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PRESENTING THE WORLD’S MOST COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL Q&A

Please note that all of your questions are color-coded for easy access (latest questions appear at top)
All travel questions not related to cruises or riverboats appear in Red.
All cruise related questions appear in Blue
All riverboat related questions appear in Green

  • TRAVEL TO EAST AFRICA GIVEN DROUGHT

    Q – As you know, we want to return to Africa. As we ponder other travel possibilities – East Africa specifically – we are wondering what your thoughts are about the current drought conditions.  Multiple news stories portray conditions that are dire in Kenya & Tanzania – people and animals dying from lack of food and water, etc.  We know that you always filter through the hype – is it hype? Or is this not the ideal time to go to East Africa? Would we experience less-than-ideal conditions that would provide a very different experience for us?

    Thank you for your valued opinions. And, thank you for all of your assistance to ensure the best travel experiences. We value our relationship.

    A – Thanks so much for your thoughtful and considerate question regarding East Africa. Please allow us to respond with just a few observations:

    01 – You can see as many animals and experience higher-end camp accommodations in South Africa and Botswana. If that is an option you might want to consider it.

    02 – Yes, the drought is real. And its effects in East Africa are demonstrable. It is not exaggerated. But we have had similar conditions in some of the western areas of the United States. It is interesting that if you draw a line down the middle of the United States landing in, say, Austin, Texas, you would find that 80% of the US population lives to the east of that dividing line. That is partially due to dry conditions out west.

    03 – When you go on safari you are rarely, if ever, in view of local villages suffering malnutrition. Yes, they are out there, and often not a very long distance from the camps where the tourists are staying, but a safari is one of life’s most fulfilling and upscale experiences. These are not poverty tours.

    04 – If one is sensitive to the suffering in, for example, certain drier portions of Kenya, you could decide not to go. But we think there is another important side to that question. If all the safari tourism dried up in East Africa would the children and the adults in the country suffer even more? I believe the answer is a clear yes.

    If, for example, we book you on a highly recommended tour with Micato Safaris, your support of Micato would result in a local child being able to attend a good school for an entire year. Many of the other African travel suppliers operate similar programs and, in some cases, they sponsor schools and local development projects. We can state for sure that your presence in Africa will make a major impact on a child’s life. That is why we support these companies and that is how we can justify tourism in an area where many are suffering the immediate results of climate change.

    There are all sorts of ethical issues involved in your question and each guest has to decide where they come out on this issue. Our experience tells us that tourism in both East and Southern African achieves far more good for the local economy than the alternative of avoiding travel to the area.

  • WE ARE DUE A REFUND FROM OUR HOTEL BECAUSE WE BOOKED IT DIRECTLY

    Q – Just back from a one-week stay at the Marriott in New York. As recommended, when checking out I asked that the built-in travel agent commission be taken off our bill since I had booked this personally on the phone directly with the hotel’s own reservation staff. They refused and mumbled something about “they always charge the full price”.  We had stayed for a week and at 10% I figure that we were overcharged by more than $1000. What is the next step? Do I contact our Attorney General’s office, contact the credit card company etc?

    A – if you want to get action on this you should begin by contacting Ritz Carlton Guest Services and give them a reasonable time to respond. If they don’t get back to you within five days you might post this on Twitter and Facebook on the hotel’s guest site. If you want some government help to recover the travel agent commission we would suggest that you reach out to the Office of Consumer Affairs in your state. Hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators should not be charging you the significant built-in travel agent commission if you never used an agent. They are simply pocketing money, which we believe, is rightfully yours. We should point out that many hotels tack on an 8% rather than a 10% commission to your nightly bill. For cruise lines and tour operators, that figure can average 15-17%.  

    We doubt that your credit card company will be of much help. This consumer revolt against travel companies charging guests the travel agent commission when no travel agent was involved is starting to garner attention – but not from the travel press. No one wants to upset this extremely profitable travel apple cart. We are guessing that the impetus for change will come from people like you who are fed up with being secretly charged for travel agent services they never received.


  • AM I OWED A FAIR AMOUNT OF MONEY BECAUSE I HAVE NEVER USED A TRAVEL AGENT?

    Q –  3.12.22 – I have to say that I was rather shocked to come across your traveltruth site and then your other consumer sites. Great job! I am a VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 firm. Over the past four years, I’ve been traveling constantly while also taking cruise vacations and two trips to Hawaii along with separate tours I booked to France and a memorable trip to Egypt with Insight that included a Nile Cruise.

    Here’s the thing. I have to submit receipts and I keep careful notes. I have flown well over a million miles on Delta and United. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars at hotels and on six cruises and two expensive escorted tours. And not once did I ever use a travel agent! I booked everything myself. I suppose that is just because I am so used to doing it myself.

    Now, I start reading your site and I realize that I have been duped into paying the travel agent commission of “10-15%” even though I’ve spent weeks of my life on hold with call centers to book direct. I calculate that I am owed close to $20,000 in pocketed commissions set aside for the travel agent I never used. I want that money returned to me. 

    I’ve read your advice as to how to proceed to recover the commission these companies simply pocket because we consumers are so ignorant. But I am not at all sure how the system works in terms of recovering commissions kept by airlines or car rental firms, as well as hotels. I would really appreciate some feedback about getting the refunds back from those three entities.

    I know that I was ripped off by the tour companies and cruise lines and I am pursuing the refund of the agent commissions in those cases. Fortunately, per your suggestions, I have saved all my paperwork. Thanks so much for revealing the travel industry’s dirty little secret.

    A – We’ve started getting a fair amount of questions on this topic and we expect that the consumer travel press will soon pick up on it. Those who write about the travel industry but don’t actually work in it are generally unaware of this industry practice.

    You cover several kinds of travel bookings in your question. Here is a summary of what you need to know:

    Airlines stopped paying commissions to travel agents many years ago. Most agents survive by charging fees to process airline tickets. Pursuing a commission refund with the airlines would be both inappropriate and a waste of your time. 

    Rental car firms have intricate contractual arrangements with travel providers and often commissions are not included. Again, many agents simply tack on fees for this type of transaction. Again, likely a waste of your time.

    Hotels are a different story. All hotel pricing includes a travel agent commission of from 8-10%. If you are not using a travel agent, you should be entitled to a refund of the agent commission. Savvy guests always request a return of the agent commission at check-out. Do note however that refund on a direct booking will be lower for a hotel booking than it would be for the cruise or escorted tour refund which can run as high as 17%.

    Cruise lines and tour firms follow the same general policies. They always include the travel agent commission in the price charged to those who book direct. That commission will normally range from 12-17%. These are funds, theoretically,  set aside for payment to travel agents for the services they provide.

