Although some of the questions put to us on our weekly radio program may seem rather ordinary at first, they nevertheless reflect widespread concerns about problems in travel. Here are a number of those recent questions and our responses to them:
Q. The popular, recent Disney film, "Frozen", was supposed to have taken place in Norway, and portrays that nation as unusually attractive. Am I right to consider a trip there?
A. Although Norway is indeed quite beautiful, its cities--especially Oslo--are currently among the most expensive in the world. Awash with oil wealth from the country's rigs in the North Sea, Norway's hotels, restaurants and shops are amazingly costly, and the country has suffered from diminished tourism. You may want to consider that.
Q. My daughter and two friends are planning a trip to Bali. But I am worried about the safety of visiting that island.
A. You shouldn't be. Although Bali suffered a terrorist attack several years ago (against a seaside nightspot filled with young Australian visitors), no later act of terrorism has occurred, and Bali seems no more unsafe than any other popular destination. Keep in mind that terrorism has occurred all over the world--in Spain, for instance, in Britain, and --need we say--in the United States on September 11.
Q. I am presently a social worker but would like to be a travel agent and thus engage in a more pleasant activity. How do I go about getting a job in a travel agency?
A. Several schools--less than in recent years--continue to offer courses for would-be travel agents, and some of them are reviewed and discussed in the website of the American Society of Travel Agents (www.asta.org). My own experience leads me to believe that the best way to obtain such a position is to offer to work for free, for a time, with a local travel agency--becoming an apprentice. For several weeks, you sit alongside a travel agent, observing their work, and are often eventually offered a job after you have mastered the craft. Keep in mind that the travel agency business is no longer regarded as unusually promising, and is mainly successful because of the extensive community contacts that individual travel agents have.
Q. Is there a website for obtaining heavily discounted, last-minute cruises?
A. All of the major cruise websites offer last minute cruises at a discount. One of them, VacationsToGo.com, features a "90 day ticker" in which it lists heavily-discounted cruises scheduled to leave within the next three months. But all the others--Cruises Only.com, CruiseBrothers.com, White Travel Service--also feature last-minute cruises at a discount.
Q. I am planning a trip to Italy, and looking for a good travel insurance company with which to deal.
A. Rather than looking for a particular insurance company, you might be better served by one of the websites--SquareMouth.com or InsureMyTrip.com--that lists numerous travel insurance policies and tells what each one offers. Applying your own needs to those lists, you can often find a policy that is most appropriate for you.
Q. After a visit to London, I will be able to spend three days in Scotland in August. What's best to do there at that time?
A. The Edinburgh Festival of Theatre is an outstanding August opportunity, when hundreds of plays are presented at scores of theaters--some of them improvised for the occasion--around town. The "Tattoo" of British marching bands is also presented at night.
Q. We'll be in Athens for a short while. Any way to sample the islands while we're there?
A. Daily, a ferry boat leaves Piraeus (the port of Athens) for a quick, one-day cruise to three, typical, Greek islands--Aegina, Poros and Hydra-- returning late in the day to Athens. At each, you can disembark for a short time and wander around. See "AthensOneDayCruise.com" for the details.