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The Nile, the fjords, Hawaii, the Caribbean or the Mediterranean? You’ve been dreaming about it for so long! It’s decided: this spring, you’re going on a cruise. The question is: how do you choose? There are so many offers and prices range from simple to quadruple. Some forums talk about scams, and that scares you. To help you avoid a bad experience, here are the TOP 5 cruise scams.
1 – Order scam: ask before you book!
This is the biggest scam of all! It seems so obvious that it’s hard to fall for it. And yet, the victims are numerous. Let me paint you a picture. A company presents a dream cruise with sublime images. It’s so well done that you can already see yourself on it. The prices are quite reasonable. It’s unbelievable what they can offer for these prices!
You can’t resist the call of the open sea and poolside cocktails at these prices. So you pull out your credit card and place your order. The company requires full payment at the time of booking. You’re $1,000 lighter (if not more). A few days later, you try to contact customer service to get confirmation of your trip and a few details. It’s at this point that you fall off your chair (or your sofa): there’s no customer service, and no one who can give you any information about your trip. In fact, the company doesn’t exist. You’ve just been scammed!
My advice: stay away from companies that ask for full payment on booking, and find out more about the company offering the trips. Just google the name to get an initial idea of the booking site’s reputation. Don’t hesitate to look for legal information: company name, address and registered number. You can then check on your state business licence website to see if the company exists. A phone call before booking with a request for information will also be very useful.
2 – Low-cost cruise scams: beware of low prices!
A dream cruise to Tangiers aboard an ocean liner with 2 swimming pools, 1 Jacuzzi, 1 sauna, 1 dance floor and 1 gym, for the modest sum of $499, all-inclusive. A tempting offer. Perhaps too tempting? Beware of misleading advertising!
What’s behind these low-cost offers? All-inclusive” means that the customer doesn’t have to spend 1 euro, except to buy a souvenir. The price includes travel, accommodation, full board and entertainment. A price that’s too low should tip you off. Find out about the nature and quality of the services on offer:
- Which cabins will you be entitled to? How many people will be on board?
- What kind of entertainment is offered?
- Are drinks included with meals?
- What options are available at extra cost?
On some forums, people have pointed out that they had to pay for a bottle of water at every meal, as this drink was not included in the “all-inclusive” package! Stopovers can also hold surprises. Companies sometimes forget to tell you that you have to pay for transportation to and from the port of call (bus, cab or metro), as there is no provision for this.
3 – Cancellation scams: read the terms and conditions carefully!
Some cruise organizers contact people and encourage them to place an order. One of the arguments they use to convince people is the fact that they can book. To finish off their victims, some salespeople point out that the number of places is limited and that prices are set to rise. In other words, you’re left with the impression that if you don’t book right away, you’re missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Believe me, this sales technique is as old as the hills!
In reality, if you give in to the call of these less-than-catholic sirens, you could be missing out on the chance of a lifetime… not to get ripped off! Another dubious technique is to reimburse you not in cash, but in the form of a credit note for another trip, which you may not want or be able to take.
I advise you to read the booking site’s terms and conditions carefully. The conditions for cancelling and refunding your cruise should be spelled out in black and white. It’s important to remember that by booking a trip, you accept these terms and conditions. It’s the same as signing a contract. So read on and beware! If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact customer service before placing your order to ask about cancellation and refund conditions, or to contact a consumer association.
4 – Price change scams after purchase
You’ve just booked your cruise. You’ll have to make do with a simple outside cabin with no balcony. Too bad, you were dreaming of a cabin with a balcony! Unfortunately, this would have added $1,000 to the price of the trip, which you really hadn’t budgeted for. A week after ordering, you return to the booking site. You’re unpleasantly surprised to see that the price of your trip has been reduced by 40%!
For the amount you had paid, you could have afforded the balcony cabin you were looking for! You contact customer service and ask if it’s possible to change your reservation to a balcony cabin. They tell you that cancelling the first order will incur a 35% penalty, meaning you’ll lose out on the advertised discount!
You insist, but customer service tells you they can’t make any commercial gesture. No commercial gesture, but a nice scam that made you pay 40% more than you could have paid in total! Enough to ruin your stay! I invite you to take a look at the various booking sites to compare prices and price fluctuations. That way, you’ll be in a better position to find the best deals without compromising your criteria.
5 – Tipping scams
This is the ultimate scam for an all-inclusive holiday! Some companies mention “tip” or “no tip” options, automatically selecting the “tip” option if you don’t pay attention. This involves adding a sum of up to $8 per meal, or $128 per person for an 8-day stay! This method is especially acceptable in France and in all countries where the policy is “service included.
Tipping is totally optional if the offer indicates that it is included in the price you have already paid. It’s perfectly unfair to have this amount deducted almost automatically, and it directly increases the cost of your trip. My advice: read all the fine print when you place your order. And beware of the seemingly insignificant “Tips” or “No tips” box!