    All direct booking pricing always includes the travel agent commission. When you do not use a travel agent, common sense would dictate that you are entitled to have the commission taken off your invoice.

    In States with strong consumer protection laws like California, New York, and Massachusetts, for instance, it is our opinion that retaining the travel agent commission when none was used, is likely a violation of consumer rights provisions in the law. But, to our knowledge, no one has ever questioned this practice legally.

    That may change as consumers and the consumer press start revealing this major industry secret and rather extensive consumer rip-off.

  • GIVEN CURRENT AIRFARE PRICING, I’M FEELING LIKE THE ‘TURKEY’ THIS THANKSGIVING. WHEN SHOULD WE BOOK OUR FLIGHTS FOR NEXT THANKSGIVING?


    Q – We are taking the family to see family in Denver for Thanksgiving, including a particular branch of the family that buys into every conspiracy theory on God’s earth. They actually believe that high Holiday airfares are controlled by a cabal designed to keep families from connecting with one another. I won’t bore you with some of the other stuff they believe today. But here’s my point: I am going to be paying $723 Per Person for the four of us to fly out to see them. That’s a coach fare. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I truly love my wife, I am doomed to repeat the trip again next year. How can I save on these fares next year? 

    A – We’re not at all conspiratorial but a “cabal” managing extraordinarily high airfares over the Holidays when families need to travel, is really not anything we would rhetorically rule out. This is a case where you want to be among the first 20% to book your seats. Book them at 12:20 am. on the morning eleven months prior to the date of your planned return flight. The flights for that day will be loaded at midnight so do what the air nerds do and set the alarm. On average, it takes about 20 minutes for the servers to load the new flights. This may save you some money but it is a procedure most often used by frequent flyers who will be planning to use miles and who are guessing that two or three mileage seats will be available on any Holiday flight. Good luck. 

  • AS A SOUTHERNER I LOVE MY DELTA – BUT THE HOLD TIMES ARE TURNING ME GREY

    Q – 11.19.22  – As a true southerner, I do share the belief of most of my neighbors that when we pass we will have to go through a Delta security gate to enter the promised land. That said, the hold times lately have been driving me crazy, especially when I have last-minute questions, changes, or confirmations. The prompt e-mail responses just don’t seem to be arriving. I could care less about UA or AA, they barely know where the south is. But is there any way to get through to Delta that might be a back-door secret? These hold times are turning my beard grey. 

    A – It is a growing problem but we would have thought that a grey beard might be a plus in your neighborhood. Delta does have a number that should get you right through but it only works within 48 hours of your departure time. Dial 1-855-548-2505. And don’t worry – we won’t let any other Delta fliers know about this trick. 

  • IS THAT CORNER SUITE UNDER $20,000 A NIGHT? AMEN AMAN

    Q – We have become addicted, if I can use that word, to Aman Resorts, We have thoroughly enjoyed their properties throughout Asia believing that there really is nothing better on this planet in terms of accommodations and service. Last Tuesday, we came home from a stay at the new Aman property in Manhattan. Our entry-level suite was $3200 a night, which was more, but not that much more than we have paid for past stays. There was something so special about this property – my wife and I loved that it was a true oasis of calm. Looking out the windows to the crowded streets below, we heard no traffic, no sirens, and no honking horns. 

    So two quick questions: Do you have any idea if Aman is planning on opening any more properties in urban areas of the US? Also noticed a lovely corner suite. Can you give us a rough idea of what that would cost us if we decide to upgrade next time? Thanks very much. Keep up the good work. 

    A – The corner suite is running $15,000 per night this week. The news about Aman’s plans to open additional city properties based on their “urban oasis” long-term goals is good. There is currently a four-year plan to open new Aman properties in central Bangkok, Miami Beach, and, need you ask, Beverly Hills. On the day it opens its doors, the Aman property will become the chicest of all Hollywood haunt. The “influencers” will be falling over one another at the front entrance.

  • DO WE WANT TO CONNECT THROUGH TORONTO OR ZURICH?

    Q -We are leaving on an Avalon River Cruise on the Rhine. Given what we are reading about the airline situation in Europe, we are confused about how to arrange our air. Our agent has come up with an hour connection through Toronto or an hour-and-a-half connecting time in Zurich. Do we go with the Canadians? Zurich is one of several “secret” airports that have unusually high “connections made” statistics. The others include Vienna and Munich. 

    A – No. One hour is just cutting it too close and you might not have clean clothes until the fourth day of your cruise. Toronto’s airport is understaffed. In this scenario, Zurich is the safer bet. In fact, Swiss nonstops from the States into Zurich with onward connections is a secret used by many air pros. And even if you miss your connection – you will be in Switzerland. We trust that your agent has built in at least one hotel night on arrival prior to your joining the Avalon riverboat. It is not widely known that the major Canadian airports have been encountering serious operational problems that have resulted in delay issues that are among the worst of major airports worldwide. Staffing shortages are the primary reason for the chaos that is particularly bad in  Toronto and Montreal 


  • ARE THERE COLLEGE CLASSES I SHOULD TAKE TO BECOME A TRAVEL AGENT?

    Q – I am thinking of joining the travel industry. Are there college classes I will need to take to get certified to offer travel counseling and handle people’s vacations?

    A- The short answer is that the only requirement is that you must have spent an hour in an International House of Pancakes at least once in your life. The vast majority of travel agents are unlicensed and not, in any way certified. The more professional agents will take courses and seek product certification as they spend time in the industry.

    The best path to a worthy entry into travel is to decide what kind of agency might come closest to meeting your interests and then find the very best one. See if the owner will hire you as an intern in your area of interest. Don’t expect to handle clients for six months. Oh, one other thing. Please don’t even consider entering this industry unless you have lived and traveled abroad for at least six months. That’s how you get a “Real Life License”. 


  • WHEN DO WE BOOK SPAIN GIVEN THE CURRENT HIGH PRICES?

    Q – This is one of those annoying questions about cost issues. We want to plan a trip to Spain and Portugal in the next few months but we are reading that hotel rates and airfares are going up significantly compared to where they were pre-Covid. Should we cancel the trip for a year or two in the hope that prices will come down?

    A – No not at all. Your average air and hotel costs are going to rise in the range of 25-40%. That is likely a permanent change with prices likely going even higher based on projected demand in 2025-26. The side of the price story often missed is that the dollar has almost achieved parity with the value of the Euro. This means that your dollar gets you more Euros than it has at any time since Spain and other European countries adopted the Euro as their common currency. Food and shopping costs have never been better for Americans traveling to Euro nations. This will more than compensate for initial, air, hotel, and tour costs. We would not recommend delaying your trip for reasons related to pricing. The dollar is stronger against the Euro than it has been in many years and prices are only going up given the debt loads of many companies that had to shut down for two years due to Covid. It would be a mistake to delay this trip. 


