EU compensates air passengers. Cruise ship conscripted in search. Cape Town drought eased.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the December 2018 issue.
A Christmas market scene in Prague, Czechia, with the Old Town Hall in the background.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 514th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine, where travelers pool their knowledge to help each other out.

Case in point, Linda J. Vogel of Pomona, California, wrote to ITN, "Thank you for printing the readers' letters and Editor's notes about airlines providing compensation to passengers for excessive delays of flights from or within Europe ("Consequences of Rebooking on Own," Oct. '18, pg. 26 & "Know Your Rights in the EU," Oct. '18, pg. 27).

"Although my delayed-more-than-four-hours United Airlines flight from Brussels to Newark was in February 2018, I didn't write to United about the delay until Sept. 19, after reading the letters. Since it was so long ago, I did not have my particular flight information (flight or ticket numbers). Nonetheless, I applied for compensation.

"Six days later, United replied and gave me different options for compensation. I chose to take a check for the equivalent of 600.

"United was pretty speedy. On Oct. 4, I received a check for $698. That's a lot of ITN subscriptions!"

You're welcome, Linda. It made our day to get your letter and read that another subscriber had benefited from something they read in ITN. And, yes, an ITN subscription can soon pay for itself. Not only that, subscriptions make great stocking stuffers at Christmastime for your traveling friends, and gift cards can be sent in your name. (Read all about subscription options on page 9 in any issue, and in this issue there's a special offer on page 60.)

As for the flight-delay compensation, or the European Union's rules about "compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellations or long delays of flights" (otherwise known as EU Regulation 261/2004), here's some additional information that's sure to help someone.

Each EU member nation sets a different length of time in which passengers may apply for such compensation. Ms. Vogel got in with time to spare, since Belgium, where her flight originated, allows one year to apply for compensation for a qualifying delayed flight.

Had she been flying from Romania, where passengers are given only six months to file a claim, she would have been out of luck. Some nations, like Czechia and Sweden, allow up to 10 years for a claim to be filed, while there is no limit at all in Poland.

Regulation 261/2004 applies to any EU-based airline's flight, no matter the route, as well as to flights on other airlines departing from anywhere within the EU. But you may be surprised to learn that the rule not only covers continental Europe; it also applies to overseas territories of EU member nations, including places like Bermuda, Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten and French Polynesia.

For example, if your flight out of Dzaoudzi, Mayotte (a French Overseas Department east of Madagascar), is delayed, you have the same right to compensation as a passenger flying out of Paris.

For complete information on how to file a claim for compensation or to download the compensation-request form, visit

One for the It Could Happen Department —

Ted and Carol Mullett of Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, reported that they were on a transatlantic cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark, to New York City this September when their ship, Holland America Line's Zuiderdam, was conscripted by the Canadian Coast Guard into a sea-rescue effort near the Maritime Provinces.

Instead of making a port call at St. John's, Newfoundland, for a day of sightseeing, the Zuiderdam proceeded to a location some two hours away where another ship had reported a passenger missing, later revealed in a news report to be a suicide.

According to Mr. Mullett, their ship spent hours in a search effort along with helicopters and other aircraft and the ship that had called for assistance, Aida Cruises' AIDAluna. Unfortunately, the search was eventually called off without recovering the missing person.

Due to the amount of time spent in the rescue effort, the Zuiderdam's St. John's visit had to be canceled, but Holland America refunded all shore-excursion fees and gave each passenger $50 in onboard credit.

For the record, according to the Canada Shipping Act 2001, the master of a ship must render assistance in a search-and-rescue effort if requested. If the master of a ship who is obligated to provide assistance at sea does not do so, he may be punished with a $1,000,000 fine or imprisonment of not more than 18 months or both.

In my February 2018 column, ITN subscriber Alan Ramsay of Cape Town, South Africa, reported on the status of the 3-year drought that had left reservoirs in his hometown at 30% capacity, and he shared the city tourist board's suggestions for conserving water during a visit. Having read of recent rains, I asked Alan for an update.

He wrote, "As of Oct. 26, Cape Town's dams are collectively nearly 75% full compared with half that a year ago. Water restrictions have been reduced, and tariffs are coming down.

"The city is asking residents to use no more than 70 liters of water per person per day, up from a 50-liter limit. It says its decision to relax restrictions is based on rising dam levels and consumers becoming much more conservation-conscious."

He added, "Tourism figures are now some of the healthiest that they've been for some time, with 3.5 million visitors from around the world expected in 2018 by year's end."

