I grabbed the awards booklet that came in the mail from Caribbean Cruise Line and called to go through the process. Here’s what I found:
I reached Jerry Porter, who told me the conversation was being recorded to make sure he didn’t “promise me a trip around the world on the Queen Mary.” Jerry went on to clearly state that I would be responsible for the payment upfront at the time of the call and that I’d have to book now or lose out on this exceptional offer. He asked me if I had my credit card handy. Expecting my total to be $118, port and government fees for two people, it was actually $217 — Jerry had, by default, tried to sell me an upgraded oceanview cabin instead of the cheapest room available. Jerry didn’t tell me until I asked, but there is also a $10 per person, per day, fee for gratuities, which is automatically added to your onboard bill. It’s a standard practice for cruise lines, but it’s not something that first-timers would necessarily know.
After my second question, I was transferred to the supervisor. No one was particularly rude, but the sales people stayed strictly on script. I had additional questions and was given the number for the corporate office — or, rather, “Travel Services,” a fulfillment center.
A woman who answered the phone and identified herself as Tanesha provided information about Celebration Cruise Line and Caribbean Cruise Line, stating that the companies were one and the same. She said that the promotional department, Caribbean Cruise Line, handles the free cruise giveaways and the extended-stay vacation packages, and the cruise line, Celebration Cruise Line, sells cruises and cruise-stay packages.
Again, according to Glenn Ryserson, Celebration’s Vice President-Marketing, there is no connection; they are two separate businesses.
I tried calling a different free cruise 800 number I found on the Internet. The drill was the same. On the second attempt, additional questions were met with a curt, “We’re instructed to send you to the Web site,” and then they hung up on me.
For the next week, I received at least three phone calls a day from the wholesalers. When I picked up, I heard a recorded message touting Caribbean Cruise Line.