  • IS ROYAL CARIBBEAN RIGHT FOR OUR FAMILY – YOU DO NOT SEEM TO MENTION THIS LINE


    Q – We are thinking of bringing our family of fourteen on a cruise or land tour. The group would have five kids between the ages of five and seventeen. We have looked at a Globus tour as well as a cruise on Royal Caribbean – both in Europe. We will travel in the summer when schools are out. Love to have any advice you might offer in terms of our options. We are concerned that Royal Caribbean does not appear in your ratings at all.

    A – Given the major age differences in the family, we feel strongly that Royal Caribbean, with its wide assortment of kids’ activities and facilities, would be the best option in this case. It would also provide the adults with some time away from the kids. On the right itinerary, the kids can get a wonderful European overview.

    We don’t know what your travel style is so please note that Royal Caribbean is not among the world’s top-ten rated cruise lines. (Source Cruisetruth.com) But not a single one of the cruise lines that cater to kids/families would be on that list nor would any line with several thousand passengers and low per-guest space ratios. The kids, any kids, will love Royal Caribbean. And if they are happy – we suspect you will be as well.

  • BE HONEST – SHOULD WE BRING OUR DAUGHTER ON THIS TAUCK TOUR?


    Q – What do you think of the idea of bringing our 18-and-a-half-year-old extraordinary daughter on a Tauck Family Bridges Tour to Italy this coming August before she is off to Boston to start college?

    A – Strong opinion on this one – we would not book the family on a Tauck Bridges tour because you could have twenty or more younger children in the group. You should take your college-bound daughter on one of the excellent Italy tour programs operated by Tauck for adults. We think your daughter will appreciate the adult conversations along the way.


  • CAN YOU SHARE ONE BIT OF ADVICE FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO FRANCE?


    Q – Thanks so much for the best travel site we’ve ever found. The missing ads are not missed at all. My husband and I are off on a twice-delayed trip to Paris and the French Riviera. We’ve had lots of time to prepare and we’ve read everything we can about Paris, particularly the pieces written by your idol, Mr. Bourdain. My husband suggested that I write in with one simple question – what is the first bit of advice you give your clients headed off to France?

    A – Use “ Bonjour” before ever addressing anyone in France. You walk into a bar and the waiter comes up – says “Bonjour”. It is more than a greeting in France. It is an acknowledgment that, unlike your predecessors, you are a polite American who understands that this word or the lack of it, makes an immediate impression on any French citizen. When you first meet a waiter or pass the check-in desk always say Bonjour. It means far more than “hello”. It means that you still value human interaction and polite greetings. It is the start of all human contact in France. Have a memorable journey and thank you for your kind words.


  • WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SICILY IN MID-OCTOBER? WILL THE RESTAUANTS BE CLOSED?

    Q – My wife and I try to keep up with travel and we keep seeing articles in the press that make us think that travel to Italy anywhere near June – July – August is looking for trouble. The heat waves seem to be truly worrisome and we keep reading about long lines. That brings us to a long-delayed driving trip we want to do in Sicily (we are in our mid-seventies and in fairly decent shape). We are thinking about going around the 15th of October and we are wondering if you think that is a good idea? Is Sicily safe? How would we go about booking such a trip?  

    A – It isn’t a good idea – it is actually rather brilliant. There is this thing called “Climate Change” and it has made the southern extremities of Italy heat hazardous in the mid-summer months. About 75% of the tourists will be gone and the heat should be a non-issue in October. But here’s the thing – the Sicilians do not, as a rule, have a summe place in Boaca Raton. They will be there and the cafes will be busy. The restauants will be open but you may be able to snag a preferred outdoor table. 

    Sicily has seen some attacks on tourists but your primary worry will be world-class pickpockets in crowded areas. But as much as the country enjoys a reputation for mibbed-up residents, Sicily is considerably safer than most US cities and their concept of “Freedom” does not include arming every member of the population. You will need to be cautious about where you stay and where you park. 

    The big decision will likely be whether or not to use Palermo or Catania as a base. We vote for Catania, a Baroque town, Sicily’s second largest city, welll-located on the eastern coast of the island. How you book depends on your budget. Many luxury advisors will not handle self-driving trips as there are just too many non-commissionable variables. If you belong to AAA in your state you may find their services for such a trip on your own to be useful. They do offer extensive mapping services and they can make all hotel arrangements. 

    If you want priovate guides, good ones, and some of the best hotels available, use the services of an advisor who belongs to one of the top Travel advisor consortiums. Contact us if you need recommendations for one of the better firms near your place of domicile. Learn some Italian before the trip. Traveling on your own requires this extra step. One final thought – learn how to play a decent game of Bocce before you depart. It will come in handy. 


  • IS VIKING – AS CLAIMED – THE WORLD’S BEST CRUISE LINE?
    • Q- 8.6.22 –  How can Viking Cruises claim it had consistently been voted the world’s best cruise line when, based on Cruisetruth information, it clearly isn’t? Are there any laws in travel related to the claims made by various cruise lines or tour operators as to the quality of the product and whether or not they are actually five-star or something different? I mean they can’t all be “The World’s Best” – can they?
    • A – If you read the wording on the awards they will usually read Reader’s Choice” or words to that effect. That means the readers of the various publications have sent in votes for their favorites in assorted categories. Publications are motivated to list as many awards as possible so the various cruise lines can use them in their advertising. As Viking continues to grow, the sheer number of past guests will grow to provide a nice reserve of potential “Best”  voters. Look for them to win many more “Reader Choice” type awards. There is so much more we can say on this topic but, for today, let’s allow Viking to make their claim. In fact, there are other lines that make far more outrageous claims in their brochures and advertising. For the most part, Viking lists the awards it has won but makes no claims of five-star status that we have detected.  It is sadly true that “Truth in Advertising” statutes have rarely, if ever, been applied to the travel industry. These firms are essentially allowed to use words like “five-star”, “deluxe”, and “top-rated” with impunity. That, by the way, is one reason that we launched Cruisetruth almost two decades ago. 

