While this usually is a good-news column about the joys of travel, now and then there are serious issues that need to be addressed.
QUESTION: I was shocked to read of a young child drowning in a cruise ship swimming pool. Do they not have lifeguards to help prevent this kind of incident from occurring?
ANSWER: The cruise lines make it clear they do not have lifeguards on staff at their pools. Most cruise ship pools are fairly small and not used that often for real swimming because of their limited size.
The cruise lines usually post the fact there are no lifeguards on hand and that parental supervision is required whenever children under 13 are in the pool.
This incident was particularly horrifying because the parents were beside the pool and the six-year-old boy was supposedly in the water with his 10- year-old brother.
This may have given the parents a false sense of security.
I felt it was important to respond to this question on a broader basis. Even at the finest resort locations, lifeguards are often not present at pools on the property.
It is a cautionary note that as parents it is important to be vigilant at all times as accidents happen quickly.
This tragedy brought back frightening memories of an event that occurred when my own son was about three years old. He was following behind me from the pool as we were going for lunch. He had playfully pulled his towel over his head and veered into the pool without me seeing it happen.
Something made me turn around, and when I ran to the poolside his eyes were wide open under water as he was kicking madly. Luckily his was mouth closed but bubbles were emerging from it.
I pulled him out and while he never had a sense of the danger he was in, I was devastated at how close this might have been to a similar tragedy.
It was an early learning experience, and a most serious one, that underscored how important it is to watch children at all times.
QUESTION: I hope you can help with an out-of-province question.
An Alberta relative booked a trip for his family for a week in Hawaii. He purchased cancellation insurance but was subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer, with surgery slated for December.
He was forced to cancel his trip and went to the insurance company to make a claim. His claim was refused because the airline was willing to give him a credit for the trip, to be used by May 2014.
He knows neither he, nor his family, will be ready to go on a holiday that soon given the long recovery time for an operation that serious.
Is this fair? What can he do?
ANSWER: In researching this, the people I have talked with from the industry seem unequivocal in their responses: You should have received your money back.
While the insurance company may argue the rest of the family could use the credit, to my mind, it is a specious argument.
In point of fact, the airlines May end date would hardly be sufficient to satisfy any claimant whose desire to travel long distances would not be anywhere near early next year, or for that matter at any time during the year.
The insurance company is coming to a rather cavalier conclusion he will recover quickly, which certainly is not the conclusion most would draw after such a serious operation.
He should go back to the company and fight the case. Failing that, he should go to the Insurance Council of Alberta and ask them to investigate the claim.
This is a provincial jurisdiction issue and each province has its own body to respond to industry and consumer concerns.
I am really surprised at the insurance company's response to this claim. It is totally out of line with what I have seen from similar cases.
QUESTION: I find that, notwithstanding damage that occasionally occurs from the airline handling systems, my luggage often scuffs over the number of trips I take.
Can you recommend the best way to clean my various pieces that have slowly started to look old and worn?
ANSWER: The Samsonite organization, the largest luggage manufacturer in the world, offers the following suggestions.
For cleaning hardside luggage they recommend using a gentle soap and warm water. A good silicon-base automobile or furniture polish will help preserve the luster and add resistance to the covering. They also caution that a cleaner-polish combination product should never be used.
For softside bags they suggest a spot cleaning with a mild detergent such as dish soap and water. If that does not work, try a product such as Spray 'n Wash or a foam-type cleaner for spot removal.
If your luggage has taken on an offensive odour, Samsonite recommends a mixture of one part vinegar and five parts water to wash it inside and out and then let it air for a number of days.
People tend to store luggage in basements. Help prevent mildew by opening it regularly to air out.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.