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Have Web Will Navigate
James Skinner

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. We’re 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!

I had worked out a budget that would not give my bank manager a heart attack.

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 magazine’s site, 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,, 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 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 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 Disneyworld’s 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, 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: that gave you a wide range of advice from passports to the do’s and don’ts 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, 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, the Norwegian cruise line and 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 Would you believe it? I couldn’t find anything on cruises. A complete blank!

I went back to and found another of their links 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, This site offered me several family package holidays as well as further links that included children. It returned me to 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 travel agent!

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 we’ll send you a brochure”.

I think I’ll go back to my friendly high street travel agent for help. At least I know what he looks like.

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