Does anyone remember the Love Letter Cruise that was being promoted by Concerts Cruise LLC last year?
Well if you don’t you didn’t miss much.
The Love Letter Cruise was supposed to happen aboard a Carnival Cruise Lines ship and was a Bahamas cruise set to sail from October 1-6, 2012. There were radio promotions everywhere about it, Concerts Cruise LLC (when the website worked still) was promoting it on their website, and even TheSweatHotel.com (a Keith Sweat website) was promoting a giveaway for the cruise.
Then in August 2012 R. Kelly pulled out of the cruise stating that Concerts Cruise had not paid him. Here is the statement from his official website R-kelly.com:
Concerts Cruise LLC has been unable to meet its financial obligations to a scheduled cruise with featured performer R. Kelly and will therefore have to cancel this cruise. R. Kelly had been looking forward to the cruise and was ready, willing and able to perform for fans. He is sorry for any disappointment but plans to see his fans very soon on a U.S. tour. Ticket holders should contact Concerts Cruise LLC to handle refunds.
Well with no R. Kelly going on the cruise, the people who had paid good money to go on a cruise that featured R. Kelly all wanted their money back from Concerts Cruise LLC–understandable as well. That’s when things turned sour.
Concerts Cruise LLC refunded SOME of the money to SOME passengers through the cruise line; some got nothing at all. Then mysteriously the website disappeared off of the internet as well as any information about the company whatsoever leaving a TON of irate cruisers who felt scammed out of their money. (more information can be found on the Facebook fanpage The Love Letter Cruise Ripped Me Off).
A lot of people lost thousands of dollars on this cruise that they will never get back.
Here are some ways to ensure that you are protected when booking your next cruise:
1. Be Informed when it comes to Event cruises.
These are all themed cruises such as the ones that are listed here on BlackCruiseTravel that may appeal to certain groups of people (African American, Jewish, Singles etc.), TV shows/Entertainers (Keith Sweat Cruise, Top Chef Cruise etc.), and any other group cruises that are organized by group coordinators. Anyone can slap a website together with a payment portal and say that they are selling anything. What you should do is a general search online to see if the cruise has sailed in the past. Call the promoter that is selling cruise tickets and see how easy it is to contact the person–if it’s extremely hard to contact them, that’s a red flag.
2. Call the Cruise Line.
Look at the dates that the cruise is supposed to be sailing and the name of the cruise line and call the cruise line. Verify that the ship is sailing on the dates and times that the event says that the cruise is supposed to take place. Also ask if the group is sailing with the cruise line. Sometimes a cruise line representative may not off-hand know the name of all groups going on the cruise, so if initially they tell you that they don’t know about the groups on the cruise, ask if they have a groups department and try to see if the group is sailing via that department.
The R Kelly Love Letter Cruise was booked with Carnival Cruise Lines to sail in October. Since R Kelly pulled out of the cruise in August a lot of people were probably in the penalty period (the period to which you don’t get your money back if a cruise is cancelled) meaning that they could only recover about 25% of their money spent (if even that, a lot of the websites that we’ve scanned have people saying that they got nothing back). No one wants to spend $3000 for a cruise, find out that the main attraction won’t be there, and only get $750 back. Travel insurance through the cruise lines can be pricey (from around $39 – $250 per person sometimes)–but you don’t necessarily have to go through the cruise line for insurance. Allianz Travel Insurance will cover you for ALL cruise lines, and will cost you approximately $50 (*depending on state/cruise cost) for ALL PASSENGERS (not per person) saving you a TON of money and usually costs 50 – 70% less for better coverage than the cruise lines.
4. Ask if you can pay the cruise line directly.
If a group is a legit group, they should be able to book your cabin for you, but you should be able to call the cruise line directly and verify/pay for your trip through the cruise line itself after they have booked for you. If the cruise line doesn’t allow ph
one payments under a group, ask if you can pay the CRUISE LINE through their website for your trip. This is to verify that the person who has taken your money for the trip is actually paying the cruise line for your trip and not just pocketing the money. ***NOTE: Some groups will allow you to make smaller payments than the cruise line will when it comes to making your deposit and will hold your money until you have the FULL deposit amount paid. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines could require a $250 deposit, and your Group Coordinator might let you pay 5 payments of 50 for 5 weeks until you have your deposit paid. After they have collected the money, they will book your cruise through the cruise line for you. I would ask what the full deposit amount due is and save your own money until you have the full amount and then let them book your cruise IMMEDIATELY for you in this instance.***
*NOTE: ALWAYS pay by credit card. It can be tracked–there is proof that you paid SOMEONE this way. When you pay by cash anyone can say that they never received a payment. A cruise line will not accept cash when booking so don’t pay your group coordinator by cash and trust that they will take that cash and pay the cruise line. Look out for yourself and your money.*
5. Ask Questions.
Since you are spending your money (more than usual when it comes to most themed cruises), be sure to ask what you are paying for. What’s all inclusive, and what’s not? What events are included and what do you have to pay extra for? What are the terms of service–what will you be charged if you need to cancel?
I hope that this helps all of you who cruise. The Love Letter Cruise is an example of a group cruise gone wrong.