       
  • Cruise Questions in Blue – Riverboat in Green – All Others in Red


     Q –  7.28.22 –  I really need some help with this one. In five weeks I am scheduled to do a 12-Day cruise on Regent Seven Seas to the British Isles. Well, as it happens, I am 82 and rather susceptible to Covid. In addition, the temperatures in London and other parts of the UK are in record territory with hardly any air conditioning.I just don’t want to risk my health for this cruise and would like a refund but Regent is refusing. I would switch to another sailing and I don’t see why they are being unreasonable. I did not take out any travel insurance for this trip. I have little interest in being forced to endure England’s heat wave. Had I known that Regent treated its customers in this manner I would not have booked with them. This cruise cost me $29,000 so this is no small thing. How do they get away with this?

    A – Let’s try to unwind this piece by piece: You are 82, have medical conditions, and you never bothered to take out travel insurance?  Poor judgment call. The major cruise lines were forced into financial hibernation by Covid. The ships were tied up or anchored with no place to go. What we are trying to say is that they made no money! As a result, as the cruise lines started sailing again they have all rather rigorously enforced their cancellation policies. You would be in 100% cancellation with virtually any of the leading luxury lines this close to sailing. This is current industry policy and it is by no means limited to Regent. Your reference to weather issues when canceling a cruise is irrelevant. No travel supplier is responsible for the fact that 91% of the population of England lives without air conditioning. They will also have to live without Boris Johnson but neither the weather or  Boris are reasons for a refund. Given your health concerns, we suggest that you have your travel consultant send a strong note on your behalf to the Guest Services Department. If you booked direct, try to get Guest Services to take your call. Since you feel this cruise would now be a “health risk” we suggest you remain at home and take the loss.

    Q – We are fairly well traveled – but mostly to Europe’s  “Big Five” – London – Paris – Rome – Dublin – Venice.Now, we want to cruise areas of Europe that are beautiful and a bit off the beaten track from the cities we’ve seen. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    A – There are a few itineraries that come to mind. Here are some that largely avoid big cities but are entirely rewarding. These are some of our personal favorites with especially high guest satisfaction scores:

      • A circumnavigation of Iceland
      • Cruising Sicily, Sardinia, and the south of Italy An authentic North Cape cruise along Norway’s coastline
      • The “off-the-beaten cruise path” Greek Islands
      • Croatian islands and Montenegro

    Q – 8-1.22   I’ll be honest – what concerns us most about possibly taking our first cruise on a line like Sea Dream or Windstar, is the possibility that we might be seated with a bunch of “Lefties” from one of the “Sanctuary Cities” etc.  I just don’t want to hear “woke” mutterings for an entire week. But we do want to cruise on a small ship. Any suggestions?

    A – Well we think that you should seriously consider purchasing your own ocean-going yacht. That removes all of your stated concerns. You can invite those friends who remain “unwoke”.By the way, neither Windstar or Sea Dream assigns tables to their guests. You choose where and with whom you are seated. Our guess would be that you are seated alone. Virtually all of the Top-Ten luxury lines that have earned a place in our rankings, allow guests to dine when and with whom they please.It is interesting that we have received a number of inquiries similar to yours and some from “the other side”. This seems to be a growing concern. There are certain top-ranked lines that sail with up to 50% non-Americans and that can also be a distinction some guests do not feel is advantageous. Let us state our bias here clearly – we feel that the more nations are represented aboard a floating hotel the more interesting the guests are likely to be.

    Q – 8.6.22 – Really enjoy this ad-free site. Congratulations. I am a Priest who is slowly retiring. I’ve long thought about how much I would enjoy performing Sunday services aboard a cruise ship in exchange for free or reduced-rate passage. The problem is that I don’t know who to contact to set up, this kind of position. Can you help me or recommend how I might best pursue this? I think I am good with people and I could add a lot to life at sea. (Trust you will not use my name without authorization)

    A -Clergy are sometimes offered reduced rate passage in exchange for officiating at weekly services. You would be considered a part of the entertainment component aboard the ship and normally the hiring of clergy is handled by the line’s Director of Entertainment. You will need to present videos of some recent sermons as they like to keep it light on vacation ships.

    Q – 8.4.22 – Is it literally true, and legal, that if we go ahead and take a Great Lakes cruise on Viking Cruises that they will not allow our teenage kids to go with us? I am thinking this could be a great family vacation but if Viking really hates kids, I don’t want anything to do with them. I am sure your readers will be interested in your response.

    • A – Perhaps less than you think. Viking will soon become the world’s largest upscale cruise brand. Their demographic skews older than many of their competitors. Their Scandinavian-style ships are sleek and filled with sharp lines and glass walls and furnishings fitted with  Nordic products. Yet, despite the modern feel of their vessels, Viking knows its consumer base and feels it wants:
      • No casinos
      • No kids
      • Few, if any, days at sea
      • More intellectual lectures versus light entertainment.
      Retirees make up a large portion of Viking’s client base and every industry study seems to support the fact that retirees simply don’t want to sail with young kids.

    Q –  8-2.22 – We are sailing out of Venice this summer on a Ponant Yacht cruise that visits excellent ports in Italy’s north as well as Sicily. We can’t wait – but you have raised some concerns regarding Venice Airport and lost luggage and delays. I think we can handle all of that, but what happens if our connecting flights on British Airways are canceled and we miss our sailing.? Who is legally responsible? What do we do in terms of contacting the ship etc? Any advice would be appreciated. Our trip is months away, but the more we read your websites the more concerned we become. Our air schedule gives us approximately three hours to get to the ship.

    A –  This plan is so full of potential issues that we can only imagine that you booked it yourself. First, we want you to change your air and book two nights in Venice before you board your ship. There are now numerous airports in Europe where same-day connections to cruise departures are just not recommended. The worst of these airports for “Day of Sailing” connections are:

    • London Heathrow
    • Amsterdam
    • Frankfurt
    • Paris
    • Rome
    • Madrid
    • Venice

    Please download the BA App to your phone. That is where you will be notified of flight delays and notifications. You should be able, if necessary, to re-book your ticket using the App.

    The entity you always want to be able to contact in the event of air changes is the entity that issued the tickets. If you bought the air directly from BA then they are responsible for making any changes to your routing. If, on the other hand, you purchased the air from Ponant, as the issuing agency, they must make any changes to your flight schedule.
    Q – 8.3.22 -We are planning on taking our three children on a cruise to South America. We are deluxe cruisers but for this trip we will be traveling with our seven-year-old son and our nine and eighteen-year-old daughters (it’s a long story). Just how high-end do you think we can go? We’re desperately trying to find a product that can make all of us happy. Toys, games, and caviar!

    A –  Sorry – but this is a bit of an impossible dream. The issue is likely your 18-year-old who may not want true luxury or programs designed for younger kids. Some of the luxury lines will sail with demographics that could result in stares greeting the young ones. Many guests feel that luxury should mean “no kids under 35”.There needs to be a compromise – it is named Celebrity Cruises.



