A man from Tennessee was "stunned" when a company calling itself "Royal Seas Cruises" initially refused to refund his cruise to the Bahamas after his wife unexpectedly died. 

A news station in Knoxville reports that Bob Mackay and his wife Bonnie had paid for a cruise but his wife died shortly before they could go on the trip. 

As WATE explains, Bob was devasted when Bonnie died on June 26th. He called Royal Seas a few days after the funeral, asking for a refund of their cruise.  

“They told me that they would not cancel it. That I could sell it. Or if I found another girlfriend, I could use it and take her,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I really don’t want to go on a cruise without my wife . . . ”

Bob requested to speak to the service representative’s supervisor who reportedly "had no interest in giving me a refund whatsoever,” notwithstanding Royal Seas’ claim that its "customer service is second to none."

But after an "on your side" reporter contacted Royal Seas, the cruise line quickly agreed to issue a full refund.

Free Cruise Scam?

Royal Sea Cruises is actually not a cruise line but a vacation marketing company which sells cruises on the Grand Celebration which many passengers have complained is part of a "free cruise" scam.

The Better Business Bureau rates Royal Seas Cruise a "D-." It writes that its files contain "a pattern of complaints from consumers that allege they were contacted by Royal Seas Cruises informing them they won a ‘free’ cruise; however when they tried to redeem the free cruise they were informed of undisclosed fees and the requirement of attending a time share presentation. Consumers informed BBB they cancelled the cruise and requested a refund but they did not receive a refund from Royal Seas Cruises. Some consumers allege receiving unwanted phone calls from Royal Seas Cruises and requested to be removed from the company’s call list but they still continue to receive calls." 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 



Yesterday, Carnival announced its new cruise brand, "fathom" (no capitalization), at a press conference in New York City. It said that the one-ship brand has an "unique business model for sustained impact and lasting development" with a "global vision that reaches beyond what the world has ever seen."

Carnival claims that "fathom" will focus on "education, the environment and economic development" in its ports in certain third world countries where it sails. Bloomberg explains that Carnival is targeting customers who want to "save the world while sailing the seas."

Before the press conference, Carnival greased the wheels of the promotion of its "first voluntourism Fathom Cruise Linecruise line" by distributing glossy photographs of models / faux-cruise-passengers pretending to help local farmers in the Caribbean. The travel and cruise publications reprinted Carnival’s images and talking points hook, line and sinker.

Convincing people other than travel agents and Carnival’s hardcore fans that this is a genuine and charitable project will prove to be far more challenging. 

Cruising in general and Carnival in particular are not remotely associated with sustainability or environmentalism, and with good reason.

The group Friends of the Earth recently protested Carnival’s shoddy environmental practices at the cruise convention Cruise Shipping Miami. The group presented Carnival’s new CEO Arnold Donald with over 100,000 signatures demanding that the cruise line update its 35 year old wastewater treatment practices. Carnival refuses to install Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems on its cruise ships. It dumps disgusting amounts of sewage into the oceans. In 2014, Carnival received a "F" grade for its sewage treatment practices and a "D" for air pollution reduction. 

Avoiding environmental regulations is a fundamental part of the cruise line’s business model since Carnival was incorporated in Panama in the early 1970’s. The company incorporated outside of the U.S. and flies "flags of convenience" of countries like the Bahamas on its cruise ship in order to avoid all U.S. taxes and wage & labor laws and most safety regulations. 

Carnival also has a history of grossly underpaying and overworking its crew members. When CEO Donald joined Carnival, one of the first things he did was cancel the crew’s meager retirement program. This is a cruise line that fired 150 Indian waiters who protested low wages and found themselves black-balled from the cruise industry.  

Carnival will use one of the oldest cruise ships it owns, the M/V Adonia, which is part of the P&O Cruises brand, as the flagship of the "fathom" brand. The Adonia used to be operated by Renaissance Cruises and Princess and has been registered in flag-of-convenience countries like Liberia, the Marshall islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda since it was built in 2001. It’s a bunker-fuel burning and smoke-belching ship in the true cruise tradition of Carnival.

Here’s what people are saying on our Facebook page

  • "A big pile of Carnival corporation lip service meant to deflect attention from the environmental nightmare that was the Concordia."
  • I better book so I can have a "Social Conscience."
  • "Socially conscience and financially (unconscionable) which is the only way that boat will float…. It’s embarrassing that I still cruise Carnival . . ."
  • "CCL has tapped out the EBT Card market, let’s go after the church’s mission money! But we take out cut off the top. BRILLIANT!" 
  • "It will fail, (not) enough people will pony up $1500 to feel good about Carnival pretending to have a social conscience. Let’s see them put scrubbers on their ships first."

This is strictly a for-profit cruise with a weeklong trip in a cabin with a window will cost a small fortune, $3,220 for two (more for a balcony) plus gratuities.  

