Ida Yackow, 65, of Alexandria had traveled to Missouri and lots of other inland places, but she always wanted to go to sea. This year she and her husband paid $3,000 for a cruise along the glimmering waters of the Mexican Riviera.
Instead of Acapulco and other promised ports of call, the couple said they have received only one stop: Alexandria Circuit Court.
City police allege that the Yackow's travel agent, Karen D. Shore, 40, of Alexandria, kept their money without making arrangements for their trip. Yesterday Shore appeared in court on embezzlement charges and her trial was set for Sept. 30. She could not be reached for comment.
Yackow said of her vacation: "My husband used to be in the Navy, so I don't think he was crazy about going. But I've always wanted to go on a cruise . . . . Oh, I still want to go."
The Yackows aren't the only Alexandrians who recently found their promised vacations produced legal hassles.
Thirty persons connected with Alexandria's Presbyterian Meeting House in Old Town, payed $1,249 each this year for a literary tour of Scotland. After returning June 29, they say that they discovered that their bills in Europe were unpaid and Henry Powell, president of their travel agency, had disappeared.
"Nobody knows where he is. He just disappeared June 22," said Daniel Glanz, attorney for Powell's travel firm, Doorways to Britain. On Monday, the travel agency closed its own doors at 121 S. Royal St. after filing for protection under bankruptcy laws.
Bruce Bishings, training director for the Airline Training Council, said the Alexandria episodes are "not unique" and damage the reputation of travel agents. The travel industry, which includes 26,000 accredited travel agents, Bishings said, is already plagued by the incorrect perception that agents cost travelers extra dollars.
"A large number of people erroneously think that you have to pay more if you use a travel agent. It's the hotel and the airlines who pay," said Bishings. "It certainly hurts our industry." he said.
No criminal charges have been filed against Powell, most likely because all those who lost money are in Scotland, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Mendelson, but complaints have been pouring in from abroad.
"As we are a family-owned hotel, we find the whole business extremely distressing," said J.A. Keable, the owner of the Walton Cottage Hotel in Berks, Scotland, in a letter to the Alexandria Sisters City Committee, which promotes good will between Alexandria and Dundee and encourages trips to that Scottish city.
Linda Whitton, the committee's chairwoman, said she arranged a reception for the Presbyterian group with Dundee's Lord Provost, Thomas Mitchell, but had no responsibility in ensuring that bills were paid.
Keamble, who said she lost about $1,600 on the trip, said in her letter, "I feel sure that if other towns in England hear about this fiasco, they will not be too keen to twin with any town in America in case the same situation should occur."