    Q –  8.2.22  -We are “foodies” in the sense that all of our prior vacations in Europe have been food oriented. We love  Michelin’s and we love eating a sandwich in Barcelona’s La Boqueria food market. We’ve done many trips including three or four cooking schools in France and two memorable weeks exploring Moroccan cuisine in Fez and the Atlas Mountains.The point is that we have never cruised. We are looking at doing Scandinavia in the summer of 2024 so the natural question is, no matter the cost, which cruise line currently has the best onboard dining?

    A –  The summer trade in Scandinavia attracts several of the leading lines and our response will be rather subjective. But that has never stopped us before. Your experience may well depend on your selection of specialty restaurants aboard your ship.For main dining room excellence, the current leaders are Silversea and Seabourn. For specialty dining, we give a slight edge to Regent Seven Seas. The overall best formal cuisine/service will be found on Hapag Lloyd.Foodies love discovering excellent cruise food on so-called “tweens” ships that operate with food and service levels between four and five-star levels at a lower price point than the five-star sexy ladies of the seas. Currently, the best food/price value is found on Oceania.
    Q –  3.12.22 – I have to say that I was rather shocked to come across your traveltruth site and then your other consumer sites. Great job! I am a VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 firm. Over the past four years, I’ve been traveling constantly while also taking cruise vacations and two trips to Hawaii along with separate tours I booked to France and a memorable trip to Egypt with Insight that included a Nile Cruise.Here’s the thing. I have to submit receipts and I keep careful notes. I have flown well over a million miles on Delta and United. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars at hotels and on six cruises and two expensive escorted tours. And not once did I ever use a travel agent! I booked everything myself. I suppose that is just because I am so used to doing it myself.

    Now, I start reading your site and I realize that I have been duped into paying the travel agent commission of “10-15%” even though I’ve spent weeks of my life on hold with call centers to book direct. I calculate that I am owed close to $20,000 in pocketed commissions set aside for the travel agent I never used. I want that money returned to me.  I’ve read your advice as to how to proceed to recover the commission these companies simply pocket because we consumers are so ignorant. But I am not at all sure how the system works in terms of recovering commissions kept by airlines or car rental firms, as well as hotels. I would really appreciate some feedback about getting the refunds back from those three entities. I know that I was ripped off by the tour companies and cruise lines and I am pursuing a refund of the agent commissions in those cases. Fortunately, per your suggestions, I have saved all my paperwork. Thanks so much for revealing the travel industry’s dirty little secret. A – We’ve started getting a fair amount of questions on this topic and we expect that the consumer travel press will soon pick up on it. Those who write about the travel industry but don’t actually work in it are generally unaware of this industry practice. You cover several kinds of travel bookings in your question. Here is a summary of what you need to know: Airlines stopped paying commissions to travel agents many years ago. Most agents survive by charging fees to process airline tickets. Pursuing a commission refund with the airlines would be both inappropriate and a waste of your time.  Rental car firms have intricate contractual arrangements with travel providers and often commissions are not included. Again, many agents simply tack on fees for this type of transaction. Again, likely a waste of your time. Hotels are a different story. All hotel pricing includes a travel agent commission of from 8-10%. If you are not using a travel agent, you should be entitled to a refund of the agent commission. Savvy guests always request a return of the agent commission at check-out. Do note however that refund on a direct booking will be lower for a hotel booking than it would be for the cruise or escorted tour refund which can run as high as 17%. Cruise lines and tour firms follow the same general policies. They always include the travel agent commission in the price charged to those who book direct. That commission will normally range from 12-17%. These are funds, theoretically,  set aside for payment to travel agents for the services they provide. All direct booking pricing always includes the travel agent commission. When you do not use a travel agent, common sense would dictate that you are entitled to have the commission taken off your invoice. In States with strong consumer protection laws like California, New York, and Massachusetts, for instance, it is our opinion that retaining the travel agent commission when none was used, is likely a violation of consumer rights provisions in the law. But, to our knowledge, no one has ever questioned this practice legally. That may change as consumers and the consumer press starts revealing this major industry secret and a rather extensive consumer rip-off.

    Q – As we emerge from our Covid Cocoon, we intend to do a fair amount of upscale cruising. We live in Wilton, Connecticut where there are several good travel agents. I think we are open to working with your firm if you can guarantee that we will get the best pricing for our cruise. Otherwise, doesn’t it make sense to “stay local”? On the other hand, we do like your style and the honesty is unique. I am a Corporate CFO and I do pay attention to the bottom line. Would you explain to me how you can beat the prices I would get from a local agent? Really appreciate it

    .A – It is a fair question but we will limit our response as this has been covered elsewhere on our site. The notion that a major cruise line, booked by affluents from all of the United States, would want dinner conversation to center around all of the different deals and offers they received is ludicrous. All of the top luxury cruise firms receive exactly the same pricing. If they didn’t they would boycott the line that was giving out special deals. There are set discounts available and all A-List agents get them – they are the same for all of us. Some agents will pocket some of the discounts, so their price is higher. The online call enters always try to portray themselves as having special “last-minute” or high producer rates. The consumer has been trained to absorb fraudulent advertising, It is the way much of travel is sold. 

    To those who work in the industry, all of the phony ads and lead-in pricing for a cabin you would never want are embarrassing. Five-star ships are like luxury hotels that have the ability to lie on their side and float from place to place. No cruise line wants anyone unilaterally discounting or rebating commission to make a sale. That will come out on the ship and cause major issues. 

    And what about the travel agent’s commission? If a travel agent is caught rebating part of their commission on a sale, they can lose the right to sell that line going forward. 

    Working locally, face-to-face with some you know or trust is not a bad policy. Our clients live in 46 states and Canada and they come to us because they believe that we are travel truthtellers. We also certify in writing that 100% of all applicable discounts and incentives are returned to the guest. But there are many excellent travel agents in cities and towns across the United States who have still not left the profession. . We will not use this platform to disparage them or to advise you to go elsewhere. Our advice is to interview a potential family travel advisor the way you might interview a new physician. Because the reality is that typically you will spend more money in a year with your travel advisor than you will with your doctor.

    Q – 3.12.22   _ First, I suppose, I should begin with a bit of background. My husband and I are extremely well-traveled, having lived in England (Hampshire) and traveled with any number of bespoke travel providers. We normally travel on a custom trip but have, twice, shared very upscale group tours to Egypt and the southern part of India. But absolutely never on a cruise. Now, two of our children have put together an ambitious plan for the family to explore the Greek Islands on a luxury cruise sometime in the early summer. As I contemplate all of us being together, it sounds rather nice but I am concerned about spending one or two weeks in the company of a herd of mask-wearing zombies who only remove their cloth face coverings when actually shoving morsels from the buffet in their mouths. I realize I may be overstating the case but, should we go this summer, would we be surrounded, or even required, to be totally masked when not dining or drinking? If that is the case, I will try to talk my husband and the kids out of this. I would value your advice.

