The cruise lines have always had certain "Zero Tolerance Policies;" rules that they simply won't allow any passenger to break under any circumstances. But just so you know, ever since Concordia some "Zero Tolerance Policies" have come back with a vengeance, and when someone is thrown off of a ship for breaking these rule they do not receive a refund or any other compensation the cruise line claims (1) it had no choice but to enforce the rule and (2) it owes the offending party nothing in return.
Here are some of the "zero-tolerance" policies for which a cruise line may put you off a ship:
- Failure to Attend Life-boat Drill.
- Breaking smoking policies. Second-hand smoke is deadly and fire at sea is the worst possible disaster.
- Arguments that lead to insulting characterizations (name-calling) or (especially) fist-fights.
Not long ago I heard about two people who were only marginally close to breaking the life-boat drill rule and yet they were still kicked off of their cruise. Amazingly, it was an elderly couple, husband aged 90 and wife aged 84, who were booked on a luxury cruise line for three "back-to-back" cruises, but were thrown off at the beginning of the second cruise because the wife missed the life boat drill.
Typically, every stateroom has a framed poster permanently mounted to the back of the stateroom door with instructions on where to find your life jackets (usually in your closet), your muster station (on the promenade deck) and the route you are supposed to take to get there. By the time the ship holds its life boat drill it is expected that you will have reviewed your drill instructions and that you will know what to do.
This couple's cruise started on May 4 in Rome. On that day they both attended the lifeboat drill for the first cruise.
Both husband and wife fulfilled their life boat drill obligations once, but when the ship reached Lisbon on May 12 this couple was beginning the second segment of their three consecutive cruises. Absolutely nothing had changed about the location of their muster station or the route they needed to follow to get there. On that day the wife was not feeling well, so she went to bed in the stateroom just before the lifeboat drill. She claims she never heard the announcements concerning the drill, but the husband did hear them and did attend the drill.
The cruise line made several announcements before the drill to say in no uncertain terms that it was mandatory for every passenger to attend, and that those who did not would be put off the ship. It is important to note that this is a new rule, and that in the past people who missed life boat drill were rarely even encountered, or they were given a make-up drill. But since the Concordia sinking in Italy last November life boat drills are now absolutely mandatory, and you will be kicked off the ship if you miss yours (without a doctor's note).
Reports indicate there were a few stragglers, but eventually everyone showed up - except our one lady who claimed illness. This made the drill run overtime, and when the husband finally returned to his stateroom he was shocked to see officers already packing their belongings in order to put them off the ship.
In this case, the cruise line stuck to its guns and made the couple leave. It even took about a week before the cruise line decided to refund the remainder of the couple's money they had paid for the cruise. At first they had said they would not refund a penny. This just shows how serious the cruise lines consider these rules.
Other cases where people were kicked off of cruise ships
I was once contacted by a gentleman who was kicked off of a Mediterranean cruise on the second day of the cruise. He was put off alone while the rest of his family stayed on the ship. In his case he ended up spending additional money to meet up with his family in every port of call by flying on his own.
His story was surprisingly sad. On the first night of a 12-night cruise he had been drinking some complimentary champagne and was sitting at a blackjack table. The only other player was a Russian man who did not speak English. Each was playing his own cards with the Russian betting heavily.
In blackjack every player plays against the dealer, not other players at the table, but sometimes players will criticize the other players for taking a card that would have made the dealer lose, meaning all the players in the game would have won. As the two men played the Russian said unintelligible words to my contact several times, often is an angry manner when he lost. At one point the Russian made the sign of a gun with his fingers and first pointed it to his own head, but then turned and pointed it at my contact and made a shooting sound and gesture - like he wanted to murder the man.
The email said my contact then attempted to throw his glass of champagne on the Russian, but he was tipsy and so the glass just hit the floor, though the Russian got a little bit wet. Suddenly he was grabbed by ship's security officers and taken down. he was escorted to his room where an officer visited and told him the captain would decide what to do the next day. That night he sobered up and asked for an opportunity to apologize to the Russian, but that was denied. The next day he was put off the ship, given his luggage and passport, but no refund.
That is the end of that story. The email only summed up "I want everyone to know how seriously the cruise lines take their own policies. They can put you off the ship and they will."
Other Zero-Tolerance Incidents
Last year a couple was put off of a cruise ship for spouting defamatory words about a certain religion. The conversation apparently started out as quiet dinner conversation that escalated when someone took exception to the nature of their comments. When it turned into a shouting match loud enough to be heard by many people in the dining room there was no question that these people would be put off the ship.
There was an another incident when a man was put off of a ship for interrupting an art auction onboard by circulating a printed Internet article that suggested the art on sale was not as valuable as it was purported to be by the auctioneers.
Another incident was a fist fight that involved a number of people. Some 10 people were put off a ship on this incident, for fighting and for breaking some valuable ship's property in the fight.
The only smoking incident I have heard about involved a completely smoke-free ship where two teenagers were found to have cigarettes in their luggage (they were hiding them from their parents). Even though they were not smoking them onboard, the ship's rules said "no tobacco products allowed onboard." The teens were put off the ship and of course their parents chose to go with them.
So, there you go. On the high seas the captain of a cruise ship has the full and final legal authority to put people off of his ship at any time for any reason. Of course, his actions reflect on the cruise line, but for the most part the cruise lines have backed up the decisions made by the ship's personnel. So watch your Ps and Qs!
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