ST. PETE BEACH, FL September 01, 2009 — A family cruise has turned into a “teachable moment” for the chief executive of Squaremouth.com, America’s fastest growing comparison website for travel insurance, after Chris Harvey’s family was banned for life from Carnival Cruise Lines for allegedly leaving scuffmarks on a cabin dresser – a charge the Harveys deny.
The lesson for Squaremouth customers is to treat Carnival’s cruise cabins as they would a rental car: carefully document every inch of the cabin and furniture immediately after arriving, so they can’t be blamed for any pre-existing dents or scratches, said the CEO.
Cruise officials detained Harvey, his wife and two young sons on August 23rd, as they were about to disembark from a nine-day Caribbean cruise aboard “Carnival Freedom.” The family spent the next two hours with security personnel, unsuccessfully defending against the claim that they had damaged the dresser.
In the end, Harvey chose to be banned from Carnival, rather than accept blame for damage he says his family had nothing to do with.
“Take pictures of any damage you see, report it promptly, and insist that someone in charge sign off on your findings,” said Harvey, adding that those simple steps might have prevented his own family from being falsely accused.
A cleaner told the family he had found an empty bottle of Bud Lite in their room, and said they scuffed the dresser using the furniture’s edge to open the beer.
The Harveys calmly pointed out that beer bottles are given to patrons with the caps off, and that Bud Lite bottles have twist-off caps. They added it was the family’s third cruise with Carnival, and their sixth in the last five years, all without incident.
But staff persisted, handing over what looked like a form letter designed to cover any eventuality — from scuffed dressers, apparently, to far more serious incidents.
Having been detained against their will for hours, with their children aged four and eight becoming tired and restless, the Harveys felt they had little choice but to sign the document agreeing to a lifetime ban.
Later, they found family photographs contradicting Carnival’s claim that the damage must have occurred the night before the cruise ended since the cleaner said he reported it ‘as soon as he found it’ on the night of the 22nd.
The photos, taken on the first and third day at sea, show scuff marks present on the dresser on the first day of the cruise. The second photo even has the couple’s younger son getting dressed for a special formal dinner that took place on the 17th.
“You’ve got date-stamped photos referring to specific shipboard events, which clearly demonstrate the damage was already there,” said Harvey. “We remain surprised and extremely disappointed at the way we were treated.”
Calling their ordeal “a rare opportunity for a travel industry CEO to be able to teach from personal experience how to avoid pitfalls that could ruin a vacation,” Harvey added that he has already brought the picture evidence to the cruise line’s attention and asked for a written apology.
“We were offered two options: either we accepted responsibility for the damage, or we would be banned for life,” Chris Harvey said. “They simply had no way of dealing with the third possibility: that we were innocent.”
Editors: click the link below for the blog entry containing a copy of the document attesting to the Harveys’ lifetime ban from Carnival Cruise Lines and the photographs showing damage to the cabin dresser present as of August 15th — Day One of the Harvey family’s cruise:
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