    A – The advice is reassuring, we hope. While there are mask recommendations in place, and most of the better cruise lines are requiring that guests be fully vaccinated as of this date, the reality is that guests on smaller luxury ships under 1000 guests generally have the freedom to wear masks indoors when they feel it is necessary. As everyone, including crew, is fully vaccinated these days, most guests do not wear guests while practicing for their roles in “The Walking Dead” television franchise. In fact, everyone will look more or less normal. Ashore, when visiting crowded areas or riding a bus on a sightseeing tour, you will see many guests donning masks. Hopefully not the cloth variety you mentioned – the really sophisticated folks use nothing but N95 masks although some K95’s do sneak onboard from time to time.  It sounds as though you are filled with travel memories – but a prime-season luxury cruise to the Greek Islands with loved ones is about as good as it gets.
    Q – 3.12.22 –  We are booked on a so-called “Baltic” Cruise that was going to give us two full days in St. Petersburg, Russia. I am no Bolshevik for sure, but I thought it might be fun to spend two days in Russia so I could tell my lib friends what it will be like if they pack up and move there. My question is this: We’ve been notified that our schedule will be changing and that Oceania will no longer be making calls in Russia. We have received no information from Oceania as to what their substitute plans are and we are wondering if you can offer any guesses. 

    A – Oceania will be back to you within the coming week with the adjusted port schedule. Itis an operations nightmare so please show them some patience. We are seeing ports added to Baltic Cruises that are clean, prosperous, and virtually crime-free, where every citizen receives free education as well as healthcare at a tax rate that isn’t really much higher than ours. The good news is that there is no shortage of attractive Scandinavian ports of call in smaller cities that can be added to Baltic itineraries in place of St. Petersburg, Russia. In a majority of cases, these additional ports will be in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you will now be spending even more time in one of the countries with the highest standard of living in the world – you know, one of the “Democratic Socialist” countries. Have a good time and keep an open mind. You’ll still have plenty to talk about with your “Lib” friends when you return. And please let us know if you should ever decide to try to move to Sweden. We can put you in touch with a good international moving company.
    Q –  3.11.22 – My wife and I are really looking to get away to Japan for something like a two-week cruise. We’ve sailed Celebrity and Oceania, preferred Oceania for its food and fewer guests but then discovered Regent Seven Seas two years ago and really love the brand – not to mention the included Business Class Airfare. I calculate that Business Class Air, on its own, is worth about $10,000 for the two of us.  So we looked, and sure enough Regent has three sailings to Japan in 2023. We got really excited, the itineraries are great, and then we found out they are already sold out. I have read your comments elsewhere that anything with the words “Iceland, Japan, or 120 Days Plus World Cruise” can sell out in a matter of days or even hours. Is there any, good option available to us that you would recommend? This is a long-delayed trip[ for us, my wife is a cancer survivor, and I would do anything to surprise her with a cruise of the quality of Regent. Any hope you could provide would be appreciated. 

    A –  We’ve done some searching for you and there is one strong option – Silversea will have two ships, the Silver Muse and the Silver Whisper doing 14 and 10-Day Japan sailings in March of 2023. It looks like you can climb aboard at this time although some of the upper categories are sold out. Silversea is an excellent, inclusive five-star line and it rivals Regent when it comes to onboard services and cuisine. The Silversea ships carry fewer guests. We suggest you reach our full review of Silversea on this site.

    The air issue is interesting. Yes, Regent automatically includes Business Class Air along with most shore excursions in its pricing. It makes for good value, is attractive to travel sellers, and it is a tad misleading because if you don’t use their “included” air they will reimburse you from $2200-$2700 per guest depending on the sailing. That means that their air is really “subsidized”, another form of incentivizing the price.  Japan, specifically Tokyo, is a competitive air gateway and there are some excellent fares that pop up from time to time. Silversea has a more limited air program but they do often offer an air option worth exploring. Your travel advisor will help you navigate the differences.  We really hope you will look at Silversea – we hope this happens for you and your wife.
    Q – We enjoy reading the Q&A on Cruisetruth and we have several questions we’d love to pose about the likely impact of the war in Ukraine, why Windstar does not appear in your ratings and the financial status of the major cruise lines. But it seems that instead of addressing my questions, your editors would prefer helping people who were duly warned about Crystal’s likely failure about one and a half years ago on this very site. You talked about your concerns, expressed why you wouldn’t book them, and even pointed out that most of the better travel insurers had stopped offering “supplier default” coverage for guests sailing Crystal. You’ve said that Future Credits will likely never be recovered so why all the sympathy for adults who didn’t heed your advice and booked Crystal anyway. Enough about Crystal already. Most of us have lost interest in the topic or the cruise line. 

    A –  Thank you – but we can’t agree. We’re one voice in the cruise wilderness. True, we were warning our readers about Crystal before anyone else and with some degree of detail. But there were many other voices/places in cyberspace that kept pushing the Crystal PR campaign. Virtually all other websites devoted to cruising accept advertising to survive. They are not about to “write off” a major advertiser. We fully understand that Crystal has had, statistically, the most loyal guests of any of the major luxury lines. We were not surprised at the loyalty of Crystal’s guests and their desire to book future cruises.We will, in the interest of fairness, try to address one of your questions right now regarding the likely impact of the war in Ukraine on the cruise industry. Here is our take on expectations as of today:

