Let’s clear up a key point of confusion right away. Celebration Cruise Line is the actual name of the line on which you’ll be sailing. Caribbean Cruise Line is not a cruise line at all, but the name of a wholesaler that’s touting the free cruise. But the difference between line and wholesaler seems to be blurry at best, with numerous complaints on sites like Cruise Critic, complaintsboard.com and ripoffreport.com conflating line and seller. It doesn’t help that each has a telegenic spokesmodel — Daisy Fuentes for Celebration and Carmen Electra for Caribbean.
As a travel wholesaler, Caribbean Cruise Line is licensed and bonded in the State of Florida, “Fla. Seller of Travel Reg. No. ST-37425.” (Though, there are timeshare marketing outposts in locations where the company is registered; for instance, in New Jersey, it’s registered by the New Jersey Real Estate Commission.) Regardless of the official license, the charges against Caribbean Cruise Lines have been fast and furious — consumers have had difficulties getting refunds, been subjected to aggressive sales tactics, discovered that salespeople had misrepresented cabin locations — and many equate the two companies or confuse one for the other.
Angelina from Pennsylvania, who booked an extended-stay vacation after seeing Carmen Electra touting the cruise on TV, told us a horror story, which included more than five hours of timeshare presentations that they were not told they’d have to attend. “You have to go, or you will not be allowed to get on the cruise ship if you don’t,” she told us.
Florida’s Division of Consumer Services has record of at least 40 complaints, the content of which we’ve yet to receive in the form of a public record request. Moreover, the Better Business Bureau gives Caribbean Cruise Line and “F” — and the BBB has documented 459 complaints filed against the business, 396 of which have been considered resolved. Still, according to a spokesperson at the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the body responsible for responding in earnest to those consumer complaints, no official investigation has been opened or closed on Caribbean Cruise Line.
Celebration Cruise Line, meanwhile, debuted in March 2009 as the newest player in the bustling South Florida cruise market. The line offers two-night budget cruises out of Palm Beach to the Bahamas aboard its converted ferry, Bahamas Celebration. It’s the first cruise line to offer multi-day sailings out of the Florida port since 1996, according to the port authority.
Celebration Cruise Line is filling the void left by Imperial Majesty Cruise Line, a similarly budget-minded, first-timer-focused offering — and one that also relied on the free cruise timeshare pitch to help fill its only ship. IMCL ceased operations in March 2009. (In fact, Celebration’s parent company is Fort Lauderdale-based Celebration Cruise Holdings, which previously owned Regal Empress and chartered it out to Imperial Majesty Cruise Line. Read more about the connection between IMCL and CCL.)