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Travel Gripes! Gripe about cruises or getting to one.(airlines, taxis)

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Old April 4th, 2001, 10:07 AM
Marty Trencher
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Default Look Before You Book: Frauds and Scams

" Does the cruise price seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies' prices."

Unpleasant surprises can ruin a cruise vacation. That's why it pays to investigate before you buy. On the internet it can be difficult to tell a legitimate offer from a fraudulent one, so consider these travelers' advisories from information complied from the Federal Trade Commission and other sources.

Be wary of "great deals" and low-priced offers. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies' prices. Don't be pressured into buying. Legitimate businesses don't expect you to make snap decisions.

Ask detailed questions. Find out exactly what the cruise price covers and what it doesn't. Ask about additional charges. Get all the details included in your package. Consider contacting the cruise line directly to verify arrangements. Ask about cancellation policies and refunds. If the company can't give you detailed answers, go somewhere else.

Get all information in writing before you agree to buy. Ask for a copy of the cruise line's own written confirmation. Once you receive the written information, make sure it reflects what you were told over the phone and the terms you agreed to. If the company offers you a great deal but won't give you the details in writing until you have paid, it could be a scam operation. If the company can't give you a copy of the cruise lines own confirmation, go somewhere else.

Don't buy part of the package - the air fare or cruise - separately from the rest. If the deal is not what you expected, it may be difficult to get your money back for the part of the package you purchased.

Don't give your credit card number or bank information over the internet or phone. One easy way for a scam operator to close a deal is to get your credit card number and charge your account. Sometimes fraudulent telemarketers say they need the number for verification purposes only. Don't believe them.

Ask the agent to fax all the necessary documents directly to you.This helps protect your privacy and personal financial information. If the company doesn't take steps to protect your personal information, go somewhere else.

Don't send money by overnight mail. Some scam artists may ask you to send them a check or money order immediately. If you pay with cash or a check, rather than a credit card, you lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. If you charged your cruise to a credit card, you may dispute the charges by writing to your credit card issuer at the address provided for billing disputes. If possible, do this as soon as you receive your statement. In any case, the law gives you up to 60 days after the bill's statement date to dispute the charge.

Check out the company before you buy. Contact the Attorney General in your state or where the company is located to see if any complaints have been lodged against the travel firm or the travel provider. Be aware that fraudulent businesses often change their names to avoid detection.

If in doubt, say "no." Trust your instincts. It's less risky to turn down the offer so hang up the phone. Be wary of a salesperson who "pushes" one cruise line,cruise ship or itinerary. That's not a good sign that they are working in your best interest. You may be asked after you book and place a deposit to pay more for port charges, document shipping costs,higher than normal deposits upfront, unreasonable cancellation fees.

That cut-rate cruise offer may not be a bargain after all,especially when dealing with "Cheap" or "Deep Discount" travel brokers who might use bait and switch tactics to get you to buy something you did not want.

Marty Trencher is Editor of Travel News Online and Cruise Direct Online. What's your experience?
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Old April 19th, 2001, 07:34 AM
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Default Re: Look Before You Book: Frauds and Scams

Yes, this is all good advice, but it cannot keep even the most perfect travel plans from being destroyed.
We had booked our balcony cabins (2) in Dec. through a reputable agent I have used for years. And had documents and receipts proving we had paid and had 2 specific balcony rooms.
We boarded the Ocean Princess last Sunday & were informed we had been downgraded 20 CATEGORIES to window rooms in the BOW!!!!!
Imagine our shock! We were in the lobby of the ship for FIVE HOURS trying to get answers & straighten this out. We went to extraordinary measures to get a hold of our travel agent back in Mass. & she faxed documents directly to the ship proving we had Princess confirmation of these balcony cabins. They told us the documents had been altered, they said her check bounced, they said she had cancelled our reservation, and the lies just went on & on. They would not let us speak to anyone in Princess' LA office with any authority. It was horrific. I was sick every night in the bow and this was to be my dad's 70th birthday celebration trip.
We have written letters to Princess informing them of all the things that took place. They say it will take 6-8 weeks to get it sorted out. This is totally unacceptable. Have you ever heard of a cruise ship overbooking & bumping?
An interesting thing, 2 days before the cruise Princess called my travel agent & asked if we'd give up our balcony cabins for inside ones & the cruise would be free. Also interesting we ran into 2 other couples on board who also got bumped out of their balconies.
Any suggestions where to go from here???
Thanks
Linda
P.S. If you want me to fax you the letter we wrote to Princess, let me know.
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Old April 19th, 2001, 08:12 AM
Marty Trencher
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Default Re: Look Before You Book: Frauds and Scams

Linda,

I read your comments and please fax me the letter you wrote to Princess Cruises Customer Relations Department.

Also try contacting Princess Sales Department. ( 1-800-527-6200 ) Ask for your area's Sales Manager if you want to comment more about your travel agent.

I am sure you have done this, but for others who may read this;

Whenever you want to complain about poor service, always do this by phone and follow it up in writing. If you write a complaint be sure to send it registered, sign receipt requested.

Be sure to outline what happened in order of the events as they unfolded. You should look for them to investigate it all and respond to you shortly thereafter.

It is not uncommon for cruise ships to request guests to downgrade or upgrade depending upon last minute cancellations and or bookings. Overbooking is a rare occurrence, probably not as frequent as the airlines are known for it. But guests are given the option to change cabins and if they decline, they're accommodations remain the same.

I would say it is quite unusual for you to be downgraded without your prior knowledge.


Marty Trencher
Travel News Online
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