Cruise Vessel Security Act of 2010. Also, restricted-driving zones in Europe
Welcome to the 419th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine, the original travelers’ forum.
When ITN was first published, in 1976, publisher Armond Noble was filling a niche. He had noticed that in travel publications, all you would read were professional travel writers’ flowery descriptions of how perfect places were, never about the trash, traffic noise or surly service.
So he came up with a magazine written not by freelancers writing for their hosts but by actual travelers, people who paid their own way and wouldn’t hold back when describing their true impressions of destinations or their experiences with travel firms.
Over the decades, ITN has built up a readership of learned people who travel overseas frequently, and they continue to send in reports of their journeys, discoveries and mishaps, not for pay (there is none) but merely for the benefit of their fellow subscribers. ITN prints their candid comments, and whenever those include criticisms of tour companies, cruise lines, airlines, etc., ITN provides those firms the fair opportunity to respond in print.
What also sets this magazine apart from much of the competition is extensive editing and fact-checking and a system for correcting errors. Not every article and letter submitted to ITN gets printed, but those that do have been scrutinized and, hopefully, enhanced. If you have submitted a write-up regarding a recent trip, chances are good that a staff member has written back to you or called for extra information or a more detailed explanation.
We got a kick out of one writer’s response, whom our Features Editor, Beth Habian, e-mailed regarding an article on Australia that ran in our June 2010 issue. Bill Reed of Denton, Texas, wrote, “Hi, Beth. Do you know how scary it is to see your name pop up with questions? Yikes! What did I leave out? What was incorrect? It’s like getting a letter from the IRS or your local draft board starting out ‘Greetings.’ Actually, of course, it’s not that bad, but it was a thought that ran through my head when I saw your name pop up.”
Don’t be afraid to send in your own trip report or a bit of travel advice. The grammar or structure doesn’t have to be perfect; that’s what editors are for. And if an account is unclear or some detail is left out (dates, prices or contact information), we’ll just write back and ask about it.
Among ITN’s subscribers, there ARE some professional writers, of course. After all, they love travel, too. When Beth and I edit freelancers’ articles and then question factual statements, what’s surprising is how often the writer says, “This is the first time any editor has checked on what I wrote or even asked me to clarify something.” It makes us feel proud — and a little worried about what’s showing up everywhere else.
When we do miss an error, we appreciate being informed about it.
ITN prints articles and letters written by its subscribers only, and those accounts comprise most of the magazine. For the record, whenever we print an article about a trip taken for free or at a discount, we always state that fact within or immediately following the article. Outside of those by ITN Contributing Editors/columnists (who often pay their own way), we greatly limit the number of such articles, including them only when the information is unique.
As a subscriber and someone who just returned from a trip overseas, YOU are completely qualified to tell a bit about what you saw and learned, and ITN’s audience, more than any other, will appreciate what you have to share. This magazine will continue to be what you make it. Let us know what’s on your mind.
In the meantime, we’ll keep you informed of news affecting travel.
Years after several cases of missing persons, sexual assaults and widespread illness went unreported to US authorities, brought to light only by the victims and the media, the Cruise Vessel Security Act of 2010 (H.R. 3360) was passed in July 2010.
The law applies to cruise ships that carry 250 passengers or more, have overnight passenger accommodations and arrive at or leave from a US port. Most of the stipulations of the law will go into effect in January 2012. Cruise lines will be required to…
1) install 42-inch guardrails on open decks, peepholes in cabin doors of passengers and crew, video surveillance cameras on deck and emergency notification systems;
2) limit crew access to passenger cabins;
3) maintain equipment, medications and certified medical personnel for investigating sexual assaults on board and for the treatment of victims, and maintain the confidentiality of sexual assault information;
4) maintain a logbook with records of deaths, missing individuals, alleged thefts or other crimes, and make this available upon request to any agent of the FBI, US Coast Guard or US law enforcement officer in the course or scope of an investigation;
5) provide training for cruise ship personnel on methods of detecting, preserving and reporting evidence in any possible crimes and have at least one trained and such-certified person aboard, and
6) provide a printed security guide in each stateroom with information on reporting crimes on board as well as contact information for medical and security personnel aboard. Ships must also provide a list of US embassy/consulate locations for each port of call.
