise industry contends a trip on the high seas is safer than a drive to the airport and a stay at a hotel. But just how safe is it?
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A long way to go to ensure passengers’ safety on cruise ships

Any day now, the president is expected to sign the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which promises to make cruising safer.

Maybe you don’t think of a floating vacation as a dangerous activity — after all, the last headline-grabbing sinking of a cruise liner was that of the MS Sea Diamond, which ran aground near Santorini, Greece, back in 2007. Two passengers disappeared and were presumed dead in that incident. The cruise industry also contends that it has an outstanding safety record when it comes to onboard crimes such as theft and assaults.

Just one little problem: The federal government doesn’t require cruise lines to report these crimes in a meaningful and systematic way, so we have to take them at their word. And some passengers don’t.
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