The Great Cruise Line Rip-Off

Thinking of taking a Caribbean Cruise this winter? I will let you in on a little secret. The cruise lines are master extortionists, and their target is your wallets and those of the merchants in the Caribbean that will sell to you.

Let me explain. First of all, the entire aim of the Cruise Lines is to get you on their ship as cheaply as possible, then sock it to your wallets. Everything is an add on. You are constantly plied and urged to drink and sign it to your cabin. I have even been awakened when napping a deck chair in a quiet corner, asking me if I wanted a drink.

Cruiseline personnel walk around with cameras and charge for pictures. But don't worry, sign it to your room. Everything is signed to your room. And when it comes to the end of the cruise, oftentimes your room charges total over a thousand dollars. The whole end-game is to painlessly part you of all of your money. Well, this is fair enough. After all, you are on holidays, and you don't want the bother of checking your tab.

So where does the extortion come in? After a day at sea, you are coming to an exotic tropic port. The passengers are all herded into a lounge to learn about the destination. The purser or his cohort will give you the low-down on where you are disembarking. They pass out sheets with "Shopping Guides" -- where to shop in say .. Nassau.

Here is what they tell you. Shop only at the stores that they list on their sheet of paper. If you don't they warn you that you could be ripped off, or suffer identity theft, or that you will recieve shoddy goods. If you shop at the stores listed, you will recieve the "Port Shopper's Guarantee".

Let's read the fine print of the guarantee. Here is what it says:

Shop with confidence at each of the recommended stores. All stores listed have paid a promotional fee and given Carnival Cruise Lines' guest a Buyer's Guarantee valid for 30 days after purchase. This guarantee is valid for repair or exchange. Guest negligence or buyers regret is excluded. Only appraisals from properly certified independent gemologists not affiliated with any retail jeweller will be considered. Watches and Electronics requiring repair must be returned to their respective manufacturer. Price paid for merchandise or verbal claims/agreements between merchant and guest will not be grounds for return. All purchases including fragile items must be checked before leaving store. ... Guests are responsible for postage and appraisal costs.

Forgot to register your purchases while on board? Now you can register online. blah blah blah

Ok, if you read this carefully, your buyer's guarantee is worthless. The merchant has paid a fee to Carnival Cruise Lines to get listed. How does it protect you? If the port store says that your diamond tennis bracelet is worth $1,000 with an appraisal certificate to prove it, and your local jeweller says that it is a $50 cheapo, then the buyer's protection does not help you.

If you buy electronics, you have to return it to the manufacturer -- same as if you didn't have Carnival's guarantee. If your stuff busts, it is not their fault. If the store owner makes an agreement and fails to honour it, it is not their fault. Essentially your buyer's guarantee is useless. So if your buyer's guarantee is useless, then why bother registering your purchases? Why do you have to do that?

Quite simple. The registry of purchases is not to protect you, but to figure out how much you spend at each store. The Cruise Lines go to each merchant, demanding a fee to be listed in the buyer's guide. They now how much money to extort, by the amount of purchases registered.

So how much do you think that they ask from the port merchants? I have been told in confidence that most of the major merchants in Nassau have been ripped off by over six figures by the cruise lines. If you don't play ball, it is the kiss of death for the merchants. The cruise guests get told not to shop at their premises.

All of this thievery on the part of the Cruise Lines just raises the price of goods in the ports. The stores have to jack up prices to cover the protection payments.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the cruise lines. Here are some tips:

  1. Throw away the shopper's guide and pick one up provided by the Ministry of Tourism at the cruise port. It is a fairer assessment of the shops.
  2. Shop wherever you damn well please. If you get ripped off, complain to the ubiquitous police. The Ministry of Tourism jealously guards it's Number One contributor to the economy.
  3. Drink booze while in port. It is a heck of a lot cheaper.
  4. Don't buy your pictures from the cruise line.
  5. Check your room bill every day, and keep cognizant of the charges.
  6. Don't buy major items while on a cruise. It is a simple equation. Knock-offs are a big business in the Caribbean, and if the price is too good to be true, it usually is. And if you are looking for knock-off Louis Vuitton, remember, customs can seize fake goods when you arrive back at your destination.
Remember that cruise lines like Carnival have told merchants that they control your wallet. Make sure that it isn't so.

If you want to complain about their practises, Carnival Cruise Lines email address is

It is ironic that they have the word PIG in their email address.


Anonymous said...

....never took a cruise and after reading about these scams...the extra fees..especially the booze part...I definitely never will...obviously it's buyer beware....these cruise lines better start selling off these ships for scrap before their financial crunch hits big can only flounce the public for so long....these ships are probably registered internationally so there is no accountability in any one national jurisdiction..all they are is glorified ferry boats anyway

Jeremy Smee said...

We love cruising. Just use your common sense when it comes to extra charges. No need to be "ripped off" unless you let your self get "ripped off". There are many bargains to be had in duty free ports of call. Just make sure you know what you are buying and what the "at home" price is.
The so-called gratuity which has risen from $10 per person per day has risen to $15. \you can stop this but remember that many of the waiters etc. from foreign countries rely on this "tip" as their salary which many of them send home to support their famalies