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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

The Cruel War
Cruising Into Battle

by Linda Coffman

September 15, 2001 -- Before I get to my current point, let me relate where I'm coming from. Many of you are Baby Boomers. I am as well. We grew up with drills in school to prepare us for nuclear attack. Those drills now seem woefully inadequate and even comical. We huddled beneath our desks and, with arms folded over our heads, we pressed our noses to the floor as we awaited the all-clear signal.

Tuesday, September 11th began as normally as any other

Not only did I live with that, but on the day President Kennedy was killed, my mother, brothers, and I said goodbye to my father, not knowing if or when he would return. You see, we lived in Germany and he was an employee of a government contractor--one that designed, built, and maintained guided missiles for NATO. We didn't hear from him for three days... days he spent on "hill 479" overseeing missiles that were trained on our Cold War enemies.

All of Europe was "on alert." I never thought I'd live to see the day when Americans would find themselves in that condition on US soil.

Those of us who remember the day Kennedy died can usually recite in detail where we were, what we were doing, and how we felt. Tuesday, September 11th began as normally as any other. Just like that fateful day when a young president was felled by a madman, it's a day we won't soon forget.

My Tuesday morning began with reading email, checking press wire stories, and browsing a few of my favorite web sites. Before settling down to answering personal email and composing business letters, I like to read what's on other people's minds. What a surprise to open Cruise@ddicts and see a note about Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport being closed. That's MY airport. I quickly flipped on the television and tuned to CNN. Instead of Atlanta, I was shocked to see the skyline of New York City and smoke billowing from the upper floors of one of the World Trade Center's towers. Incredibly, an airplane suddenly slammed into the other tower. What the hell was going on?

How trivial my work seemed, concentrating on vacation travel when lives were crumbling amid concrete and steel

It took more than a few cups of coffee before I fully comprehended what was unfolding on the screen before me. By the time the towers collapsed, I was numb. I couldn't go about my day. My work seemed trivial. How could I concentrate on vacation travel when lives were crumbling amid concrete and steel?

Our lives are changed. Forever. Not just this week or the next. In the aftermath of terror, air travel will never be the same and that may be a change in the right direction. Security has been lax for far too long. We'll grow used to longer lines to check in, stringent security checks, and Sky Marshals protecting the cockpits. Leave your Leatherman Tools and Swiss Army knives at home or pack them in your checked luggage. 

It will take a while before the nation's airlines are up to speed. Even then, some airlines may not survive the economic impact. Midway Airlines is already gone, along with about 1,700 jobs. 

As everyone interested in maritime history knows, it was non-stop transatlantic airliners that dealt a final blow to Atlantic ocean liner service. However, those same airplanes made it possible for Miami to become the world's largest cruise port--air travel made cruises accessible to thousands of passengers.

Taking small steps, one cruise line after another has issued statements... In hindsight, these seem to be naive and short-sighted. 

Immediately following this week's terrorist attacks, many booked cruise passengers are confused and angry at what they perceive as a lack of information and compassion on the part of cruise lines. Just as one airline has already succumbed to the tragedy, cruise lines are also susceptible to financial ruin. Taking small steps, one cruise line after another has issued statements. Initially, they related tightened security procedures and unchanged sailing schedules. In hindsight, these seem to be naive and short-sighted. But then, who could have predicted the full impact of Tuesday's events?

Subsequent cruise line announcements have been more realistic. Alternate ports are being used in the northeast until the Port of New York is reopened to passenger vessels. With air travel in continued disarray, cruise lines recognize that their passengers simply can't get to their embarkation ports. Most are offering credit vouchers to cruise passengers whose flight plans were unavoidably interrupted. Sensitive to the needs and concerns of their guests, some cruise lines are also temporarily altering their usual cancellation policies. That's not to say that they will issue a complete cash refund to passengers who just don't feel like traveling.

Even passengers who had the foresight to purchase travel insurance may, or may not, be covered. One popular insurance company's policy regarding Trip Cancellation and Interruption Protection reads that benefits are provided in the event of "a terrorist incident in a foreign city if you are scheduled to arrive in that city within 10 days following that incident." However, it also states: "Losses resulting due to the issuance of travel advisories, bulletins, or alerts; war or acts thereof; civil disorder, riot or unrest; bomb scares or threats of terrorist activity; or terrorist acts against any common carrier (e.g. airline or cruise line) are not covered."

Another highly-regarded insurer covers policyholders in the case of "Terrorism in a country which is part of your covered trip..." but doesn't address the conditions we are currently experiencing.

In the end, I believe they will all do the right thing

Should you try to cancel your cruise plans? It's entirely up to you; however, if you can get to your embarkation port, my suggestion is to go. Get away and try to take solace in the endless serenity of the sea. My plans are to sail on two cruises in upcoming months and I have no intention of canceling them. Incidentally, my insurance would not cover me if I tried to cancel at this point either.

Some booked passengers feel that cruise lines are "screwing" them by not allowing them to cancel with full refunds for sailings that fall within the normal penalty period. With the confusion and uncertainly we are facing, I urge everyone to give cruise lines the opportunity to sort out the situation.

In the end, I believe they will all do the right thing.

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