Leaving Baghdad

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed every word, description, character, quote, twist and turn in Jackie Spinner's piece ["Coming of Age, From Baghdad to Amman," Oct. 3]. Great idea to run the article and share so much about the trip.

Andy Szul

Alexandria

Pride of Aloha

THE ARTICLE about the launching of Hawaiian Island cruises aboard the Pride of Aloha ["Aloha, Cruise World," Oct. 3] was interesting. Your reporter erred, however, in reporting that the Pride of Aloha was the "first U.S.-flagged and U.S.-staffed ocean-going cruise ship in nearly 50 years" to make Hawaiian Island-only cruises.

I sailed as a passenger on the maiden voyage of the Oceanic Independence in 1980 and later served as a crew member on both the Oceanic Independence and its sister ship, the Constitution, from 1987 to 1989. The two ships were operated by American Hawaii Cruises from 1980 to 2001, when the company went bankrupt.

It's great to see the Hawaiian cruises back again, and reading your article brought back great memories, but it's been far less than 50 years since the last one.

Lisa Cooper

Springfield

Author Steve Hendrix responds:

Cooper is correct that the Independence and Constitution ran inter-island Hawaiian cruises at different periods. But according to Norwegian Cruise Lines, both of those ships were launched in 1951. What NCL and cruise watchers have been touting is that the Pride of Aloha and two planned sister ships represent the first new U.S.-flagged and U.S.-crewed cruise ships in nearly 50 years. We should have made that clear.

Travel Agents of Change

THANK YOU for a well-thought-out article and the vast information you gave consumers ["Travel Agents, With Reservations," Sept. 26]. It is everything we agents have been saying for a long time. The pros and cons were well put. The section on "Picking the Right Agent" was great.

Kathy Scott, CTC

A Travel Service

Nashville

Women's Garment Bags

THE TRAVEL section does not seem to recognize that the traveling public includes businesswomen ["Road Gear," Sept. 19]. I wondered when I read the article why there was no reference to how these garment bags might handle the needs of a businesswoman. I realize that men probably need more help with packing, but we wouldn't mind hearing about more for us, as we do have a few different needs.

Gail Allen

Poolesville, Md.

Palace on Wheels

THE "LAMENTABLE" focus of Joanne Omang's article ["First-Class Passage Through India," Sept. 5] probably cost the India tourist industry some customers. And that's a shame. I have been on the Palace on Wheels and I enjoyed it, because as an unspoiled tourist I went with the attitude required to shift from Western luxuries to Eastern historic grandeur.

With the high rate of exchange, no American traveler could possibly begrudge the impoverished snake charmers a few cents, or worry about paying for his own cocktails.

Still, I must thank you for the highlights you described.

Margaret Roberts Drucker

Washington

Bouchon Baby

I'VE JUST read your article, "The Bouchons of Lyon" [Aug. 29]. I was born there, and now live on the French Riviera. My mother was a bouchon chef. I was raised on those salads, andouillettes, souffles and crisp fried tripe. Did you know that most of the bouchon chefs were women, who started with their home-cooking recipes for early workers' breaks around mid-morning?

To my taste, the best brasserie in Lyon is Brasserie Georges. Nobody needs the address; everybody has known it for more than a century. If you ever go to Lyon, don't forget to pay a visit to the Palais Saint-Pierre. Have a look at the illuminated bridges over the rivers Saone and Rhone at night, and go to the most secluded museum in Lyon: the medical and surgery museum of the oldest hospital, the Hotel-Dieu.

Marcelle Dumoulin

Menton, France

Credit Card Thievery

I RECENTLY had a wonderful trip to Spain. Following various travel advisories, we were very careful to protect our money and travel documents from pickpockets. Before going, I notified my credit card company that I would be in Spain. We never felt threatened in any way while we were there.

However, upon our return, we had a notice to call our credit card company. It said it had rejected three charge requests from Spain and wanted to know if the charges were legitimate. They were not. Someone had taken my credit card information from a legitimate transaction and tried to charge more than $4,000 to my card in three phony transactions.

I applaud the watchful eye of Visa and warn all travelers to be attentive to charges that show up on their bills.

Richard P. Dingman

Vienna

Rome Hotels

WE HAD BEEN planning a trip to Austria and Italy when I saw your article ["Hotels for Roman Holidays," July 4]. I booked a room at the Hotel Firenze for three nights.

It turned out to be the only hotel that my wife and I walked out of on our trip. The entryway was through an alley, requiring us to drag our bags up a set of stairs to the lobby; the plaster was falling off the wall immediately outside the entrance; the room that was initially offered was a three-floor walkup (the elevator is only for luggage); and the lobby was small and uninviting. The first-floor room we were given had linoleum floors, an odor, was not particularly clean, and my wife encountered a six-legged companion in the bathroom. The air conditioner was not powerful enough. We never saw the terrace, but frankly the hotel hardly could be characterized as a place for "couples seeking a romantic interlude," as described in the article.

Fortunately, my wfe was able to persuade the manager not to charge us (he was very cooperative) and we left. Not knowing Rome, I called the hotel info line and was referred to a hotel beyond the Spanish Steps. As we were walking there, we passed the Delle Nazione on Tritone, down the street from Hotel Firenze -- which, it turned out, was 50 yards from Trevi Fountain. We were offered a rate at Delle Nazioni of 158 euros (about $194) and enjoyed it thoroughly.

It was a disappointment to have relied on the recommendation of The Post, only to be led to such a poor location.

Michael Brand

Potomac

Author Gary Lee responds:

It sounds as if the three rooms we were shown at the Firenze were considerably more appealing than the one you were given. Although we are familiar with more luxurious hotels in Rome, the special rate of $100 a night the property was offering qualified it as a recommendable budget option. We found it among the better hotels we visited in that price range.

Write us: Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Fax: 202-912-3609. E-mail: travel@ washpost.com. Letters are edited for length and clarity.