There are lots of church organizations and non-profits that have a demonstrated, genuine commitment to the poor in the Caribbean and Central America.

The first stop for the "fathom" cruise line will be Carnival’s private development in the Dominican Republic, Amber Cove, where the "save the world" cruisers can buy made-in-China souvenirs sold by Carnival.

Is this a money-making scam targeting U.S. passengers feeling guilty for choosing to vacation in the least socially and environmentally way possible?  It’s a lot cheaper and more effective to fly down on your own to Santo Domingo and work with local charities if you really want to help the poor. But I’ll let your conscience decide that for you.  

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

June 17 2015 Update: Travel Mole weighs in on the issue: "Big questions over Carnival’s venture into voluntourism."

Photo Credit: Fake passengers – "fathom" via Cruise Critic

NBC 6 is airing a story about Caribbean Cruise Line alleging that the company routinely offers essentially "free" cruises via unsolicited phone calls or vouchers in the mail, and deceives the public by not disclosing hidden fees. 

It also claims  that businessmen behind the scenes at the travel company have been in trouble for deceiving customers before. 

We have covered stories about this outfit before – Caribbean Cruise Line Lies and Steals?

The story is a bit confusing because the Caribbean Cruise Line, although technically active with the Florida Department of State, essentially went out of business after the Bahamas Celebration ran aground on October 31st while departing from Freeport, ripping a hole in the hull. In December 2014 it was announced that the newly formed Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line would operate the MS Grand Celebration which would replace the old damaged ship. 

Have a comment? Please leave on below or join the discussion on our Facebook page


Free Cruise? Local news ABC-7 Fort Meyers is reporting that "scammers" are sending out text messages claiming that you have won a "free cruise."

Of course, there is no such thing as a truly free cruise but it seems like some people forget that.

The news station explains that "the scammers text you and tell you you’ve won a cruise. But when you call the number, a customer service representative says all you have to do is pay the $60 port fees. They suggest for you to put it on your credit or debit card – just give them the number."

"Don’t do it," says Sgt. Dana Coston with the Cape Coral Police Department.  The news station calls them "crooks" looking for "free money" from victims.

The telephone number involved, according to the news station, is (305) 749-5493.

Give them a call and listen to the sales pitch. Just don’t get talked into giving them your credit card number! 

Cruise Critic published an article several years ago about the "free cruise" offer: The Free Cruise Offer: Scam or Legit?

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic



Last year I published a couple of articles entitled And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has an Image Problem.  One of the stories we covered involved a NCL passenger who had to cancel his cruise because his brother died and was being buried on the day of the cruise.  NCL refused to permit him to cancel without paying the entire fare.  He then suggested that he be permitted to donate the cruise to a child with cancer.  NCL said no, and then sold the cabin to other passengers.  That’s right, the cruise line made a double profit off of the death of a customer’s brother.  Really sick.

But after I published the article, a number of readers emailed me and said that the passenger should have protected himself by buying travel insurance.  Although they seemed to be rather heartless about the matter, the readers were probably right.  Cruise lines have carefully drafted their passenger tickets over the years to protect themselves against claims arising out of all last minute cancellations, so its prudent to always buy insurance for your cruise.

But what happens when the insurance companies try to weasel out from paying a claim for a missed cruise?

You can hire a lawyer, but insurance companies aren’t scared of lawyers.  Insurance companies have lots and lots of lawyers who sole purpose is to screw the policyholders out of their claims.

Travel Insurance Scam - Cruise Insurance The best bet is to contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and go to the press.  Insurance companies hate bad press and government scrutiny, which brings us to this story.

A soldier in war zone Afghanistan, Jeremy Radtke, and his wife Jamie purchased a cruise with Princess Cruises.  Jamie’s mom is a travel agent who convinced them to buy insurance, which was a smart move because a rocket attack caused soldier Radtke’s flight home to be canceled.

Jamie them made a claim for the missed cruise with the insurance company, which advertises specifically to active duty military.  In response, she received a voice mail message for her husband (then back in the war zone) stating:

"Hi this message is for Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Shane and I’m calling in regards to travel insurance claim that was filed and we were finally able to do a review of that claim. Unfortunately we were not able to extend benefits on the claim." 

Understandably upset, Jamie had the foresight to complain to her Senator in Florida, Mike Fasano, who wrote a letter to the insurance company, stating in part:

"It is important for you to know that Mr. Radtke is active-duty military and is stationed in Afghanistan. This soldier, whose life is on the line each and every day to protect the freedoms that you and I enjoy, planned the cruise during a scheduled two week leave period. This leave is the only time he was able to come home and spend time with his wife.

I find it unconscionable that your company would deny a claim by anyone with a legitimate claim, especially active duty service members who frequently have to deal with changes in leave time . . ." 

