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Entries during 2007-04

The Nicholas Mosse Factory in Kilkenny

Q: We will be in Dublin this summer and would like to visit the Nicholas Mosse Pottery Factory in Kilkenny. Can you tell us how to get there and whether they offer factory tours? We have checked their website but it was not helpful.

A: The Nicholas Mosse Pottery Factory (www.nicholasmosse.com or 011 353 56 27126) has been making beautiful hand-made pottery since 1975 in a former flour mill. Unfortunately, they don’t offer factory tours. However, on the ground floor there are windows where you can look into the factory and watch the pottery making process. There is also a small museum and a coffee shop overlooking River Nore that serves pastries baked fresh daily in their kitchen. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9AM to 6PM, and on Sunday from 1:30PM to 5PM.

Tour of Italy

Q: We’re wondering what you’ve heard about Perillo Tours. We were thinking of taking a trip with them to Italy. Is there a place on the Internet where we can read opinions posted by past customers?

A: I doubt that Perillo would have stayed in business for so many decades were they not a good company, although I’ve never traveled with them. But I’ve also never received any complaints, so I think you can book with confidence. You might want to check out postings about them on tripadvisor.com. Just search under “Perillo.” I think a lot depends on exactly who your guide will be. Whoever it is, you might consider tipping your guide (and your driver) generously at the start of the trip rather than at the end. I always find this tactic works wonders.

France by Boat

Q: We are thinking of taking a self-conducted canal cruise with another couple in France, but there are so many canals! What is a good area for a one-week trip? Also, how can we find reputable boat rental companies? Are there any special skills needed or pitfalls to watch out for when traveling this way in France?


A: There are several companies that offer canal boat rentals such as Canal Boat Holidays, France Afloat, and Barging in France. France, along with England, Ireland, the Netherlands and others European nations, has an extensive network of canals, some of which date back hundreds of years. As there are over 5,000 miles of waterways in France, and you can barge your way across much of the country.

Among the more popular destinations are the regions of Burgundy, Champagne and Lorraine. Most of the boats that are rented to independent travelers do not require a license, and piloting a river boat is said to be easy enough that a child can do it, although it probably depends on the child. Just don’t sample too much of that wonderful French wine and Champagne.

The French Tourist Office is a good resource to consult at www.francetourism.com A few companies recommended by the FTO include Bargain Boating (800-637-0782), Crown Blue Line Connoisseur (888-355-9491) and Locaboat Holidays. Your travel agent will be glad to help further.

Student Fares

Q: I am a student and am planning a trip this summer to Europe. I have searched several online-travel sites and the cheapest way to get there I have found is through Student Universe, which has a website at www.studentuniverse.com. The price they have listed for my destination is the cheapest, with plane tickets on Icelandair. My father thought it would be a good idea to ask you for your opinion of both the Web site and the airline.


A: Student Universe is a very legitimate travel vendor, and they do indeed offer students some of the lowest fares available. Their fares typically also come with fewer restrictions, such as advance purchase requirements and the usual 30-day maximum stay restriction associated with low cost fares. Icelandair is a solid airline, although you will have to change planes in Iceland (one reason why their fares are lower). However, you may want to explore the country for a few days, and you can probably stop over for little or no additional fare.

The Fair Credit Billing Act

Q: What happens if you buy an airline ticket and the airline goes belly up?  Does travel insurance protect you?

A:  The Fair Credit Billing Act requires that if you buy something with a credit card and don't receive what you paid for and you dispute the charge in writing†with your credit card issuer within 60 days of the charge appearing on your credit card statement, then the credit card company must delete the charge from your bill. This also applies to airline tickets. You may be thinking, hold the phone! What if I buy an airline ticket four months ahead of travel, pay off my credit card bill, and then the carrier goes kerplunk. Well, yes, then under the law you're out of luck. It's also important to buy the ticket directly from the airline, not a travel agency or tour operator. It's not the travel agent who is going to go bankrupt, it's the airline, so buying through any channel other than the airline itself will complicate your claim. Of course, another airline could take over the routes and obligations of the defunct one and might honor your otherwise worthless ticket. Also, Federal law requires that under certain circumstances a competing airline must honor the ticket of a bankrupt carrier on a space available basis, but this law is in effect only until November 18, 2005. Most travel insurance policies wonít cover certain airlines that they think may go bankrupt, so read the fine print.

Norway the easy way

Q: Do you have a suggestion for a seven to 10 day trip of the Scandinavian countries with my 84-year-old mother this summer? It seems that cruises don't give you enough time to visit the various cities, and a motor coach tour might be too hectic and scheduled.

