No matter how firm you may think a hotel reservation is, it's always a good idea to be forearmed with copies of all letters, receipts, vouchers and documentation involved, even if all you have is a confirmation number.
It's also a good idea to jot down the names of the personnel you dealt with at the hotel or travel agency while making your booking. Having a travel agency's letterhead--with a telex number will facilitate any communication between the hotel and the agency should a problem arise.
Being confronted by a clerk who can find no record of your reservation can be rather unnerving. Having something in hand to document your claim of a reservation can help your cause, maybe to the extent of influencing a clerk to check further, consult a superior, etc.
An example is the experience of Bertha Montenegro of Torrance and a companion who handled their own two-week reservation at a London hotel.
They sent the first night's deposit in pounds sterling, as requested. When they arrived, they learned that the hotel had just changed hands. In the process, no one had informed them that they would not be accommodated.
Measure of Satisfaction
Having copies of the paper work led to a measure of satisfaction, although they had to spend their first night at a different hotel that was of a lower standard.
Similarly, if you are supposed to be getting a certain room--such as an ocean or mountain view--make sure this is documented. Ask at check-in if the accommodation is what you reserved. Don't wait until you're in your room to discover that a mistake has been made.
In the same vein, make sure while you're checking in that your requests--a certain floor (or beneath a certain floor level), a room on a no-smoking floor (which many hotels have today), a room close to or farther from elevators, or any specified room type or location--are what you ordered.
Be aware if you are getting a room on a run-of-the-hotel basis, which means that you can be put anywhere, even facing the parking lot. Unless you are guaranteed a particular room when you make your reservation, chances are you will be on a run-of-the-hotel basis.
Cruise reservations also can be a problem, particularly when your booking is on a discount basis.
Travel agencies may have cabins available from cruise lines on a blocked or group basis, or may obtain cabins from another company that has such space allocations.
Discounts may be sold as a group allocation, where the agency holds a guaranteed block of cabins on a contractual basis for a certain amount of time; as a special allocation, or a cruise line may permit agencies producing a lot of bookings to sell some cabins on a space-available but non-contracted and non-guaranteed basis, and standby fares.
The discount may be the same whether it's a group or special allocation. However, with standby, you may receive a larger discount for the anxiety involved.
However, standby doesn't necessarily mean booking at the last minute.
You can book standby for some cruises months in advance. But you won't know whether you are sailing or the type of cabin until close to departure time.
One of the latest wrinkles of standby bookings is a premium rate. The discount is not as large, but you get priority over other standby candidates.
Another possible source of confusion may be through group bookings. Group, in this context, usually applies to the allocation of cabins an agency gets. Thus, a traveler can obtain a stateroom as part of this space without being a member of any specific group.
On any discount offering, determine when you will receive the cabin confirmation in your name.
The mailing of confirmations can vary among cruise lines when bookings are part of a group allocation. Some lines send out confirmations through the travel agency on the same basis as any other booking. Other lines may just confirm the space to the agency, and it would be up to the agency to inform you.
Cruise lines also differ in their response when consumers call with questions about agencies claiming to have cabins available at discount.
Also, consumers may call to find out whether there are reservations in the computers in their names when the booking has been made on some sort of group allocation/discount basis.
Some lines will tell you if they are working with a specific agency, others won't.
'Allocate Some Cabins'
"We may allocate some cabins to certain travel agencies which they can try to sell through discounts. These cabins are strictly for their sales use," says William Smith, senior vice president of sales for Sitmar Cruises.
"But there are also cruise consolidators, who obtain cabins from various sources. We try to discourage this method of selling cruise space as we lose control of who the actual booking agency is."
Smith says Sitmar passengers should get confirmations in their names from the cruise line, through their travel agencies, a week or so after paying their deposits.
Carnival Cruises, for example, will let a caller know if an agency does have an allocation of cabins, according to Maurice Zarmati, director of sales.
Generally, final payments are not due until 60 days before departure. If you buy a cruise from a company selling cabins on a distress-merchandise basis when the sailing is in a few weeks, expect to make full payments at the time of your booking.