Addressing a cruise line, single share rates, tour shopping stops

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Q

Steve, I am enclosing an exchange of correspondence I had with Princess Cruises some months ago. I consider the response from the Passenger Relations Specialist inadequate and, basically, insulting. Although he stated that my letter was being referred to others within the Princess hierarchy, I received no further response. My question to you is twofold: is there any logic to my position on the change in the manner in which repeat passengers attain different levels in the Captain’s Circle and the line’s prejudice in favor of “quantity” rather than “quality,” and why do you think Princess so cavalierly writes off my patronage? — Daniel R. Crough, Media, PA

A

Dear Daniel, the logic to your position is fine, but it’s their program and they’ll probably only change it they get enough other logical complaints. As to why they seemingly wrote you off, don’t you think it was a little drastic when you told them you had no intention of booking future cruises with them? With that statement, it seems to me you cut them off with nothing to gain no matter how they replied.

Q

Steve, I have been to 50 countries and would like to add more to my list. However, I refuse to pay a single supplement. Very few tour companies will “match” anymore. Do you have any other suggestions as to how to find a person to travel with to a specific place? It usually takes me three months or more to accomplish this chore, and it is a chore. — Carol R. Blucher, Mamaroneck, NY

A

Dear Carol, one tour company with a guaranteed-share program is Cosmos (800/221-0090 or www.cosmos.com). They’ll find you a roommate of the same gender or you get a private room without paying a single supplement. Many cruise lines also guarantee share rates; if they cannot find you a roommate, they give you a private cabin at no extra charge.

It’s true that many large tour companies don’t want the responsibility of matching up singles, but smaller companies may be willing to help. Both Cosmos and the cruise lines work with travel agents, and your agent may have other suggestions or even know of another person just like you. Check the travel section of your newspaper for locally organized tours; such trips are often one-time events, with the capability of matching singles.

Consider joining a local travel club or a senior center or an alumni association that also has travel programs and may be willing to help.

As an experiment, I randomly flipped open an edition of ITN, picked the first ad I saw and signed into their website. It was EdlerTreks (800/741-7956 or www. eldertreks.com), offering small-group exotic adventures for travelers 50-plus, and guess what? They say, “If you’re willing to share a room, there is no additional charge. We don’t penalize single travelers — we welcome them.”

Just to make sure this wasn’t a fluke, the second ad I flipped to was Exotic Journeys (800/554-6342 or www.exoticjourneys.com), and their website says, “Single Traveler: If you are alone and wish to travel on a share basis, we will assign you a roommate, if one is available.”

Lastly, rather than finding the trip you want and then trying to find a roommate, consider finding a roommate first (maybe one from a previous trip) and then together plan the trip that suits you both. Good luck!

Q

Steve, my wife and I have traveled a number of times with two large tour companies. It is rather expensive to travel anywhere in the world, and there is so much to see. It has been our experience that no matter where we have traveled, we are expected to use 25% to 35% of the time SHOPPING. We are not shoppers. Is this the customary policy of all tour companies? We found China to be the worst. No matter where we went, the usual lines of tables, covered with souvenirs, were waiting for us. — Russell Davies, Milford, DE

A

Dear Russell, no, it is not the customary policy of all tour companies. Part of the cost of a tour is the guide, the person who has the final say on when and where you travel. Unfortunately, guides receive a very small salary plus tips. If these are modest, the temptation for commissions, finders’ fees or kickbacks from vendors and shops is overwhelming, and if you are on his or her trip, you’ll find yourself and your pocketbook being offered up as often as possible.

As a guide’s income from salary and tips increases, shopping decreases to a level that the group desires. What I mean is a good or well-compensated guide is responsible to read a group’s mood, make judgments, slow or speed up the pace, and add or subtract features to make the tour as enjoyable as possible for all members.

The companies you mentioned attract a wide range of members, most seeking a lower cost. As a hidden cost, I suspect guides are driven to augment their incomes and you’re the victim. Rather than sticking with the two operators you mentioned, experiment with some different operators, and ask these questions up front when booking: 1) What is included? 2) What is not included? 3) How much time will be devoted to shopping?