A public website that tracks statistics for crimes committed aboard cruise ships will be established and maintained by the US Coast Guard.
A year ago in ITN, two couples wrote of receiving in the mail citations for driving in restricted-driving zones in certain cities in Italy (Jan. ’10, pg. 12). It has come to our attention that, from a hotel or garage that is within a zona a traffico limitato (ZTL), it is possible to obtain a short-term permit that allows you to unload luggage at the hotel or park in the garage.
The tricky part — you must get the hotel or garage to submit a form in writing to the “appropriate office,” and the form must include the license plate of the car you will be driving. Thus, if you’re driving a rental car, before you leave the rental lot you’ll need to call the hotel to make sure they know the license plate number.
Most of the ZTLs are monitored by cameras. If your car passes a camera, a picture will be taken and a ticket issued. It is up to you to prove — after the fact — that the hotel/garage knew about your passage and had filed the form for the exemption.
Also tricky — your exemption applies only to your arrival and departure, and you have a limited time in which to load or unload luggage. In Florence, for example, the exemption lasts only two hours.
Note: while staying at any hotel within a ZTL, you must park outside of the zone, and if you park in the hotel’s garage, you must leave your car there throughout your stay. You cannot casually drive around in any ZTL during your stay.
Travelers are using the Internet more and more while traveling. The ease of researching a trip, keeping in touch with others and finding local information overseas has made using a laptop, netbook or smartphone quite popular. That increased reliance has increased the risk of cybercrime, however.
PC Tools (San Francisco, CA), a firm specializing in computer security, identify-theft protection and antivirus software, has distributed several sensible reminders. The following, which ITN staff have enhanced, are among them.
• Be careful what you post about your vacation plans on message boards and social-networking sites. Set your privacy settings on high, and avoid stating specific information and dates that might allow thieves to know when you are away.
• If you’re using a laptop or smartphone to check e-mail or Facebook or for another online activity, try to determine whether or not the wireless network you’re using is legitimate and secure.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to do this. The most visible tip-off of an unsecured network is a warning from your browser that a security certificate is missing or invalid.
Realize that any cybercrook can set up a transmitter outside a hotel, broadcast, “Sheraton Hotel WiFi,” and wait for targets. However, at many hotels there will be some kind of login screen on which you enter a user ID and password, usually supplied by the hotel, providing a level of legitimacy.
If the source of the WiFi is unclear, be aware of the risks.
• Do not log onto your financial accounts or enter monetary information over WiFi or unsecured third-party online networks. Cybercriminals may use an unsecured network to capture passwords and account numbers.
• If you download a map or ticket, save it on your computer and scan it before opening. Never click on the “run” program option without running it through antivirus software.
• While traveling, be careful uploading your vacation pictures and videos on file-share websites. These sites are vulnerable to viruses and malware, and it could be difficult to protect your computer from infection while on the road. If you can, wait until you get home.
Donna J. Rogers of Murphy, Texas, wrote, “Can’t tell you how much I enjoy ITN after all these years.”
Cindy Tarnoff of Saltillo, Mississippi, wrote, “I love ITN and can’t wait to receive it. I read it cover to cover and then pull out articles of interest, filing them by country for future reference. I used to subscribe to several travel magazines, but I have let them go. My loyalty is to ITN because it is real travel information written by real people.”
Joan Livingston of Santa Barbara, California, summed it up this way: “My Lifetime subscription to ITN — best money I ever spent.”
Going by our subscribers’ enthusiasm, it seems Armond’s idea turned out to be a pretty good one.