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Should Cruise Lines Make Charter Group Information Public?

December 4, 2012

While maritime lawyers know that cruise line passenger information should be kept confidential, debates surrounding a controversial theme cruise have left many to wonder whether lines should inform other passengers of any charter groups that are sailing with them.

The controversy surrounding Carnival’s “Drag Stars At Sea: Caribbean Adventure – Revenge of the Wench” theme cruise aboard the Glory ship has been nothing short of epic. The cruise set sail on Dec. 2, but it wasn’t without its share of mishaps. At first, travelers were told in an email that they could not dress in costume in “public areas” and that if they did, might be “disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given.”

After several group members complained, Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill issued a statement saying that the company was originally advised that performers would be the only ones dressed in drag during private events. He explained there was a lack of communication between Carnival and the event company, and as a result, passengers were then allowed to dress in drag if they chose. In addition, Carnival gave passengers who were booked on the cruise the chance to cancel and receive a full refund if they were uncomfortable sailing with the drag group.

Problems arose because of the way the theme cruise was booked. The group booked the cruise as a he partial charter, which means that the itinerary is still open to the public to book. Cruise lines don’t typically advise passengers of groups that are aboard, but because of the controversial nature of the theme, Carnival decided to address the matter.

But this situation begs the question: Do cruise lines have a responsibility to notify passengers when a theme group is present?

Cruise lines might not necessarily want to share the information because they have a responsibility to cater to all passenger needs. If the needs of non-group passengers conflict with theme cruise goers, problems can arise and that means cancellations – and less money in turn for the cruise company.

Celebrity Cruises is one such company that does not disclose group information.
“For groups of people with similar interests, we always evaluate group size, in the interest of not altering or interrupting the experience for other guests (not in the group) onboard,” said Celebrity’s Tavia Robb. “We are committed to ensuring that all guests on our ship never feel excluded and come back to sail with us again.”

However, readers on Cruise Critic voiced their opinion and most said they would like to know who else is sailing with them in order to make informed decisions regarding their vacations. Cruise passengers who are not part of a theme group might have their vacations impacted negatively, regardless of who the group is.

“It has nothing to do with what kind of passenger it is chartering,” wrote Tina Annette on Facebook. “It has to do with how much or little it will change the non-themed passenger’s expected, anticipated, paid-dearly-for cruise experience.”

Only time will tell if cruise lines will make group information public or not. Chances are, they will not.

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