    • All Baltic cruise stops in  St. Petersburg and other Russian coastal ports will immediately be eliminated.  In their place, cruise lines will be adding stops in Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish ports where possible. Baltic cruises will not be canceled – port changes will be announced within the next 30 days. Cruise lines operating in the region were waiting and hoping for a short incursion. Those hopes are dashed. The second-largest country in Europe is being attacked by nuclear power. This will not end quickly. 
    • Potentially, this can have a greater impact on European cruise sales than the Covid threat. No one wants to vacation in a war zone and few Americans know exactly where Ukraine is and which countries border it. 
    • The major lines on our World’s Top Ten List were planning on increasing their 2022 and 2023 cruise prices by some significant margins given the demand. Many of those plans are now on hold and consumers will soon begin seeing generous booking offers for cruises in northern Europe. 
    • At the same time, interest in southern Meditteranean cruises will grow and pricing will increase in 2023 by an estimated 5-10%. 
    •  – This new e-mail from Mr. Healy is all fine and well but shouldn’t the travel agent be helping us get our money back? We booked with Expedia and they say they can’t get involved. Do I need an attorney? And how does the Court really know what we are due now that Crystal appears to be fully liquidated?A – Let’s be clear about this – by filling out the forms that you received, you are agreeing to be part of a court procedure in the State of Florida.  This is a personal decision and the Court will only recognize direct participation by the claimant. The only thing Expedia can do for you if you need it, is to provide a detailed copy of your invoice which you need to make your claim. 
    • Former Crystal executives are helping put together lists of the more than $100 million owed to Crystal booked guests and an estimated $25 million owed to travel agents in earned commissions. The data provided to the assignee and then to the Court should be accurate in terms of credit card payments but we think that earned Future Credits and sailings canceled one or more times and then re-booked using credits will be indecipherable to the layman. There are thousands of hours involved in sorting this out – we wonder who is paying for that accounting time.  Our guess is that the Court will need to accept the amount of payments due as reflected in Crystal Guest Copy invoices.
    Q –  3.8.22 – The information about the Crystal forms was very helpful – but we never received anything from Crystal via telephone or mail. We are owed well over $5,000 for sailing on the Serenity so any advice would be really appreciated. 

    A – The forms are being sent from the offices of the firm in charge of designing a list of creditors in the order in which they need to be paid. (Ultimate decision is made by the court). Past Crystal executives are helping provide e-mail addresses for all guests their records indicate are owed money. The e-mail addresses of all clients’ due refunds have been provided to the firm. You should be hearing from them in the next several days via e-mail. If you do not, contact the court-appointed assignee directly. Here is the specific information you need – including the phone number:

    Mark Healy, Assignee MICHAEL MOECKER & ASSOCIATES, INC. 1883 Marina Mile Blvd., Suite 106. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315 (954) 252-1560 · (954) 252-2791 (fax)

  • BEST TYPE OF TRAVEL EXPERIENCE FOR AN 18 YEAR-OLD

    Q – what do you think of the idea of bringing our 18-and-a-half-year-old extraordinary daughter on a Tauck Family Bridges Tour to Italy this coming August before she is off to Boston to start college?

    A – Strong opinion on this one – we would not book the family on a Tauck Bridges tour because you could have twenty or more younger children in the group. You should take your college-bound daughter on one of the excellent Italy tour programs operated by Tauck for adults. We think your daughter will appreciate the adult conversations along the way.

  • ANY ADVICE AS TO HOW I MIGHT TRY TO GET INTO THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY WHILE ATTENDING COLLEGE?

    Q – I am thinking of joining the travel industry. Are there college classes I will need to take to get certified to offer travel counseling and handle people’s vacations?

    A- The short answer is that the only requirement is that you must have spent an hour in an International House of Pancakes at least once in your life. The vast majority of travel agents are unlicensed and not, in any way certified. The more professional agents will take courses and seek product certification as they spend time in the industry.

    The best path to a worthy entry into travel is to decide what kind of agency might come closest to meeting your interests and then find the very best one. See if the owner will hire you on as an intern in your area of interest. Don’t expect to handle clients for six months. 

    There are going to be many opportunities for you so we want you to be optimistic. It is currently estimated that 42% of the travel consultants in the United States have left the profession in the past 36 months. 

  • WHO DO I FAVOR WITH MY PRESENCE: THE CANADIANS OR THE SWISS?

    Q – 7.17.22 – We are leaving on an Avalon River Cruise on the Rhine in early September. Given what we are reading about the airline situation in Europe, we are confused about how to arrange our air. Our agent has come up with an hour connection through Toronto or an hour and a half connecting time in Zurich. Do we go with the Canadians?

    A – No. One hour is just cutting it too close and you might not have clean clothes until the fourth day of your cruise. Toronto’s airport is understaffed. In this scenario, Zurich is the safer bet. In fact, Swiss nonstops from the States into Zurich with onward connections is a secret used by many air pros. And even if you miss your connection – you will be in Switzerland. We trust that your agent has built in at least one hotel night on arrival prior to your joining the Avalon riverboat.

  • HOTEL IN PUERTO RICO IS FIGHTING ME ON AGENT COMMISSION REFUND

    Q – Just back from a stay at one of the better resorts in San Juan. As recommended, when checking out I asked that the built-in travel agent commission be taken off our bill since I had booked this personally on the phone with no travel agent involved. They refused and mumbled something about “they always charge the full price”.  We had stayed for a week and at 10% I figure that we were overcharged by more than $1000. What is the next step? Do I contact our Attorney General’s office, contact the credit card company, etc?

    A – if you want to get action on this you should contact  Guest Services at the hotel. If they are not immediately responsive, you might also post this on Twitter and Facebook on the hotel’s guest services site. If you want some government help to recover the travel agent commission we would suggest that you reach out to the Office of Tourism in San Juan.

    You should be aware that many hotels limit their commission payments to travel agents to 8%. But it is often higher.

    We doubt that your credit card company will be of much help. This consumer revolt against travel companies charging guests the travel agent commission when no travel agent was involved is starting to garner attention – but not from the travel press. No one wants to upset this extremely profitable travel apple cart. We are guessing that the impetus for change will come from people like you who are fed up with being secretly charged for travel agent services they never received. In the meantime, if you have an attorney in the family, you might try to secure a bill for the refund you are owed on legal stationery.

  • THE ONE THING TO KNOW BEFORE DEPLANING AT CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT

    Q – Thanks so much for the best travel site we’ve ever found. The missing ads are not missed at all. My husband and I are off on a twice-delayed trip to Paris and the French Riviera. We’ve had lots of time to prepare and we’ve read everything we can about Paris, particularly the pieces written by  Mr. Bourdain. My husband suggested that I write in with one simple question – what is the first bit of advice you give your clients headed off to France?

    A – Use “ Bonjour” before ever addressing anyone in France. You walk into a bar and the waiter comes up – say “Bonjour”. It is more than a greeting in France. It is an acknowledgment that, unlike your predecessors, you are a polite American who understands that this word or the lack of it, makes an immediate impression on any French citizen. Have a memorable journey and, if you find a lovely one-bedroom apartment for under $500,000 USD – buy it immediately. You will never regret the decision.

  • MIGHT IT BE SMART TO POSTPONE OUR TRIP DUE TO CURRENT PRICING LEVELS IN EUROPE?

    Q – This is one of those annoying questions about cost issues. We want to plan a trip to Spain and Portugal in the next few months but we are reading that hotel rates and airfares are going up significantly compared to where they were pre-Covid. Should we cancel the trip for a year or two in the hope that prices will come down?

