BBB Tips for Planning a Cruise

With images of the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship splashing about, you may be re-thinking a vacation at sea.

Protect Yourself from Potential Problems When Planning an Ocean Getaway

With images of the crippled Carnival Triumph splashed about, you may be re-thinking a vacation at sea.  Yet, while it's impossible to foresee extreme weather conditions or make allowances for mechanical failures, there are things travelers can do to improve the odds of a care-free cruise.

According to Cruise Market Watch's 2013 Cruise Trends Forecast released in late November, the industry was estimated to crest at $36.2 billion - a 4.8% increase over 2012.  One of the top two lines, Carnival Corporation, not only garnished the lion's share of the market, it has been headlining the news since the Triumph disaster began off the coast of Mexico on February 10.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau has some tips if you are considering heading to sea for some rest and relaxation:

Research the cruise line. Like most things, there are high-end and budget-friendly lines. Make sure you compare apples-to-apples, including amenities, dining options, ports and not just price.

Inquire about the ship's history. When was it first entered into service? When was the last dry dock? How long was the last dry dock?  A dry dock for a couple of weeks may be long enough to allow for paint and some sprucing up, but a longer period is necessary for major renovations.  Considering the cost and time it takes to build a new ship, ships are being kept in service for decades. Some ships are even renamed to make them sound new.  Carnival's "Destiny," launched in 1996 is going through an overhaul right now and will emerge as "Sunshine."

Check your itinerary and ports of call for travel/safety alerts. Before you put your money down, be sure to get the latest information on your destinations.  The U.S. Department of State has some great information for travelers at http://travel.state.gov.  In addition to travel warnings, the website offers the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program as a way to keep you advised about specific warnings that may arise after you've made your plans.

Consider travel insurance.  There are circumstances that could force you to cancel your trip, return home early or require you to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling.  Before you purchase coverage, check your homeowner’s or medical insurance policies to avoid any overlapping.  Here are a few things you should know before you purchase a plan:

  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption - If your plans suddenly change and you have to cancel or end your trip early, TCI will reimburse you for reasons on the policy, such as injury, sickness, the death of a family member, business partner or traveling companion.  Watch for exclusions about pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation - If you are going on an adventure vacation or to an area that is far from modern medical facilities, you may want to give this some thought.
  • Baggage Loss - The U.S. Department of Transportation caps airline liability to $3,000 per passenger for domestic and $1,500 for international flights.  However, if your luggage is lost, the airline may reimburse you according to their published policy, which could be less than the U.S. DOT cap, as long as the policy is posted at a prominent location.  Your homeowner's insurance may also cover some or all of your loss.  Be sure to check your policy or contact your agent before opting for additional coverage.

Check the Weather. For domestic ports, check with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://www.weather.gov.  While there are no guarantees that you'll have perfect weather, you can find plenty of information online about seasonal weather patterns, winds, storms and hurricanes.

If you’re new to cruising, give thought to working with a trustworthy travel agent who is knowledgeable about cruise lines, ships and destinations.  You can find reliable travel agents and check their Business Review at www.bbb.org.

-Submitted by Howard Schwartz, Executive Communications Director Connecticut Better Business Bureau

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim G. March 02, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Step 1: don't go with any of the cattle-car cruise lines (Princess, Carnival, Disney, RC). Step 2: don't book your cruise on one of the dreadful mega-ships.
Flowers March 02, 2013 at 02:24 AM
Well Jim G. if you eliminate all the options you suggest you are only left with very expensive cruises designed for the aged and senile.
Jim G. March 02, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Hardly. There are many options that don't involve choosing a cattle-carrier line and a floating city. However, if spending a week in a mega-mall with 5,000 other cattle is your idea of a good time, then bon voyage. Cruises are like almost everything else: there's a price floor below which they're probably not worth having. You don't have to spend much more - sometimes no more at all - to get one of the better quality lines and a smaller, much more pleasant ship in the 2000-passenger class.
Flowers March 02, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Oh Jim G. please. You're sounding a lot like a cruise snob. There are only a handful of megaships and you can avoid them if you don't like crowds. They are actually quite amazing. The cruise lines you banned control 90% of the market. The remainder are quirky one offs. Are you a quirky one off kinda guy?
Jim G. March 02, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Yes, those four control the market the way Target, K-Mart and Wal*Mart control theirs. That hardly means there are no alternatives - there are dozens of lines, from all but the most bottom tier of the market to the ridiculously elite. Some of the lines owned by the cattle-car four are much better than the primary brand name as well. If you think cruises are limited to the Wal*Mart brands, I feel sorry for the opportunities you've missed. As for the current generation of megaships, they have thrown away everything that makes cruises a pleasure and multiplied everything that makes them a tiresome, overpriced joke. The difference between a decent mid-sized ship and a mega is like the difference between Disneyland on a quiet weekend and Big E on the worst day of its run.


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