Sunday, May 25, 2014

Be a knowledgeable travel consumer

As I promised in my last post, when I settled my dispute with Cunard then I would come back to my readers with the result of my diligent use of what is available in my state to address consumer issues—I started with Better Business Bureau, and I found using this method is not going to help resolve an issue with a travel agent, or any other business, this is a business site, and they favor the business you are complaining about.  I sent through 3 rounds of answers and after the last round the Better Business Bureau mediator asked me if I was satisfied with the travel agents reply.  I wrote back to say that Direct Line Cruises has not offered a settlement, and I was not satisfied since that the agency claimed they aren't responsible for what happened when I was on board the Queen Mary 2.    

I waited a few days before I went online and put in the name of the travel agency site in my search engine, and then I saw the Better Business Bureau listing below had given Direct Line Cruises an award for customer satisfaction—they listed 3 complaints as satisfactorily settled—I used the link and saw that my complaint was listed as advice:  DON'T COMPLAIN TO THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU.

The next source I used was my state Consumer Fraud Bureau—I filed an online complaint, and within a week I received an email from the clerk who was handling my file, and the clerk suggested that the Attorney General would be the best source of help for me.  I called the Consumer Fraud Bureau and gave them the file #, and I was connected to the clerk who wrote me the e-mail.  I asked if she could forward my file to the Attorney General's office, and she said she would.  I waited 2 weeks and then I called the Attorney General's Consumer help line, and I advised the lawyer who answered what the Consumer Fraud Bureau clerk had told me—that's when I learned that the Consumer Fraud Bureau had not sent my file, and I was told that this is the usual result of filing a complaint with the Consumer Fraud Bureau. 

I was advised to write the Attorney General's office in my area and send all the particulars with copies of whatever will prove my claim—I must have been lucky at that point—the lawyer told me that the travel agency's compliance would be voluntary and that they hadn't had too much success in settling claims.  He told me to try the US Federal Maritime Agency, and gave me a telephone number that was at no charge to me.  He also noted that I should make a complaint to the Maritime Consumer Line, since the Maritime Agency established a special department to resolve lost cargo and baggage shipped by sea.  And he suggested that it wouldn't hurt to send them a complaint as well.

A number of lucky coincidences aided me to get a settlement from Cunard that was more acceptable that the $100 check they sent me, which I sent back.  With the US Federal Maritime Agency's help, my complaint re the contract with Cunard to store my luggage for which I paid, was diligently handled by the lawyer in charge of the Consumer department, her assistant contacted Carnival's law department.  The Carnival lawyer resubmitted my claim to the Cunard dba Princess Cruise claim department, and I received another interpretation of baggage loss which made no sense insofar as the explanation—Cunard dba Princess Cruises Claims Manager listed the Athens 1979 Convention's baggage loss compiled in Euros and then converted to dollars, which was considerably more than the original $100 sent to me so disdainfully.

My loss was not completely covered but the settlement offered was almost the price of the one-way transatlantic cruise—I was sent a legal document to sign that absolved Cunard from any legal action on my part, and absolved them from any wrong doing.

All in all, my pursuit for justice took 7 months, I still haven't received the check, but Carnival must be holding their money for accounting purposes, and it may take a few months before I receive it. 

And, the Attorney General in my state forwarded my complaint to one of their offices in the same county as Direct Line Cruises, I still haven't heard, perhaps something else will develop re a settlement for my considerable loss, this time maybe the travel agency will step up to their responsibility.

Watch for my next post...

The motto of a knowledgeable consumer should be, ask questions before you book a cruise, keep in mind what happened to me, and ask questions before you book a tour—it's a good idea to check out what the airline you book will pay for lost baggage, and what they are willing to do in the event your flight is cancelled and you are left stranded at a stopover.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

comforttravel@less$: the travel agency fidicuary duty...

comforttravel@less$: the travel agency fidicuary duty...: PLEASE NOTE:  BUYER BEWARE!  by using a "Cruise Line Official Travel Agency" to book your cruise be aware that CLIA (Cruise Line A...

the travel agency fidicuary duty...