And he noted, "For a variety of reasons, not just the South African economy but also the impact of emerging-market-investment perceptions, the rand has weakened from around $1=ZAR11 early this year to nearly $1=ZAR15, making local costs 30% cheaper for visitors. Now is the time to visit!"

In the article "More on Travel Made Easier with Smartphones," in his October 2018 "The Mindful Traveler" column, Mark Gallo described how to make files and folders on the cloud-storage service Dropbox available offline on an iPhone. (This comes in handy for accessing saved maps and documents when data connectivity or Wi-Fi is unavailable.)

After reading the article, Edna R.S. Alvarez of Los Angeles, California, wanted to know how to access Dropbox files when offline on an Android phone. I will take it from here.

If you have an Android phone as well as the Dropbox app, when your phone is connected to a data source (either a phone network or Wi-Fi), open the app and find the file or folder that you will want to access while offline.

To the far right of that listed item, you'll see a downward-facing arrow. Tap this icon and a menu of choices will appear, including a "switch" labeled "Available offline." Turn that switch "on," and the folder or file will be downloaded to your phone. It will be accessible anytime, even when you're not connected to a network.

Thanks for the inquiry, Edna. I hope this helps you and other Android users get the most out of their phones.


• Paula Prindle of Orient, Ohio, wrote, "The caption on the first page of the Egypt article in the November 2018 issue incorrectly identifies the structure pictured as the Khufu pyramid. It is the Khafre pyramid and also, therefore, not the largest pyramid in the complex at Giza."

• In the letter "Comparing Cruise Values" (July '18, pg. 14), ITN subscriber Linda Beuret wrote about the differences in onboard atmosphere between a South America cruise that she took on Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner and the cruise in the same area that Al Podell described taking on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sun (May '18, pg. 24).

In an editor's note following Linda's letter, Al stated that his 16-day cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaíso cost $8,146 for two people, or $4,073 per person, including tax. Daily service charges would have added $420 for two, and shore excursions, if one were taken in each port, could have added $1,400 per person.

Al said that the subsequent 21-day cruise that he and his girlfriend took from Valparaíso to San Francisco was similarly priced, with the service charges totaling $560.

After reading THAT, Ted Haas of La Jolla, California, wrote in to point out that Al, who said he had purchased a "2-for-1" fare (as did Linda), seemed to have been grossly overcharged for his stateroom. Ted cited the advertised price of a recent 16-day Buenos Aires-Valparaíso cruise aboard the Norwegian Sun at only $1,899 per person, double occupancy, or $3,798 for two people.

Noting such a big disparity in prices, ITN asked Al to double-check, and he confirmed that an error had been made. For two people on the special, 2-for-the-price-of-one fare, the total basic fare for his and his girlfriend's back-to-back cruises was $3,198 plus $874 in taxes, which came to $4,073.40 or, with the service charges recommended for his cabin level, $5,053.40.

That did not include international airfare or the costs of optional shore excursions.

The special 2-for-1 price of Linda's 21-night Mariner cruise was about $18,000, but that included international airfare, shore excursions and gratuities.

As for onboard ambiance, in his original letter about his Sun cruise, Al lamented the extra costs of shore excursions as well as the "never-ending selling atmosphere aboard the ship, including repeated public-address announcements exhorting us to buy stuff," while Linda said of her Mariner cruise that she never heard a single announcement about purchasing anything.

Mary Light of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has an information request. She wrote, "As a natural- and herbal-medicine practitioner and teacher, I have found that one of the most interesting and direct ways to connect with locals and their communities internationally is through their ethnobotanical culture. This could involve medicinal-plant trails, herbal botanical gardens and organic farms as well as encounters with various 'medicine men and women.'

"I would like to hear about any places outside of the US that offer these opportunities or about people who will share with visitors their knowledge of therapeutic, medicinal and nourishing botanicals, including their names, uses and cultural connections."

Subscribers, where did you have such a visit and when (year) did it take place? Please include any available contact information or suggestions that will help in making arrangements. What did you learn about or take away from the experience or encounter? What costs were involved? What advice or thoughts can you add on this topic?

Email or write to Ethnobotanical Explorations, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include your mailing address. Photos are welcome; add captions. Responses will be printed in ITN.

Subscribers, send in your trip reports, articles and interesting photos. Keep the ball rolling!

And think of a person or two to whom you could gift an ITN subscription. Twenty-six bucks is cheap for a year's worth of magazines, and for your friends outside of the US, a $15 online-only subscription is an even better bargain!