May 06, 2005
by Gregg Fields
The MIami Herald
The way cruise ships market and sell shore excursions is the subject of three lawsuits filed in federal court in Miami.
Miami’s leading cruise lines are ripping off their passengers by secretly pocketing some of the fees paid for shore excursions that were booked with purportedly independent operators, three related lawsuits allege.
The cases, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Miami, name Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises and its Celebrity Cruises unit, and Norwegian Cruise Lines as defendants. The attorney filing the lawsuit, Charles Lipcon, is seeking class-action status for each complaint.
In an interview, Lipcon said the companies say the excursion operators are independent, and the ship is booking the activities as a convenience for its passengers.
“What they don’t tell you is they’re keeping up to half of the money,” Lipcon said. “It’s an undisclosed charge.”
Told of the lawsuits, each of the cruise ship carriers said they hadn’t seen the complaints and would have no comment.
Lipcon‘s lawsuits, which are similarly worded, also says many passengers are overpaying for the services provided. “At no time… did the defendants inform the class that [they] may be able to obtain the same and/or similar shore excursions at lower prices than the defendants were charging and collecting for the shore excursion,” each lawsuit says.
Lipcon‘s lawsuits cover the last three years. During that time, he said, roughly 19 million passengers purchased shore excursions on the Carnival ships that are targeted by the lawsuit.
Approximately five million Norwegian passengers did so, as did nine million on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships.
Lipcon‘s charges include deceptive and unfair trade practices, unjust enrichment and fraudulent misrepresentation.
Lipcon‘s filing says a class action suit is justified because, individually, the passengers’ losses are too small to justify pursuing legal action.
But cumulatively, he said, damages run into hundreds of millions or more. For instance, if each of Carnival’s 19 million passengers were deemed to have suffered a loss of $40, the tab comes to $760 million.
“It’s a matter of saying, this is not right,” Lipcon said.