Friday, April 22, 2016

hotel booking hazards

NOTE:     This blog has no ads and I'm not beholden to hotels, cruise lines, tour companies or airlines, and that's why I can offer my readers the truth about all of the above + offer the many ways to enjoy comfort traveling for less.

This post is mainly about hotel booking hazards, but I also want to inform my readers it is a good  to apply for membership in the hotel groups for your pocketbook category—if you live in a country where a hotel group contracts with a special booking service authorized to directly represent them, do call the Hotel Group's main office & ask for confirmation from the Customer Relations Department.  

Remember, if you use Expedia & others, then you are subject to Expedia's cancellation policies + booking rules only.  

Hotel group membership also provides discounts + the process for complaints are handled in a businesslike fashion.  In the event of cancellation, I know that  e-mails are sent with reference numbers noting the cancellation.  I've also discovered that booking directly with a well-known hotel group whether in the states or based overseas, a non-cancellation booking gives me a great price for a reservation within 2 months of arrival.   At the last minute the price can be even better for a "non-cancellation" booking. 

When reserving directly for this kind of reservation, before doing so it's always best to check what amenities are available.  If I book a hotel group that I use often, I may get a member's discount in addition to the lower price.  

And yet I became victim of booking a 1 property hotel in New York City late last October—I  forgot to enter the hotel name prefaced by "official site" in my search engine slot & thinking I was speaking directly to the hotel, I determined this property had no advance booking rate, but I needed to be in this location & had already checked other properties nearby to know this was a great rate.  The date was April 14-16.  After an unexpected calendar conflict, I cancelled on November 3 with the number listed on the e-mail reservation confirmation.

When the reservations CSR told me that she wasn’t sure I could cancel, I asked if the CSR call center was located in the US. The  answer was no.  Rather than wait for a call back from her supervisor, I knew there was no reason not to honor my request because the date was 5 + months in advance & I had already determined there was no advance booking rate.

Once again I used my search engine for the hotel & added "official site."  I asked for the manager of the reservations  department & she told me my reservation would be cancelled.  I asked for a cancellation e-mail. The e-mail received was dated November 3rd.  I printed a copy to put in my special file for hotel cancellations.

Yet 5 months later, 4-days before April 14, I received a welcome e-mail from that same hotel service.  I knew I cancelled directly with the hotel.  I found the letter of cancellation  and called the number listed on the welcome-mail I received.  The CSR told me that she had no record of my cancellation—I was pro-active when I asked for a supervisor, threatening to call my state AG Internet fraud department to start an investigation. 

My pro-active attitude resulted in action & I asked for the supervisor's name.  I also gave the cancellation # on the cancellation e-mail.  He noted the same number used in the welcome  e-mail was labeled "itinerary #." After checking his system the supervisor agreed with me. I asked for an e-mail detailing what he told me—however, I also asked for his company ID, which he gave me.  I wanted to have him stay on the line until I received it.  Within a few seconds I did & I thanked him.

Nevertheless, I called the hotel property directly to inform them a bogus reservations service was representing the property with the property name listed on the confirmation e-mail.  The reservations manager checked her records & found the e-mail sent to me—to my surprise the cancellation request dated Nov. 3 was sent directly to the booking service  &  my cancellation e-mail was also sent from the booking service. She claimed that the hotel’s clientele had no complaints about that booking service.
And yet on  the 14th of April I received another welcome e-mail from the same booking service, but I didn't bother to look at the entire e-mail.  Instead, I called the hotel in New York City to report their deceptive practice to my state's AG fraud bureau.  She claimed the booking service had a policy of no cancellation because I received a special price.  I knew this wasn't true because I had checked before paying with my credit card back in late October.  I argued with her but she hung up on me.

My sad tale has a better ending—I went back to the e-mail to print it out to send to my state's AG & that's when I discovered I was sent a bookkeeping  invoice zeroed out, but don't you get fooled & lose money, follow my travels posts for more wise comfort travel tips for less $.


Monday, March 28, 2016

more about traveling without worrying about security and safety

NOTE:     This blog has no ads and I'm not beholden tocruise line, tour companies or airlines, and that's why I can offer to my readers the truth about travel destinations & the many ways to enjoy traveling.

The question of security and safety is paramount in everyone's mind.  

Those who have read my December 16, 2015 post about "safe travel destinations versus bargain destinations - travel predictions for 2016" know that I accurately predicted the problems Europe now faces.  And sadly the spate of bombings and terror threats in Europe is not what I would have wanted to happen, but it did.

I also did suggest a number  of destinations that would give travelers the security and safety they want to create their best travel memories—and just recently, I came upon the American owned and based American Queen Steamboat Company that advertises "Uniquely American River Cruises.  

These river cruises do offer a safe and secure vacation in an area of the country that is too sparsely populated to interest those who want to terrorize and create fear.  However, of particular interest to me is the question of cruise line registry.  This USA river cruise company is American owned and subject to the laws of the United States because this company cruises rivers located in the United States, which means that a ship's cruising contract fully safeguards the traveler insofar as liability for accidents or worse, which is not so for travel outside the US even if the vessel is American owned—see my 2014 posts about the treaty signed by all cruise lines that limits liability and does not allow class action suits (not recognized by Congress) but neither did Congress legislate against it.  

Additionally, I refer my readers to The New York Times article published Jan. 18, 2012 by John Schwartz which reported on the Costa Concordia's tragic accident that took place in Italy and cost many American their lives and gave then injuries that still plague them:  

"Anyone trying to sue Costa Concodia’s corporate parent, Carnival Cruise Lines, though, will find that the company is stoutly protected by international law and by a carefully worded contract that passengers accept when they buy their tickets..." 

and John Schwartz also noted:

"Costa’s contract states that the line will pay no more in cases of death, personal injury and property loss than about $71,000 per passenger. It allows no recovery for mental anguish or psychological damages. It bars class-action suits."

The New YorkTimes writer referred to an Admiralty lawyer based in Pensacola, FL  who said:

“If you read this cruise line ticket, and it doesn’t make your stomach turn, it should,” Mr. McGill said.

Currently, this American owned American river cruise line advertises up to $800 savings per stateroom on select 2016 voyages—these river cruises are in a unique area of the United States, the Pacific Northwest, which offers river cruising on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.  The cruise is 9 days and it is possible to extend the stay with post cruise packages and also "hop on - hop off" premium excursions offered by the cruise company.  For those who prefer to make their own reservations for a post cruise stop or return to stay at a picturesque mountain lodge, this may or may not be a less cost.  And I suggest comparing the cruise company's offerings to making an individual post cruise extended stay.

Another interest to me as a single traveler is the reasonably priced single outside stateroom with veranda balcony that looks more than roomy for a single traveler who would normally have to pay a single supplement which would greatly increase the cruise price.

Although there are Steamboat cruises in the south, those cruises are in areas of "soft targets" that could interest a terrorist.

Sadly, today, travel everywhere in the global world is no longer possible without a terror hazard.

My politically incorrect analysis about considerations for travelers to ponder in 2016 is this:  

for travelers who still want the lure of international travel, there should be the consideration of changing planes and leaving the secure areas of the airport: Australia and New Zealand have strictly controlled immigration & the limited cultural differences in these countries avoids what seems to separate and alienate a generation that has no connection to the country they were born in and where their parents came to find a better life; Singapore has a tight grasp on the population and offers an interesting place to vacation without worry about safety/security once you get there.