Am I being scammed by Celebrity Cruises?

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By Christopher Elliott

Darryl and Carolyn Sigel believe they were scammed by their cruise line. After you read about what happened to them on the Celebrity Summit, you might agree with them.

Even Celebrity, it seems, sides with them, to a point: It’s offered $200 vouchers for what happened to them. Is that enough?

First, though, a few important details about the Sigels. They don’t drink and Carolyn uses a wheelchair. And, like a lot of travelers, they take pictures – lots of pictures.

Billed for beach towels and beer

After the Sigels returned from their Caribbean cruise in late April, they checked their credit card and found $100 in charges pending. They had no idea what they were being charged for.

We have received a few complaints about Celebrity Cruise. Let’s get right to the Sigels’.

Darryl picks up the story.

I called Celebrity. I was told I was charged $56 for two beach towels.

I did not take the beach towels. When we left the cabin on Saturday to go to the last breakfast, the beach towels were still on the sofa bed.

There was also a bar bill — $44 for a round of beers, Jack Daniels and an Evian.

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Carolyn and I do not drink. I would never pay for water or beer.

But it’s Celebrity’s word against his, right?

Not really. Remember, the Sigels take lots of pictures, and they had a video showing the cabin with both towels in it just before departure. Their bags are packed right next to the towels, and it looks as if you can’t fit another item in them.

Think about it. What would they do with beach towels, anyway?

“We don’t go to the beach,” says Darryl Sigel. “If we went to the beach, Carolyn’s wheelchair sinks into the sand and it’s a total mess.” (Related: Can I get my money back for a bad cruise?)

OK, so we have proof that the Sigels didn’t take the towels, and if they don’t drink – and we’ll have to take them at their word that they don’t – then their bill is bogus.

But that’s hardly a scam.

The Sigels’ celebrity cruise quandary

That’s not all, though. Because Carolyn is in a wheelchair, space is important to the couple, and Darryl went through the trouble of measuring their quarters.

On the Celebrity website, it lists all the handicapped rooms. Our room, 2022, is listed at 347 square feet.

I measured the cabin and it’s approximately 164 square feet, not counting the loo.

Hmm, that’s pretty suspicious.

Darryl Sigel contacted Celebrity. A representative replies, acknowledging the company had “re-measured” the cabin and found that he was right – it wasn’t 347 square feet, as claimed, but 240 square feet. Oops.

“Amazing,” he says. “The ship is over 10 years old and they can’t get the size of the cabin correct That’s fraud, to me.”

Celebrity offered him a $200 credit for the misunderstanding. He responded by placing the $100 charge in dispute and contacting the Maritime Commission and me, which is understandable. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Celebrity seems to believe that his bar tab and room bill is more or less legit and that his complaints about space are kind of frivolous. Still, in the interests of good customer service, it’s willing to offer him a credit of twice the amount he owes it. But he’ll have to book another Celebrity cruise. (Here’s a story related to the longest complaint letter we’ve received about cruises so far.)

Did Celebrity do enough? I don’t know, if I were calling the shots at Celebrity, I might have refunded the apparently bogus bar bill, too. My advocacy team and I would also go to great lengths to correct the website and ensure future customers that they were getting what they paid for.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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