Passengers almost left stranded and allegations of  credit card fraud

By Egbert Gaye

It was supposed to be the “cruise of all cruises”: one hundred and something Montrealers sashaying on the idyllic waters across the southern Caribbean, on the Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of The Seas, from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas and St. Croix on to Antigua, St. Lucia and Grenada followed by a lazy day at sea then back to San Juan.
For a lot of these cruisers, something that was supposed to be so nice turned out to be so wrong in so many ways.
It almost didn’t happen for some of them who were left stranded on the pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when they discovered that their cabins were not paid for by the cruise organizers.
Others who were able to make it on the grand ship, found it to be an experience that was far more costly than expected, with exorbitant additional charges popping up on their credit cards.
Needless to say there was a lot of frustration and a little cussing going around, first in Puerto Rico and for the duration of the cruise by travellers who found that they were gypped by cruise organizers.
It started gleefully in Montreal at 3 o’clock on the morning of March 5, with expectant cruisers boarding Delta Airline flights to JFK Airport and Atlanta on their way to San Juan.
Upon landing in Puerto Rico, more than a dozen tired Montrealers were ready to board the ship and head to the 11th floor to start gouging on the endless supply of food that’s always available there, were stopped in their tracks by ship officials who informed them that cabins were not paid for.
In fact, officials went as far as informing Montrealers that more than $22,000 were still owed to them by organizers, so the likelihood of them making it on board the impressive ship was slight to none.
Imagine the consternation, especially among the seniors in the group, some diabetic and needing to eat six times a day, others with high blood pressure, some whose feet were swollen and painful, all hungry and tired.
The negotiations to resolve the situation were long and at times tense… throughout much of which not one cruise organizer could be found.
It took an amazing feat of humanness and unbridled kindness by a community leader who was present with a fat credit card and chose to use it to ensure that no one who wasn’t able to meet his or her individual cost, was left off the ship.
In the end, his tab was way over $20,000 but by 6:30 PM every Montrealer was in the dining room or on the 11th floor as the Adventure of the Seas rode the waves to Charlotte Amali, in St. Thomas.
But all still isn’t well, because at least a dozen cruisers are back in Montreal dealing with those additional charges on their credit card, many over $1000 dollars. They are angry and want answers.
They are not getting any  from cruise organizers.
At Vasco Travels in St. Laurent, from which the cruise was coordinated, there’s confusion.
Cruise coordinators Glenroy Valentine Rice and Harry Bissoon are unable to offer a reasonable explanation.
Bissoon, who accompanied the cruisers and was witness to some of the chaos, says the agency is working on the overcharges file by file and should have it resolved in a week or two, if not the Consumer Protection Office might shut it down.
Valentine, who was the face of the cruise, remains in a daze.
He said he was unable to accompany the cruisers because he fell ill in the Montreal airport before departure.
“I think I took on too much when people started telling me about the extra charges on their card. I knew it wasn’t me because at the time those charges were made, I was on a hospital bed,” he told the CONTACT.
“I went to the bathroom and started bleeding profusely through my nose. I was found by an attendant who assisted me and called my son at home to come and get me. I missed the flight.”
Valentine Rice says while he’s prepared to accept blame for much of the chaos and disorder that ensued, he wants everyone to know that he had nothing to do with the overcharges on the credit card.
“I’m an honest man who would give anything to anyone. I will never abuse someone else’s credit card.”