PLEASE NOTE:  BUYER BEWARE!  by using a "Cruise Line Official Travel Agency" to book your cruise be aware that CLIA (Cruise Line Association) affiliated travel agencies, are NOT required to have the travel agency fiduciary duty to their customers—clearly stated this means that if you book through such a travel agency you HAVE agreed to the agency "disclosure" that I will paraphrase: "It should be understood this agency is just a facilitator for transfer of customer funds to the cruise lines."    This means that when customers of cruise line agencies are booking a cruise with a CLIA affiliated travel agency, if any problems arise while on board the ship they are sailing the ocean in a canoe without a paddle.

When you use a travel agency that sells travel products in addition to cruises they may also be CLIA affiliated agencies, it is ALSO buyer beware! WHEN BOOKING A CRUISE—though, if you use the same travel agency to arrange other travel products, such as airline tickets, hotels, and tour products, they are travel industry association members of ASTA and IATA—these associations require their agency members to demonstrate a fiduciary duty when booking travel products—if something goes wrong the travel agency is responsible for offering whatever maybe necessary to correct the wrong.  When a resolution is NOT forthcoming from the travel agency then  IATA and ASTA are the ones to contact with notice that one of their appointed travel agencies has been negligent of the fiduciary duty.  ASK FOR AN INVESTIGATION AS TO WHETHER THE AGENCY LICENSE SHOULD BE REVOKED.

It is my experience that Cunard Lines has a disdain for Americans who rely on the terms of a Cunard Line storage contract:   a promise of "insurance cover" for storage of luggage at the Cunard Southampton UK storage facility for the sum of  $65 for a period of not more than 30 days, which the ship's Purser offers transatlantic passengers needing storage while traveling elsewhere before return to the ship.  

The Cunard storage contract with me was entered into while en route to Southampton UK., but as an American, I have sadly discovered that Cunard is no longer a venerable and respected ship line.  And I cannot resolve the issue directly with Cunard due to the fact that Princess Cruises dba Cunard is located in Santa Clarita CA.and Princess Cruises Claims Department dba Cunard is also dba Carnival Cruise Lines.

In my case, "Princess Cruise Lines" dba for Cunard dba Carnival Cruises Line Claims Department refuses to acknowledge the Cunard Line storage contract.  The Princess Cruises dba Cunard dba Carnival Cruise Line Claims Department cites the "Passage Contract" (I have warned about this document in my previous blogs which every major cruise line passenger must approve when they pay for their cruise but in the Cunard dba Carnival Cruises Lines "Passage Contract" there is no "I accept" or "I decline")—the Cunard Line "Passage Contract" refers to 1979 Athens Convention (which the US Congress never signed) in #14:  "You agree that Carrier's liability for loss or damage to baggage or personal property is limited to U.S. $250 per guest..."  

The Princess Cruises DBA Cunard dba Carnival Cruise Line Claims Department in Santa Clarita, CA.  refuses to recognize the Cunard Line storage contract.  BUT, if I was a citizen of the UK, Cunard Line would be responsible for my loss.  And it is clear that Cunard dba Carnival Cruise Line Passage Contract which cites "1979 Athens Convention" definition for loss of luggage IS NOT the Cunard Line "storage contract" wherein a sum of money was paid for "storage with insurance cover." 

It's BUYER BEWARE!!  for Americans booking any Cunard cruise.  This ship line maintains its main office in Southampton UK and Americans must use Princess Cruises dba Cunard dba Carnival Cruise lines Claims Department in Santa Clarita CA if any problems arise, WHICH includes death, injury and any other issue that may threaten a passenger while on board.