Jamie also took her story to Channel 10 Investigators in Tampa who contacted Travel Guard.  The insurance company claimed that it never denied the claim and was allegedly just waiting on some paperwork.  It offered no explanation for the voice message.  Once confronted by the Senator and the TV crew, Travel Guard said that it would go ahead and cover the claim.  Jamie then received a check for $3,600.

If a travel insurance company will play games with a member of the U.S. military who puts his life on the line fighting the Taliban, do you think that it will treat your family any better?

If you have been taken advantage by a cruise line or cruise insurance company, don’t get mad.  Get even. Lawyers can’t always help.  Call your elected officials.  Call a team of action investigators at a local television station. Tell the company that’s trying to steal your money to explain themselves to a TV camera.      



Video and photo credit:  News 10 Tampa Bay / WTSP

A television station in Louisville, Kentucky reported on an interesting story today entitled "Woman Claims Cruise Company Promising Free Cruise Lied, Stole."

Amy Zetina, a hard working mother of three in Kentucky, responded to an ad which offered a "free cruise."

Ms. Zetina was taken for a ride, but it wasn’t on a cruise ship. 

It turns out that "Caribbean Cruise Line" offers “free” Caribbean cruise package, with some ads featuring Carmen Electra promoting a "free" cruise.

Ms. Zetina received a packet in the mail telling her that she was the lucky winner of a "free" cruise, including a $1,300 voucher.  She agreed to pay only for port taxes and then gave her credit card number over the telephone.  The cruise company then began sucking money out of her account.

Ms. Zetina did not know that 458 customers had lodged complaints against Caribbean Cruise Line.  Nor did she know about it’s "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau.  An investigation by the television station revealed that the company made unauthorized charges against customers’ credit cards. 

After Ms. Zetina contacted the television station, she called the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General’s office and the local police.  Only then did she get her money back.

You can find complaints about this company on the Complaints Board and Ripoff Report and throughout the internet. 

Moral of the story?  There are no free cruises in life.  And when someone rips you off, fight back.

Enjoy the official ad of Caribbean Cruise Line with Carmen Electra (in Spanish – Cruceros Gratis!




PS:  There have been criticism of marketing scams by "Caribbean Cruise Line" which is not a cruise line at all but a marketing company which also sells time shares in the Bahamas.  We last mentioned this company two weeks ago in a story about an affiliated company, Celebration Cruise Line –  Report of Rape on Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship.    

April 26, 2012 Update: The fun & games continue.  A "free cruise?"  I don’t think so.  Hanging Up On A Free Cruise: The Emotional Toll Of Doing The Right Thing


Photo Credit:  Celebration Cruise Line website

The Sun Sentinel reports that Florida charged travel agencies in the state with using unlicensed agents to sell bogus trip insurance policies through a company called Prime Travel Protection Services, of Colorado.  Prime Travel, which apparently was never authorized to do business in Florida, went out of business in 2009 and is in liquidation.  Hundreds of Florida travelers were left with unpaid claims.

Cruise Insurance - Travel InsuranceMany of the consumers bought the policies before going on cruises.  Obtaining valid insurance for cruise vacations is a prudent thing which we recommend cruise passengers consider before cruising. 

Prime Travel claimed that it offered "trip protection" and not travel insurance, which must be approved by regulators and underwritten to ensure claims will be covered.  The consumers who bought the bogus policies had no recourse when their claims were not paid.

The state warned the agencies to stop selling unauthorized insurance or face penalties including a $50,000 fine.  The newspaper reports that the six agencies cited this week offered policies through Prime Travel or its affiliates.  They agencies include:

According to the Sun Sentinel, the agencies charges include JB Travel Inc. of Boynton Beach, St. Lucie West Travel of Port St. Lucie, Ahoy Cruises of Jacksonville, Diana’s Travel South of Spring Hill, Sandra Demore / CruiseWithSandy of Port Orange, and Four Seasons Tours and Cruises of Largo.

The newspaper also reports that in the past year, state officials cited additional agencies for similar problems.  One of the agencies, Palm Coast Travel of Lake Worth and its affiliate Smartcruiser.com, were charged with initially giving travelers AccessAmerica trip insurance policies, then transferring customers to companies not authorized in Florida to offer coverage – including Prime Travel.

When the media began reporting on the bogus policies last year, Palm Coast Travel filed a defamation lawsuit against one of the aggrieved consumers who complained, as well as veteran travel writer, Christopher Elliott, who covered what appears to be a scam in his widely respected travel website "Elliott."  

Suing travel writers for uncovering consumer fraud stories appears, in my opinion, to be retaliatory in nature and counter-productive.  Mr. Elliott was ahead of this story in 2008 when he warned consumers of the Prime Travel policies in an article "A Travel Insurance Mystery: Who is Prime Travel Protection Services?"   

Mr. Elliott indicates that he made a public records request for information regarding the state of Florida’s case against Palm Coast Travel, and will release the information on his website.  This will be interesting reading.


If you are considering buying travel insurance, consider reading:"6 Tips to Avoid Travel Insurance Scams."