Taking my grandchildren
on a once in a lifetime cruise holiday is one of my final goals in life.
Sea travel coupled with visits to exotic ports of call on one of the
many different oceans of the world cannot be beaten. But mine was no
ordinary travel plan. Were talking about two geriatrics and three
pre-teen youngsters, cooped up on a ship for ten to fourteen days. A
fellow pensioner suggested I could start by checking out the offers
on the Internet. What a good idea!
had worked out a budget that would not give my bank manager a heart
However, there were a series of doubts that needed reassurance.
I therefore made a check list of four sections which were necessary:
availability of cruises including places, price range, insurance
coverage and special conditions for children. I considered all of
them important. Enter Internet Explorer.
Being an old codger,
my first port of call was Saga magazines site, www.saga.co.uk.
This organisation caters for senior citizens which includes holiday
packages at discount prices. Without difficulty I found their travel
page and clicked on the cruise section. There were many on offer with
a large range of prices. Each one with its particular percentage discount
for us elderly. I found a Q & A icon that presented me with many
key questions. These included how many passengers travelling and type
of insurance coverage. I continued to explore their site and extracted
a great deal of other information such as terms and conditions. A valuable
link, www.fco.gov.uk, issued by the Foreign Office offered advice for
overseas travel. Net result was very informative but unless you were
over fifty there was no deal. Children were out.
I then decided to look up a typical travel agent. The next stop was
www.lowestfare.com. Impressive front page with all the vital icons.
Clicked on cruises and again, a great deal was on offer.
Prices ranged across the board. No mention of reduced fares for kids.
Clicked on reservations and a sensible questionnaire appeared,
asking you for all the details of your intended cruise. It included
a sector on who was going and what ages. Nevertheless, unless
I filled all this out, I would not obtain an immediate answer. Tried
to find out about conditions including insurance, but page was entirely
devoted to legal jargon. I continued navigating.
This time I found www.destination-group.co.uk. Superb front page with
lots of pretty pictures and great travel bargains. I clicked on their
icon small cruises only to find that it linked me into Disney
Cruises. This sent me straight into Disneyworlds related
website in Florida. I was not interested in Mickey Mouse. However, I
returned to the home page and drew further blanks on other cruises.
I could not find any information on insurance either. Very disappointing.
Paddle in hand, I found what I thought would be it, www.i-cruise.com.
Their main page was a full blown questionnaire together with hot specials.
Not again I thought! However, I plodded on and found several interesting
icons as well as links (example: http://travel.state.gov/passports_services.html)
that gave you a wide range of advice from passports to the dos
and donts once on board. There was another one: Ask Heidi.
This cybermaid offered you the regularly asked questions. Nothing new.
My impression was that one could spend hours browsing. Again, to find
my specifics, I would have to fill in the damn questionnaire!
I now decided to go for a big guy, www.netscape.com. Searched out travel
and found packages and cruises as well as tour for
you. This latter page was well laid out, although it presented
yet another questionnaire. At least it was designed for your own tailor
made cruise. It also linked you direct into www.ncl.com, the Norwegian
cruise line and www.celebritycruises.com. I opened this latter page
and clicked onto their customer services. Rather than question
the customer, they offered this was now becoming a bore - a comprehensive
list of the most frequently asked questions. Again, one could spend
hours. I left this page for the time being to check out other sites.
How about a well known name. I clicked on www.thomascook.co.uk. Would
you believe it? I couldnt find anything on cruises. A complete
went back to www.netscape.com and found another of their links www.superiortravel.com.
Now I felt that I was getting somewhere as up popped the icon Ask
Jeeves. I asked him bluntly: Travel with kids,
and he corrected me with: Planning trip with kids. Clicking
on, I was passed onto a new link, www.sportingbet.com. This site
offered me several family package holidays as well as further links
that included children. It returned me to www.superiortravel.com
for further information and there it was! A complete list of legal
instructions on travelling with children that were not your offspring.
It went on to say that all travel agents were obliged to advise
you on the legality of taking children overseas as if they were
travelling on their own. The punch line was: this site was an American
I had learnt a lot
about how travel agents offer their services over the net and how each
one is competing in his own way. They all tend to give you an enormous
amount of information on the offers available. When it comes to the
small print such as discounts for children, or insurance coverage you
really have to dig deep into their site. Even then you might not strike
oil. I got the impression that most packages were designed for the younger
generation, preferably single. Elderly couples and families came second
best - but just. Alternatively, if you wanted something special it was:
fill in and sign this form Sir, and well send you a brochure.
I think Ill go back to my friendly high street travel agent for
help. At least I know what he looks like.