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Letters: Cruises, tips and trips

February 03, 2013

Passenger safety on cruise safety

Regarding "Shipshape?" by Mary Forgione, Jan. 27: Having spent 20 years in the Navy and witnessing multiple fires, collisions and floods with trained crews barely keeping it together, I cannot imagine getting on a ship with 4,000 untrained passengers and expecting a positive outcome in a disaster.

The fact that more people didn't die on the Costa Concordia was sheer luck.

Mike Benbrook

El Cajon

Let's hear it for the good guys!

My wife and I were scheduled for a boat trip up the Mississippi from St. Louis to St. Paul, Minn., in October. We had purchased our trip tickets, including plane fares on US Airways to and from St. Louis and St. Paul in March.

My wife became very ill, requiring hospitalization a few weeks before the trip was to begin. I had not purchased trip insurance. In November, I began correspondence with the airline to see whether I could get a refund for the coach tickets without the $150-per-ticket penalty. After providing the doctor's note confirming my wife's illness and operation, I waited some time without a reply. In late December, I sent another letter (I never could find a phone number or email address for customer service) asking for the status of my request.

Imagine my surprise when, in early January, I received a phone call from a customer service representative. After inquiring about my wife, she advised me that they had responded with an email in November advising that they had waived the penalty fee as a one-time courtesy. (Apparently that email had ended up spam.) She was now sending me information for vouchers worth the entire value of our plane tickets.

Such vouchers are usually good for one year after original purchase; in our case, March. She then said that did not give us much time to complete any travel, and besides it was winter. She extended the voucher period for an entire year from the date of her call.

What service! Sometimes it pays to be insistent, and I think being respectful and pleasant didn't hurt either.

Robert Christenson

San Luis Obispo

In response to Catharine Hamm's "Tipping Points" [On the Spot, Jan. 27] on how much to tip a restaurant server when he or she is paid a living wage: I suggest that if the letter writer customarily tips 20%, he should tip 3% (that is, the difference between the living wage and what he would normally tip), perhaps not worth too much hand-wringing until and unless a "living wage" becomes common practice.

Thomas Bliss

Sherman Oaks

Regarding "To China, in Stages," in the Jan. 13 issue (On the Spot, by Catharine Hamm): My wife and I tried the stopover idea once when we were in our late 50s and 60s. Never again. We're now in our 70s, and we'll still try for a nonstop. My suggestions to the person who dreads the trip to China: If possible, fly business class. 2. If you cannot fly business, try for a bulkhead or an exit-row seat. Take a carry-on bag that stands upright and you can put your feet up on it. 3. If in economy, get in economy plus for the slight extra legroom. And don't be shy about moving about the cabin, even if doing so means faking going to the toilet.

Allan MacLaren

San Jose

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