Cruise lines are constantly in competition for consumer dollars. This means advertising can get downright cutthroat and in some ways deceptive — if the feds don’t keep an eye on things. Luckily for consumers, the FTC does monitor advertising and cruise ships, so for the most part, potential passengers can relax a bit. However, this doesn’t mean that you should drop your guard completely. Consumers should think smart, ask questions, and always read the fine print.
Advertising and cruise ships and the FTC have a long history. One of the first cruise ships to appear on network television belonged to the “World’s Most Popular Cruise Line,” Carnival Cruise Lines — which is still going strong today. While Carnival Cruise Lines marketing tactics were and still are quite innocent as they really only involve targeting families, singles, couples, fun-loving honeymooners, and traveler’s ages 25-54 that are interested in a fun and affordable cruise, other advertising tactics by other travel entities are not so innocent. It may not be the cruise lines that are using deceptive advertising to reel in vacationers, it may very well be certain “travel agencies” or certain discount cruise websites that may be attempting to dupe people into logging onto their sites or making purchases by listing phony prices and staging fake giveaways.
Brand new online travel agencies such as Elleipses Global Travel Solutions AllRes.com and popular discount booking search engines such as Kayak.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, CheapTickets.com, and VacationsToGo.com can be trusted, but off-brands or newer (obscure) sites (especially those without physical addresses and phone numbers) should be used with caution.
Additionally, if a site cannot be easily researched and the “deals” are too good to be true, be careful! Information about AllRes.com can be found on numerous websites, and of course, it’s own website is polished, professional, and all contact information and background information on the company is easily accessible. According to FOX Business “ALLRes.com is an online travel agency offering both unpublished net fares and fares offered from the major Global Distribution Systems. The site is dedicated to providing the lowest pricing for air travel combined with flight options not found on competitors’ sites.”
A past major advertising and cruise ships and FTC issue involved fare quotes in ads. Unfortunately, even some top travel agents have been guilty of using the “fine print” to sell cruises. According to CruiseMates.com, “Years ago, the cruise lines agreed to a determination by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that fare quotes in ads must contain all “non-commissionable fees” (or NCFs in agent parlance) in the price. These fees, which you are required to pay, but for which travel agents don’t receive any commission, include port fees imposed by foreign governments, but not any taxes. Taxes will always be added at the last minute. As a result, it is safe to assume your quote includes the port fee/NCFs (with one exception noted later). And since they make up the bulk of what is added to the basic fare, most price quotes are pretty close to what you will ultimately pay. A very few agents will quote the basic price and add the port fees in small print. This is a deceptive practice, though not disallowed. If you don’t see any separate mention of port fees, assume they are already added in.” Fortunately, at CruiseMates.com, sponsors are required to include port fees in the price.
For more information about advertising and cruise ships and the FTC or to file a complaint against a business for deceptive advertising practices visit the FTC website (www.ftc.gov) or contact the FTC directly via the toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357);
TTY: 1-866-653-4261 or by mail.
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580