To date my problem remains unresolved:  the "Official Cruise Line Agency" Direct Line Cruises (located at Hauppauge, L.I. in New York state) who booked my back to back transatlantic cruises SAY they aren't responsible for the contract made with Cunard and THEY cite the "Disclosure Notice" (see above paragraph one).   The Cunard Line refuses to accept liability for my luggage lost at Cunard Storage Southampton UK because I am not a citizen of the UK.  The Princess Cruises dba Cunard dba Carnival Cruise Line Claim Dept. didn't bother to reply to my October 31st, 2013 $6900 itemized claim for loss of my luggage; on Jan. 2nd they sent me a check for $100 (which I returned) with no letter or explanation, and it took until Feburary 2014 (6 months) for me to find out that my luggage was deemed lost within 10 days after it was first reported on Oct. 8, 2013. 

In my next blog I will tell you what resolution steps I have taken that involves the State of New York, and what I have done to inform the Better Business Bureau of a "buyer beware" re Direct Line Cruises; if you look for Direct Line Cruises on the Internet, you will see the travel agency website, and the BBB notice of 3 complaints, 2 (which includes mine) which are service oriented and remain unresolved.   FYI:  "service" when referring to a travel agency is synonymous with fiduciary duty.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

*N0TE: For those of you who have faithfully come to read this blog I apologize for what is a necessarily a blog that has no particular posting schedule—my aim with my now 5 blogs total is to collect what I've written to publish as a Print and E-book—you can read all of my blogs on the Internet free here and on other blog sites (see below for the urls of my blogs). I also plan to share my blogs on Wattpad, which I will do at some point when I've completed the first of my series of hub city travel guides No More Hotels In Paris: Hub City Travel Guide
And when my 2014 CynthiaLynnBookWorks publishing projects with the fiction writer J. R. Camelback are completed, and I am sharing here the covers of these books:

here are my other blog urls:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

the state of comfort travel in 2014

The idea of this comfort travel at less blog, is not only a how-to from my personal experience, but I'm featuring what's new that my readers can use for their benefit.

First of all, watch your back when you take a Carnival affiliate company cruise—they own most of the major cruise lines and use the same passenger contract that signs away the right to sue of unwitting cruisers.  According to Ashly Fantz  when you get sick or anything else happens when you cruise it's not so easy to sue, says this CNN travel reporter, also, a one person undertaking cost $$$, and the CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin advises it's best to get on with life.  The more bad cruise news happened just the other day, another outbreak of severe illness of a cruise line .

Do ask yourself why Congress is so uninterested in protecting the rights of US cruise passengers, yet doesn't hesitate to cite airlines and cause potential bankruptcies on the consumer behalf.

As for what's available in technology this year— I'm offering what my readers can derive at old standy Internet sites like Airbnb  that can set filters to show private rooms and houses.  For those of you that still want a hotel there are Internet sites to book re offer a refund if you discover that a comparable hotel nearby is available for less .  There's another hotel booking site on the Internet with a twist of sorts which guarantees help to locate a hotel where you want and says it does alert you if the price drops so you can rebook.  Though it seems to me it may be too late when you get an alert if you are too late to cancel and rebook.

Ho hum, perhaps the above will bring some $$ savings, but I'm partial to my old standby of "do it yourself" investigation.  You can
rely on what I recommended in my previous blog, re what I did to find comfort hotels at less $$ when I prepared for my 2013 24 day travel adventure.  And I did pass along the results, all excellent with a proven value that compared better against local comparables, and contented my comfort zone.  Also, I gave my readers the truth about my ill fated roundtrip transatlantic disaster on the Cunard. 

Keep in mind that I advise all my readers who want to cruise, not to do it because of that pesky signing away your rights when you purchase the tickets.  Though I'm not aware of any cruise travel agency, or CLIA (the travel agency cruiseline Association that promotes the cruises lines), will even admit that what is in the passenger contract is necessary to alert clients about "before they purchase."

Don't expect accuracy with some travel help offered by the venerable New York Times "Travel" section—in a recent roundup of 2014 travel offerings the mention of a Google app at "" brought up an app featuring a field manual for guns, not an alert that you have on your Iphone or Android phone re attractions plus historical sites as you are traveling.  I did my usual careful research and found out that Google's apps are for the most part no longer free and cost $$.  Another peeve against major newspapers with travel sections, like "The New York Times" that feature articles by travel writers who anoint certain individuals as master detectives, for instance, of "hole in the wall" restaurants—that too, is less than accurate. My accurate research did find a wikipedia listing for a food critic that no longer works for "The Village Voice."

