We have just returned from a 24-day cruise in the Mediterranean with a well-known cruise line, during which I was following reader letters regarding gratuities via Traveller.com.au and would like to make the following comments.
We were dismayed to learn t we were being slugged $US13.50 (almost $A20) each per day service charge, a total in excess of $A900.
We were advised at the time of booking that the cost of the cruise in Australia was higher than in the US in order to cover gratuities. I queried the charge and was told everyone on board was levied the same amount, no matter their country of origin.
I pointed out the advice we were given when booking and that we were charged a service fee of 12.5 per cent every time we purchased a drink and accused the company of double dipping. I received a blank look in reply, but eventually was told we could both sign a form and the service charge would be deleted from our account at the end of the cruise, which we did. But we continued to tip cabin staff and others for good service.
Greg McLagan, Bellingen, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
Tatyana Leonov's tips in her article on Japan's Shinkansen trains (Traveller, October 20) apply for train travel throughout the world, and certainly on European and Chinese trains.
The exception is India. It is still crucial to get the right ticket (not always a straightforward process), to get a reservation if possible and to arrive at the station early. Chances are the departure will be late, but then again it may be on time or it may be early. Definitely always have the train ticket on you (and all other belongings), but don't stock up for the journey.
With food-sellers hopping on and off, there is plenty of choice, and it is fun to see how the food changes from region to region.
Tom Schambron, Wollongong, NSW
I was disappointed that Brian Johnston's cover story (Traveller, October 27) didn't reference Persepolis, a 13-hectare palatial complex dating back to 518BC and close to the Iranian city of Shiraz.
A couple of weeks ago I was blown away by the history and majesty of this ancient site, the detail in the friezes, and the number and height of the columns.
Many people are put off visiting Iran by what they read and hear about the country. Go to Iran. Make up your own mind. I felt safer there than in some European countries and met the most friendly and welcoming people.
Joanne Karcz, Dangar Island, NSW
Elspeth Callender's experiences with transport in Italy (Traveller, October 27) are ones I identify with absolutely.
After a number of visits to Italy I have managed to navigate Italy's trains and buses to travel around Sicily, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna and the Veneto region.
Sure, sometimes it involves waiting at bus stops and train stations, and the odd misstep when one boards the wrong train or misses a connection. But overall there have been many wonderful experiences that have become treasured memories.
Kate McCaig, Surrey Hills, VIC
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Your cover story on "the first time" (Traveller, October 27) sent my oxytocin levels soaring with two memorable first time moments standing out for me.
They are my first time on an international flight, to Tel Aviv, Israel in the 1970s, the first time l lived away from home on a kibbutz. And the first time I woke up to the Swiss mountains in Bern, also in the 1970s.
These two countries and experiences certainly inspired my future travelling life and I am eternally grateful that I have been able to visit them both several times since then with my husband.
Rhoda Silber, Manly, NSW
AGENTS OF INFLUENCE ONE
There we were listening to the AFL Grand Final from a beautiful little village in the south of France when the call came from home that my 90-year old mother was seriously ill in hospital.
Being a weekend we did not contemplate ringing our travel agent but immediately contacted the airline and upgraded our fares to fly home that night from Paris. While we knew it would be tight, an accident on the auto route and road works caused us to miss the TGV and the flights home.
Tortuously long mobile phone calls with the airline said we'd lost our money and they couldn't get us seats home for 10 days.
Fortunately our travel agent, East Ivanhoe Travel and Cruise, run by four great women, contacted us on the Sunday via WhatsApp to discuss options to get us home. There were no further charges and it ranks as exceptional after-sales service.
Sharon Coates, Fairfield, VIC
AGENTS OF INFLUENCE TWO
Did Graeme Archer have a through ticket from Fort Lauderdale to Melbourne or had he purchased a separate ticket to Dallas (Traveller letters, October 27)? If the latter, the airline is only obliged to carry his bags to Dallas. These are traps for the unwary and why I use an experienced travel agent. There are too many pitfalls with dubious savings in using some websites.
An agent has access to sophisticated computer programs showing many flights and alternatives in a few seconds.
Lindsay Somerville, Lindfield, NSW
On a recent Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, the service was first announced as delayed, subsequently cancelled for technical reasons, and rescheduled to depart the following morning at 9am.
It took three hours to get hotel vouchers, an hour wait for transport to the hotel and a 45-minute bus ride to the hotel. Why book a hotel in the city while there are millions of hotels within the airport area?
We finally checked into the hotel at 4.50am to be woken up at 5.30am for the bus back at 6am to the airport.
Ash Karolia, Colyton, NSW
HAVE SOME HEART
Like Tom Dutkowski (Traveller letters, October 7) my wife and I have confidently relied on ANZ credit card travel insurance for many years.
However, I would now suggest a word of caution. Last November my wife suffered a heart attack requiring a stent implant which led to a full recovery. Indeed, her cardiologist is happy with her current health and confident for her to travel.
But when we phoned ANZ travel card insurance regarding her now pre-existing medical condition, and after completing their telephone questionnaire, she was rejected for insurance due to her heart condition although all other covers would be maintained.
Stuart Kitching, Pennant Hills, NSW
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