A: Even 10 days might not be enough to see all of Scandinavia, so it might be better to focus on one or two countries. I'd suggest seeing the region by rail and ferry on your own, since it's a civilized and comfortable way to travel and you can hop on and off at will. One option is to purchase Rail Europe's "Norway in a Nutshell" pass and spend the entire vacation in Norway, where you'll be see the ocean, fjords, mountains and everything in between. The scenery is terrific. This pass allows you to travel by train, ferry and bus between two major Norwegian cities – Oslo and Bergen. The high season pass is valid for travel from May through September, with itineraries ranging from $225 to $368 per person.  More information about "Norway in a Nutshell" is available visiting www.raileurope.com or through your travel agent. For more information about Norway, go to www.visitnorway.com. Rail Europe offers other Scandinavian rail passes as well, all of which let you explore the region at your own pace.

Credit Card Currency Exchange Fees, Be-Gone!

Q. During my last trip abroad, I thought I'd be smart and avoid the hassles of exchanging money by just using my credit card for the most of my purchases. But when the bill rolled in, all those currency conversion charges really added up. A lot! My family and I are planning a trip to Europe this summer and I don't want to get a bill like that again. Are there any cards that don't charge for currency conversions?

A. Actually, yes! This is straight from their site: "Capital One does not charge a fee for using your credit card for foreign currency transactions. Foreign purchases will be converted at the foreign exchange rate in effect at the time of posting the charge."

Covered for Cancellations

Q: I am planning to take a group tour in Europe this summer. The tour is limited to ten people, and the fine print says that if they don't get enough participants they reserve the right to cancel and refund my money. But here's my question: if they cancel, and I buy nonrefundable airfare, which is now running about $1000, to meet the tour, and make other nonrefundable arrangements pre- and post-tour, will travel insurance protect me? I would hate to be stuck with a useless $1000 ticket to Europe, because the only reason I'm going is to participate in this tour.

A: Standard travel insurance, such as policies issued by Access America or Travel Guard, will not cover cancellation by a tour operator. You need to look into a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. These policies are more expensive than standard policies (the premiums are at least 30 percent higher) and you cannot cancel within 48 hours of departure, but they have far fewer loopholes than other insurance programs. One provider is Travel Safe Insurance ( www.travelsafe.com or 888-885-7233).

Fare Changes

 Q: You state on the site that fares can change up to three times a day. Is that East Coast time or West Coast or what? Also, how do these fare changes work: are they advertised or regulated by the government?

A: Fare changes take place on East Coast (EST) time. Most, but definitely not all, airlines file their fares with a company in the Washington, DC area called ATPCO (the Airline Tariff Publishing Company), which used to be a quasi-governmental agency but now is a private company, three times a day during the week and just once a day on Saturday and Sunday. The weekday changes are filed around 10 AM, 12.30 PM, and 8 PM, and the weekend changes at around 5 PM. But it takes several hours for the fares to filter down to your favorite online travel agency. We actually find that CheapAir.com gets the fare changes faster than Travelocity.com, but eventually all the travel agencies will display the new fares. There is no governmental regulation on airfares now, although before airline deregulation, fares and routes were heavily controlled by the Federal government. Most fare changes, especially the really good ones, are not advertised, probably because the airlines only want to sell a certain number of seats at the reduced fare.

Trashed Bag

Q: Delta Airlines destroyed a piece of my husband's luggage this week. It isn't just dirtied, or torn. It looks like it was run over by a truck. The pull out handle is torn out of the bag leaving a large hole and rip. The only thing holding our clothing in was the lining. If it had not been a better piece of luggage with a heavy lining our clothes would have fallen out. This damage is extreme, not a scuff or a tear. We went to the baggage counter and were treated very rudely and told nothing could be done. That's not a satisfactory answer. I understand luggage is handled roughly to keep things on time, but this was way beyond that.

What would you recommend our course of action be?.

A: I definitely wouldn't take that for a final answer. You must contact Delta customer service. It's good that you went to baggage right away; and hopefully they allowed you to fill out a damage claim.

From Delta's Web site:

We will respond to written customer complaints within 30 days, exceeding the 60-day response standard adopted by ATA member airlines.
We have a dedicated, trained Customer Care staff to answer your inquiries. Express your travel comments by:

  • Calling us at 800-221-1212 or your usual SkyMiles Member Services number.
  • Mailing them to Delta Air Lines, P.O. Box 20980, Atlanta, GA 30320-2980.

You might want to include photos of the damaged bag and a receipt, if you still have one, for the original purchase, along with your flight number and a copy of your ticket confirmation.
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