Should Cruise Lines Warn Guests About Group Cruises?

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Picture it: You and your family head to the port and excitedly board a cruise ship for the vacation you’ve been looking forward to all year. Only after you’ve left the dock and hit the high seas do you realize that a whole lot of the people on board are there as part of a specialty cruise, whether it revolves around a music group or a reality show.

Perhaps, even, something you really, really don’t want your family exposed to.

Over the past few years, cruise lines have hosted everything from faux vampires to drag queens, rock stars to reality stars. And in many cases, those cruises are not charters – meaning the entire boat has been reserved by the group in question – resulting in some rather interesting scenarios.

When Worlds Collide

In fact, these culture clashes have been known to happen even when a cruise is a charter. Why? Because if the agency booking the event cruise is unable to sell all of the cabins, they might open sales up to the general public, often at a steep discount… and occasionally, without disclosing that the vast majority of passengers are partaking in a special event cruise.

A few years back, a well-known travel agency chartered a ship for a cruise built around the stars of the television show RuPaul’s Drag Race. According to numerous reports, several dozen of the unsold rooms were offered to the general public at a steep discount, with most of those unaffiliated passengers somewhat shocked to find themselves surrounded by stars and fans of the popular show.

More recently, the MSC Divina hosted the “Def Leppard Hysteria on the High Seas” event in late January. As Phil Wahba reported to Fortune, the cruise – cursed by one singer losing his voice and another performer dying while on board – had a “strange vibe” in part because of the bizarre mix of passengers. “It turned out,” Wahba wrote, “there were only 1,000 spots set aside for Def Leppard [fans], and MSC had opened the other spots to non-Leppard cruisers a few months ago to fill up the boat.” He went on to say that “the customer mix led to strange encounters as elegant ladies dressed to the nines sat in lounges next to middle-aged men in leather jackets and mullets.”

Why Does It Matter? 

For many people, sharing a ship with fans of vampires, rockers, or drag queens doesn’t matter a bit. Others, however, complain when venues normally available to all passengers are reserved for those attending event-specific performances or meals. Generally speaking, if a musical star is performing on the ship, it’s going to be in a theater that might normally be used in a less exclusive manner.

And sometimes, issues can arise when those who paid more to interact with their favorite celebrities or attend exclusive events, behave as if their status as a privileged individual should extend beyond the venues in which those events take place.

All of which leads us to wonder: Should cruise lines be required to tell passengers if they are booking a cruise aboard a ship that has special events going on?

For example, the April 10th sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas out of Fort Lauderdale currently has rooms available… but nowhere on the line’s site is there mention of the fact that this particular voyage will play host to Lance Bass’ Dirty Pop At Sea event. Does knowing that a percentage – and sometimes, a majority — of the passengers on a sailing are affiliated with a special event matter to you? Would that knowledge impact your decision to book a trip?

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