YOU plan, anticipation grows and your holiday is just around the corner. Then comes the phone call: There's a mechanical problem that's affecting your holiday -- and not in a good way.
If you're travelling by plane, bus or train, mechanical issues are a small-P problem. You might have to wait anywhere from a few hours to a day but eventually, you will hit the holiday road.
Not so with a ship. You can't pull an empty ship out of the air -- or a neighbouring ocean -- in the search for a solution.
Celebrity's Millennium is a case in point.
Twice, one of the PODs (propulsion systems) failed and Millennium had to send current and embarking passengers on their way, sans ship. In the end, Millennium needed a new POD, ending its Alaska season. Air charters, refunds, future cruise credits ...it appears all offerings exceeded pending U.S. regulations for cruise-passenger rights, according to Tom Stieghorst at Travel Weekly.
Some passengers were understandably unhappy and told the world via social media. For them, no amount of compensation was enough. Others were looking forward to next year.
The fact Celebrity was upfront, moved as quickly as possible and addressed passenger rights not yet law, negated the publicity we have seen from past cruise problems.
In March, while I was at a Viking River Cruises launch in Amsterdam, I learned about a task force whose sole purpose was to determine if Viking should cruise the U.S. market in the wake of its huge buildup of Longships on Europe's major rivers.
I was told the decision would be made by June. Nothing leaked out until the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau, (as reported in the Miami Herald), indicated that Viking will build a 340-passenger ship to start cruising the Mississippi River in 2015.
Back in March, Viking indicated it would be a hybrid of the current Longship.
Red Wing is to be one of the stops. Red Wing? It's about 70 kilometres south of Minneapolis.
Viking's people responded by saying they have nothing to add to the March info. Torstein Hagen, the ebullient chairman of Viking, is busy these days working on the company's first ocean cruise ship, the Viking Star. Hagen, however, is a man who likes to run at the head of the pack and if he believes the U.S. market would work for his line, you can bet something is in the works.
Travel Tech Tip
Looking for hot spots for free Wi-Fi around the world? Try WiFi Finder, according to Steve Dotto of dottotech.com.
"You can download the locations before you leave home," he says, "use your phone's GPS to pinpoint Wi-Fi hot spots when you're on the road and stay in touch without spending a fortune!"
The app finds both paid and free Wi-Fi locations, and includes the type of location -- if you are looking for a bar or coffee shop or restaurant to do your browsing, according to Steve. You can download both Android and IOS versions at Google Play and Apple's iTunes.
Phil's Pick of the Week
This cruise will take care of the winter blues and with a substantial price drop: 35 days, starting January 20 from Fort Lauderdale and winding up in Sydney, Australia.
Along the way you will transit the Panama Canal, spend time in Lima, Peru, continue to Easter Island and Pitcairn Island, overnight in Tahiti, port in Moorea then on to Auckland, New Zealand for some fiord cruising en route to Sydney.
The ship is the Pacific Princess and prices start at $3,999. Contact an agent or princess.com for full details.
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