/ Travel & Leisure

Cruise ads – don’t believe the price hype

People lounging on cruise deck

Special offers on cruise holidays advertised in the papers aren’t always what they appear to be. And, as a Which? report discovered, they aren’t always available either – even if you respond quickly.

Browse through the weekend papers and you’ll notice page after page of offers for holidays – and, increasingly, for cruises.

But when we checked out 25 adverts we found that a third of prices weren’t available when we called just a day after they were published in the weekend papers.

Not only that, we also uncovered giveaways that never existed and compulsory charges either tucked away in the small print or not mentioned at all.

Extra charges and impossible offers

Take a Crystal Cruises ad promising prices from £2,898 per person, for example. It wasn’t until we phoned up that we discovered there would also be a mandatory charge of £265 in port taxes. A spokesperson said it was an oversight, and the ad has since been changed with the port taxes added in to the headline price.

One Cruises.com advert offered £100 cashback or £150 credit towards a future cruise as part of the deal. But the agent told us that this wasn’t on her system – and the company officially confirmed that the offer didn’t exist and was down to human error.

And two Cruisedeals.co.uk ads promised giveaways of £130 and $220 per couple onboard spend, but their agent told us the offer should have been £30 and $220 respectively. When we asked for an official comment, we were told that the £130 offer was accurate but that the amount was showing wrongly as £30 on P&O Cruises’ booking system.

Ads should be ship-shape

Of course, problems in getting advertised offers aren’t only restricted to cruise providers. We did a similar exercise with adverts for various kinds of package holidays earlier in the year, when only half the special offers were available at the price advertised.

I know that if I wait a few days before enquiring about an offer, it may well be no longer available at that exact price. But if the deal is unavailable just a day after it was in the paper, I start to wonder whether the deal was ever genuinely available at all.

Assuming that the cases we found were cock-up rather than conspiracy, it shows that companies need to make more of an effort to ensure their ads aren’t sloppily thrown together, but are both accurate and include all essential costs in the advertised price.

And if they’re going to make all these marketing claims, they’ve got to make sure their agents are up to speed and that we customers aren’t faced with a contradictory ‘Computer says no’ from the agent.

Comments
Profile photo of nomosaic
Member

If the deals advertised aren’t even available a day after they appeared in the paper it really does make you wonder whether they were ever available at all. I remember a few years ago when I was trying to get a deal on flights to Thailand, I called loads of ads for cheap flights but not one of them were as advertised. It really annoyed me because I felt like the companies weren’t being truthful.

On another note, if the offers are only available ‘for one day only’, isn’t that encouraging people to ‘impulse buy’ products that they might not consider given more time to think about it?

Member
Roker says:
6 February 2011

They were advertising cruises in the local travel agents with an advertised price + €1 for a second passenger. I wanted a single booking which can normally have a 80% supplement. So I asked for the advertised price and not have 2nd passenger for €1, which they refused.

Profile photo of Jonathan Mitcham
Member

As a post-script to my Conversation three months ago, I’d like to trumpet a Which? success on this topic. We sent our cruise ad findings to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and last week, the ASA formally agreed that the two Cruisedeals.co.uk adverts were misleading. So with TUI, the owners of Cruisedeals, getting a rap over the knuckles, and many in the travel industry reading about the adjudication, we hope this will make travel companies think twice before publishing incorrect ads. Let us know if you come across any more newspaper ads that don’t deliver what they promise.