Have you ever been offered or seen a promotion offering free cruises? No, I’m not talking about promotions that cruise lines and agencies have from time to time that offer legitimate contests for free cruises. Cruise ripoffs come in a variety of ways and you should steer clear from all of them. Here are a few of the common ripoffs that continue to scam people out of their money.
“Free Cruise” Certificates
Many companies give out “Free Cruise” certificates as a way of selling a product or service. They give them out to lure people into buying insurance, furniture, cars, and I have even seen them offered on kiosks in shopping malls. I had a friend on Facebook post how she went to the mall and out of the blue won a free cruise. However, are the cruises people win really free?
There is a lot of fine print with these certificates. You will have to pay the port fees and taxes, staff gratuities, and most of them have a booking fee. Yes, if you want to go on your “free” cruise, you will have to pay a booking fee that I have seen as high as $250 per person. The agencies that produce the certificates have been known to be pushy for cabin upgrades, costing you even more money. Most of these “free” cruises are the shorter 3 or 4 night cruises to the Bahamas on Carnival, Norwegian, or Royal Caribbean.
You will also be limited on when you can take your “free” cruise as you can only redeem your certificate on select sailings. By the time you add up all of the costs of your “free” cruise, you will find that the price isn’t that much different from booking the cruise straight through the cruise line. These short cruises to the Bahamas can often be found at $199 a person in the off season.
You may have heard the sales pitch, “Give us 2 hours of your time and we will give you a free cruise just for letting us tell you about our hotel”. These timeshare presentations should be treated like leprosy, run as fast as you can away from it.
While many people swear by the timeshares that they’ve bought, every financial adviser will tell you not to touch one with a ten foot pole. The fact that people sell them on eBay for a penny (Yes, 1 cent) and others even try to pay people to take them off of their hands should be enough warning.
Sitting through a timeshare presentation for a “free” cruise is not a good idea for 2 reasons. First, you will likely get one of the certificates that is talked about in the beginning of this article. Second, you just might give into the pressure and buy a timeshare and be stuck paying $700-1,200 a year in maintenance fees for the rest of your life.
I once received a letter in the mail that said I won a free vacation. I didn’t sign up for anything or even enter a contest, but I won a trip to the Caribbean! Being a naive 21 year old on summer break from college, I called the number on the letter to redeem my free vacation to paradise.
The man who answered my call quickly asked 2 questions, he asked for my credit card number and my social security number. Many times, they will only ask for your credit card number. This is where you need to use common sense. If something is free, why do they need a credit card number? Well, because it isn’t free. Also, never, I mean never give out your social security number to someone you don’t know over the phone.
Anytime you receive something in the mail out of the blue stating that you won a free vacation, throw it in the garbage.
Have you ever seen a post shared by a friend that said, “Share this picture and be entered to win a free cruise”? 99% of these contests are run by pages that are not the official pages of the particular cruise line. There is no free cruise to be won and they are simply trying to get you to like the page so they can spam your timeline with ads in the future.
An easy way to spot if a certain page is the official page of a cruise line is too look for the blue check mark by their name. The blue check mark means that the page has been manually verified by Facebook. Also, if the page is called “Disney Cruise Line” and it only has a few thousand likes, it’s not the cruise line’s official page.
Cruise lines and many of the larger cruise agencies will have contests on their websites where they give out free cruises. Stick to these contests run by reputable companies and don’t let yourself be scammed by the cruise ripoffs that are going around. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true…