Yet you can trust this blog for researched and accurate reports that are not sponsored, which in this day and age is a rarity.  I encourage you to contact me to suggest future blogs that will be a benefit to all the readers of this comforttravel at less $$ blog.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

places and people to remember are travel treasures

The photo you see of the Le Havre rocky port side beach with its azure colored water so clear that it is possible to look down into the rocky depths below is one of my most recent travel treasures, which keeps me from the doldrums during this east coast USA winter of frigid cold, constant snow, and cloud filled days without the sun.

Yet the beginning of 2014 leaves me with travel angst about staying in the US and spending my money in my country this coming year—when compared with prices in the US for similar priced properties, I found that as usual, 3rd and 4th class European chain hotels offer more bang for your buck, even when  you figure the Euro conversion—the cleaning staff are hardworking and consider what they do as integral to the reputation of their employer, and they really know how to clean a hotel room. 

I've stayed at some major US chain hotels with franchise owners that are not representative of the product they franchise, but I know when I go abroad, sight unseen, with a tourism class distinction I can count on receiving what is expected, because there are consequences for not offering the requirements listed.

When I was looking through the notes of  I kept about my recent challenging 24-day travel experience, I found the names of the crew at the Mercure Le Havre Centre Bassin du Commerce—Christophe, Peggy, Gwen, Domineque and Mathew, who were there to help with any problems, also actually cared about my well-being—these are the people I remember in Le Havre who were genuinely devoted to giving the best service, and worthy employees of  the hotel that they strived to make a place of refuge for this weary traveler.

My choice of 4th class chain hotel properties to book during my stay at Red Hook just a few blocks away from the Cunard Brooklyn Port, Germany, France and the UK was a good one—the value of chain hotels is multifold—advance bookings during the off season are usually offered at special prices, also the employees are solicitous and aiming to please.

The Choice Hotels and Mercure properties I stayed at had loyal employees who were well-trained, they granted all the requests that I made, which included additional heating, more pillows, more coffee and tea packets, plus maps and other guides to the surrounding neighborhood—as well they were hotel efficients, and made sure that I was given a paid in full printed bill prior to my departure, better yet, I had no unpleasant surprises re charges for items that I did not authorize.

It's been my experience that chain hotels care more about their reputation, and are interested in maintaining good consumer relations, while the independent small property in Europe may not be as responsive regarding their guest's complaints. 

In a foreign country the laws and cultures differ.  Also what is a complaint to an American may be a slur to another culture, and if there is a dispute about payment and overcharges, the owner of an independent property may be absent which means no immediate solution.  Command of the language is necessary to explain what happened, yet there too it's necessary to contact the right person.  If you are traveling on a schedule, it's best to stay at properties that are reliable, shop in department stores, and eat in restaurants that display menus with set prices for each item, then if tourism classified that will be noted too, which will offer you more quality control.

Then if you are not satisfied because you did not receive what you expected, you can complain to the tourism bureau by letter citing specifics (by e-mail in English). 

For chain hotel complaints, you should always ask for the General Manager of the hotel property, and if they are not available ask for the Manager on duty.   Be persistent, but polite, and don't be intimidated, or accept anything but an immediate meeting to discuss your concerns.  Get the corporate address, which is easily obtainable on the Internet, then contact the chain corporate management, usually the VP of Consumer Relations.

Do be aware that taking a tour in a foreign country means finding out if the tour operator is locally recognized and is tourism accredited—taking tours with independents means you have no guarantee as to what you will be receiving for the price you are paying—and using small independents may also involve transport in substandard vehicles which can be can be hazardous.

Expectations can ruin any vacation, but as I noted above these are the ways to guarantee that at least you can expect no more not comfortable hotels...and in 2014,  I'll discuss more about the ins and outs of traveling with comfort for less dollars.