    A – No not at all. Your average air and hotel costs are going to rise in the range of 25-40%. That is likely a permanent change with prices likely going even higher based on projected demand in 2025-26. The side of the price story often missed is that the dollar has almost achieved parity with the value of the Euro. This means that your dollar gets you more Euros than it has at any time since Spain and other European countries adopted the Euro as their common currency. Food and shopping costs have never been better for Americans traveling to Euro nations. This will more than compensate for initial, air, hotel, and tour costs. We would not recommend delaying your trip for reasons related to pricing.


  • FAMILY VACATION WITH FIVE KIDS – TOUR VERSUS CRUISE?

    Q – We are thinking of bringing our family of fourteen on a cruise or land tour. The group would have five kids between the ages of five and seventeen. We have looked at a Globus tour as well as a cruise on Royal Caribbean – both in Europe. We will travel in the summer when schools are out. Love to have any advice you might offer in terms of our options.

    A – Given the major age differences in the family, we feel strongly that Royal Caribbean, with its wide assortment of kid’s activities and facilities, would be the best option in this case. It would also provide the adults with some time away from the kids. On the right itinerary, the kids can get a wonderful European overview.

    We don’t know what your travel style is so please note that Royal Caribbean is not among the world top-rated cruise lines. (Source Cruisetruth.com)

  • Lots of Great Hotel Stays in Our Future – But How Best to Proceed?

    Q – I am pleased to share that we have, like many of your followers, achieved critical mass for retirement. We can pretty much afford to travel anywhere and any way we choose. But our dilemma, I suppose, is that we believe top resort or top tier hotel stays provide everything we need. We will judge our future vacations by how many books we read and how many on-property meals exceed our standards. We just see total relaxation as our goal for the foreseeable future. So, I guess this is a two-part question?  

    Are there really advantages to using a travel advisor to make just hotel reservations or should we pursue the 8-10% direct booking discounts?

    Secondly, which website do you feel is most reliable in terms of reading accurate reviews from users? Really appreciate your efforts:

    A – Congratulations on “critical mass” attainment and what that will mean for your retirement:

    If your travel consultant is a member of one of the leading industry consortium groups, you may well get preferred rates, an automatic upgrade if it is available, as well as on-site amenities such as included breakfast. You would have to make a judgment call as to whether those amenities are worth the money you might possibly save if the hotel is reimbursed, you’re the travel agent commission built into all pricing. It’s a tough call but since most hotels will fight you on the commission refund you are, in our mind, legally due, it is likely better not to worry about the booking and work with an agent who has connections at that particular resort or hotel. Just ask.

    In terms of “reviews” from website users – we would suggest that you ignore them as a source of anything like real information. Good reviews can be purchased by hotels in bulk, and often are. So-called “review farms” are big business and any kind of reviews in any number are available to anyone willing to pay the price. This leaves the consumer as a hapless victim – it is nearly impossible to know if you are reading a “farm” produced review. Our recommendation is to ask your travel consultant to secure a copy of the ABC Report, professional, confidential hotel evaluations written for the top players in the industry by hotel executives and inspectors who are always undercover. Any agent should have access to these reports. They are not available online and can only be purchased by industry professionals.

  • CAN YOU EXPLAIN AT-HOME VERSUS PCR TESTS?

    Q – 3.3.22 – Unfortunately, I was going to Rutgers and studying Medieval European History when I should have been studying scientific testing. Now in our late 60s, we are contemplating resuming worldwide travel to places like New Zealand, Antarctica,  and Peru. We understand that each country has its own requirements and we have lots of time for them to change. I really have two questions given your excellent advice on this site: Which trip would you recommend first, given our age and our “normal aches and pains” medical conditions? Also, for us and your other readers, can you please explain what we need to know about a PCR Test etc. in simple language? Thanks so much.

    A – We strongly recommend Antarctica first. Two reasons: First we have not yet been able to figure out how to environmentally destroy the continent completely. Although we are going to manage that apparently.

    Secondly, getting in and out of inflated rafts is, for some, I bit taxing physically. 

    So there are several Covid tests discussed in the media. You can use one of the do-it-yourself home tests which involve nothing more than swapping your note and then sliding it onto a test strip. You usually get two tests in a kit for about $25.00. The results are sent to you within three or four days. This is called an Antigen Test, meaning they are tests that can identify the virus proteins.

    The PCR Test is done in a lab or clinic and is, therefore, considered to be more reliable than an antigen test. It is a technique that identifies trace amounts of the virus DNA. If you don’t have insurance, the typical PCR Test costs in the range of $150. By the way, PCR stands for ‘polymerase chain reaction” in case you are attending a Rutgers class reunion and want to show off a bit. 

  • SHOULD WE DELAY TRIP TO ITALY: MY WIFE IS REALLY CONCERNED


    Q – 3.1.22 –  My wife and I have a wonderful Tauck itinerary booked for this summer in Italy. As this would be our first trip to Italy, we are very excited, or at least we were. The war in Ukraine has really scared my wife off because she feels that it would be better to postpone to next when, we hope, the fighting will die down. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Our tour was taking us to Lake Como, Venice, Florence, and Rome. We wonder if Italy could become involved in the war since it is so close. 

    A – We think this is a head/heart issue. If you look at it rationally, travel to Europe is likely safer than remaining in most urban areas of the United States. But if your wife feels uncomfortable going – that’s enough for us. Do postpone the trip. Anticipation is such a critical part of any journey that we think that any feelings that interfere with it should take precedence. 

    Here is how we look at it:

    01 – The world will not become a kinder, gentler place in 2023. There are autocratic governments in portions of Europe (Hungary, which supports Putin’s invasion is one example) and no one is getting rid of their nuclear weapons. Russia has over 6,000 nukes. North Korea about 60. So do other countries like France, India, and Pakistan. Putin has a huge army attaching Europe’s largest standing army in Europe’s second-largest country. 

    But this will be an invasion limited to one country which is not a signatory to the NATO Treaty. Should the war extend to any NATO country, such as Italy, you would likely be witnessing the start of World War Three as the United States and most of Europe are pledged to protect one another if one of them is attacked. This is just not going to happen. 

    So let’s look at a few realities:

    • The war is not affecting life in Italy in any major way although the country is supporting the Ukrainian resistance with non-military support.
    • Italy is far safer statistically than we are in the United States. Currently, there are 121 countries around the world that are safer than the United States. Your life expectancy, as an American, actually goes up when you travel to Europe.
    • George Clooney has not sold his Villa on Lake Como