—Ask Steve is written by Steve Venables.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Q

Steve, I am enclosing an exchange of correspondence I had with Princess Cruises some months ago. I consider the response from the Passenger Relations Specialist inadequate and, basically, insulting. Although he stated that my letter was being referred to others within the Princess hierarchy, I received no further response. My question to you is twofold: is there any logic to my position on the change in the manner in which repeat passengers attain different levels in the Captain’s Circle and the line’s prejudice in favor of “quantity” rather than “quality,” and why do you think Princess so cavalierly writes off my patronage? — Daniel R. Crough, Media, PA

A

Dear Daniel, the logic to your position is fine, but it’s their program and they’ll probably only change it they get enough other logical complaints. As to why they seemingly wrote you off, don’t you think it was a little drastic when you told them you had no intention of booking future cruises with them? With that statement, it seems to me you cut them off with nothing to gain no matter how they replied.

Q

Steve, I have been to 50 countries and would like to add more to my list. However, I refuse to pay a single supplement. Very few tour companies will “match” anymore. Do you have any other suggestions as to how to find a person to travel with to a specific place? It usually takes me three months or more to accomplish this chore, and it is a chore. — Carol R. Blucher, Mamaroneck, NY

A

Dear Carol, one tour company with a guaranteed-share program is Cosmos (800/221-0090 or www.cosmos.com). They’ll find you a roommate of the same gender or you get a private room without paying a single supplement. Many cruise lines also guarantee share rates; if they cannot find you a roommate, they give you a private cabin at no extra charge.

It’s true that many large tour companies don’t want the responsibility of matching up singles, but smaller companies may be willing to help. Both Cosmos and the cruise lines work with travel agents, and your agent may have other suggestions or even know of another person just like you. Check the travel section of your newspaper for locally organized tours; such trips are often one-time events, with the capability of matching singles.

Consider joining a local travel club or a senior center or an alumni association that also has travel programs and may be willing to help.

As an experiment, I randomly flipped open an edition of ITN, picked the first ad I saw and signed into their website. It was EdlerTreks (800/741-7956 or www. eldertreks.com), offering small-group exotic adventures for travelers 50-plus, and guess what? They say, “If you’re willing to share a room, there is no additional charge. We don’t penalize single travelers — we welcome them.”

Just to make sure this wasn’t a fluke, the second ad I flipped to was Exotic Journeys (800/554-6342 or www.exoticjourneys.com), and their website says, “Single Traveler: If you are alone and wish to travel on a share basis, we will assign you a roommate, if one is available.”

Lastly, rather than finding the trip you want and then trying to find a roommate, consider finding a roommate first (maybe one from a previous trip) and then together plan the trip that suits you both. Good luck!

Q

Steve, my wife and I have traveled a number of times with two large tour companies. It is rather expensive to travel anywhere in the world, and there is so much to see. It has been our experience that no matter where we have traveled, we are expected to use 25% to 35% of the time SHOPPING. We are not shoppers. Is this the customary policy of all tour companies? We found China to be the worst. No matter where we went, the usual lines of tables, covered with souvenirs, were waiting for us. — Russell Davies, Milford, DE

A

Dear Russell, no, it is not the customary policy of all tour companies. Part of the cost of a tour is the guide, the person who has the final say on when and where you travel. Unfortunately, guides receive a very small salary plus tips. If these are modest, the temptation for commissions, finders’ fees or kickbacks from vendors and shops is overwhelming, and if you are on his or her trip, you’ll find yourself and your pocketbook being offered up as often as possible.

As a guide’s income from salary and tips increases, shopping decreases to a level that the group desires. What I mean is a good or well-compensated guide is responsible to read a group’s mood, make judgments, slow or speed up the pace, and add or subtract features to make the tour as enjoyable as possible for all members.

The companies you mentioned attract a wide range of members, most seeking a lower cost. As a hidden cost, I suspect guides are driven to augment their incomes and you’re the victim. Rather than sticking with the two operators you mentioned, experiment with some different operators, and ask these questions up front when booking: 1) What is included? 2) What is not included? 3) How much time will be devoted to shopping?

—Ask Steve is written by Steve Venables.