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Cruise Feature Article
Cruisers BEWARE of Scams!

Sharon Jackson

Congratulations! You've just received an email offering you a fabulous Florida & Bahamas Fantasy Cruise Vacation for FREE. A Luxury CRUISE to the Bahamas! 3 nights in a Luxury hotel in Freeport! 4 nights in a Luxury hotel in Orlando! 2 nights in a Luxury hotel in Ft. Lauderdale! A vacation of a lifetime! And, it's only going to cost you a puny promotional fee! You can't believe it! Unfortunately, too many of you DO believe it.

I have received many letters over the years asking me about just such a "deal" which someone received in the mail. NOW they're coming by EMAIL. *I* have gotten two such emails in the past month alone. And then the following headline hit the news services on May 27, 1998:

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher Sues Discount Travel Companies And Florida Telemarketers

More from the press release appears at the end of this article, but first. . .

Hurry! Call Now or You'll Miss Out!

You only have a day or two or a few hours to call an 800 number to reserve your fantasy cruise vacation. When you call, you will once again be given all the hype about what a fabulous dream vacation this is and how lucky you are to be among the "chosen few." You must give them your credit card RIGHT NOW - no call backs, no time to think about it or to talk to your spouse about it. Credit card NOW or you will be added to the long list of "losers" who missed out on this great opportunity.

Don't do it. Don't you dare grab for your wallet or credit card holder. Who ARE these people anyway? The very fact that they have the nerve to ask for a credit card number NOW with no time to think about it should have your ears perked up and your whiskers twitching like the proverbial stalking cat.

Fantasy Cruise Vacation Facts

  1. The CRUISE is a 6 hour trip from Florida to the Bahamas on one of the ships I usually refer to as a "day ferry." Yes, these are REAL ships and they do an HONEST business selling to customers who would rather sail then fly over to the Bahamas. But. . .

    There are no cabin accommodations included in the price. Were you to book through a reputable travel agent or directly with Discovery Cruises or Sea Escape Cruises, you could pay extra for a cabin.

    The included "meal" is a pretty crowded buffet with long lines. Again, book this package legitimately, and on many of the cruises you can pay extra for a sit-down meal.

    The "activities" include an open swimming pool and an open casino and pay-as-you-drink bar service. Period.

    The ship is usually extremely crowded. They make their money from gambling and alcohol.

  2. The "Luxury Hotel" in the Bahamas is usually in Freeport and a very low-end establishment. "Water Views" cover a whole range of things. Motel Six would look like the Waldorf Astoria next to these establishments. Again, book the package legitimately through your travel agent or with Discovery Cruises or Sea Escape Cruises and you can choose the hotel quality you expect - and pay the add-on for it.

  3. If you're one of the lucky ones, your Orlando Hotel will be located a mere hour from Disney World and maybe 2 hours from the beach.

  4. There are hidden costs referred to in various ways as port charges, government fees, taxes, promotional fees, and my favorite "Bahamas Departure Tax." These can amount to several hundred dollars in addition to that $398.

  5. You can take your vacation any time within the next year as long as you give them 60 days notice. Yeah, right. I grant you that, when you call to reserve your spot, you will be told that they are all filled up for that time period. So, you choose another time period. Sorry, that too is filled up. And on, and on, and on. . . .

In the end, just what have you won? You have just shelled out approximately $1200 for the two of you to take a fantasy cruise vacation any time you want to take it within the next year. In a matter of days, you'll receive in the mail your "certificate" needed to redeem your prize. What's that? You don't live in Florida? You'll have to FLY to Florida? Well, don't buy those non-refundable airline tickets just yet because, when you try to cash in your certificate, you will have to be flexible with your dates as space is limited and on a space available basis.

What you have won is a piece of paper which might as well be written with disappearing ink. And you paid $1200 for it.

Oh yes. And, it's NON-REFUNDABLE. What a deal!

More From the May 27, 1998 Press Release

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher today announced that his Bureau of Consumer Protection has filed a lawsuit against three Pennsylvania discount travel companies and five Florida-based telemarketing firms, all of which allegedly engaged in an elaborate "free vacation" travel scheme involving thousands of consumers throughout the U.S., Canada and abroad.

According to the suit, the discount travel companies from 1992 to 1998 directly or through their telemarketers notified consumers that they had won a free Florida/Bahamas vacation costing only "promotional fees" of $398, $498 or $598.

According to the lawsuit, vacation certificates mailed to consumers falsely claimed that they would receive a "fantasy cruise holiday" vacation, depicting a "luxury" cruise ship and the names of various hotel chains and cruise lines, if they called an 800 telephone number for more information.

Fisher said the suit further claims that consumers were falsely told:

  • that the vacation was free and subject to only "promotional fees."
  • that their accommodations included a waterfront hotel with luxury rooms.
  • that they must immediately secure their vacation with a major credit card because of limited availability.
  • that they could travel anytime over the next year provided they give 60 days advance notice of travel dates.
  • that the vacation package is "non-refundable."

"It was not until the vacation package arrived in the mail that consumers realized the `luxury cruise' was actually a five-to-six-hour ferry ride from Florida to the Bahamas," Fisher said. "In addition, there were numerous hidden costs on top of what consumers already paid to take a vacation they supposedly had won," Fisher said.

Those additional costs included round trip transportation to Florida, a $198 to $316 "port service reservation processing fee" and miscellaneous taxes.

Please folks, don't fall for this. You know the old sayings "If it's too good to be true, it is" and "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck & quacks like a duck. . ." then it must be a

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