Cruise Scams People Are Falling for even BEFORE Leaving Home!

cruise scams

Cruise Scams People Are Falling for even BEFORE Leaving Home!

My friend Helen is switched on and smart, but still fell hook, line, and sinker for one of the crafty scams doing the rounds right now aimed at cruisers like her, you, and me.

I want to stop scammers ripping us cruise lovers off, so here’s the four current ones to watch out for.

First off, scammers know we’d all love a free cruise, which is how they caught Helen.

The “Free Cruise” Scams

There are several versions of the “free cruise” scams I’ve seen happening right now.

The Survey

The first of these is the promise of a free cruise – or entry into a free cruise draw – for doing a simple survey. This one is a hot favourite of scammers right now, and I’m getting them for airlines and hotels too.

It all sounds so easy. Scammers send out emails, or post on social media, inviting us to answer some simple survey questions, or give feedback on a cruise line. In return they will get a “free cruise” or be entered into a draw for one.

However, once you do the survey, you’ll then need to speak to someone to get the cruise. And they will manipulate you into handing over money.

The scammers will tell you there are port and other fees to secure the booking. Then they will say you’ve won a basic cabin and should upgrade to a better cabin at a special rate only on offer right then. If you refuse that, then suddenly the date you want is sold out and there are fees to get the date you want.

You will end up paying more than if you’d just booked a cruise yourself. And in most cases the cruise is not real, and the scammers disappear before you realise your booking is fake.

The survey method is not the only technique though that scammers use to ensnare cruisers.

Like, Repost and Comment

They also create fake cruise line profiles on Facebook or Instagram, and run posts offering free cruises as prizes if we like, comment on, and share the post.

These look very convincing, and I’ve seen these recently for lines including Carnival and P&O Cruises.

If you ever see a post like this, simply click on the profile and see if it is really the cruise line. The profile should have a “blue tick” confirming it is genuine, but also just look at how many followers and regular posts the profile has. The scammer pages have few followers and few posts usually!

By the way another way to avoid this, is there are a few cruise bloggers and sites who keep up-to-date lists of genuine competitions with cruises as prizes, like,, and in the UK. And and in the USA.

Claim your prize!

But if you do enter competitions, remember which ones. As I’ve been following some cruisers that received notifications that they had won a cruise, even though they don’t remember entering to win one.

The scammers had sent them emails with a winner’s certificate and number to call to claim the free cruise prize.

The number, although appearing local, was a foreign premium line which just kept them hanging on racking up huge costs on their phone until they got bored and hung up.

And that brings me back to my savvy friend Helen and her free cruise scam. While she did not fall for these free cruise variations, she did fall for one of the oldest ones around.


While in Miami not long ago, Helen went on one of those boat trips to view homes of the rich and famous. Everyone on board was invited to enter a raffle which guaranteed several free cruises on Carnival Cruise Line as prizes. She entered and was excited to be one of the winners.

When she and the others went to claim their prize, they were told they had to collect the prize in person in the next few days at a resort, where they would have a “short” presentation first. They would even fetch her from her hotel and take her there.

She called me excitedly and I had to break the news if she went it would be a hard sell timeshare presentation, and the free cruise would come with fees and strings making it hard to use.

So, if like Helen you’re ever offered a free cruise by simply going to a presentation, it is a scam.

Let’s move on from the “free cruise” scam, as I’d like to warn you about cruise ship crew successfully taking cruisers for a ride.


Cruise Crew Scams

As more and more crew members become social media stars and are active on social media, their names and faces are being used to target cruisers who know and recognise them.

Helpful crew

The first of these is both believable and very clever. I’m not surprised so many cruisers have been caught out thinking well-known crew members were helping solve their problems with up-coming cruises. Or getting them bookings in sold out restaurants, shows, events or excursions.

The best example of this is John Heald. He’s the Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador and a well-known and loved Cruise Director, with a popular Facebook page .

However, scammers set up fake profile pages pretending to be him. I just searched Facebook and found five. John has spotted up to seven in the past.

Cruisers following these fake pages and asking for help, get send by the fake John direct messages with an email or phone number to one of “his team” to help. They supposedly solve the problem, make the bookings, and take a fee to hold the reservation which supposedly will get refunded on board.

Before following any cruise line employee, look carefully at the profile, the number and type of posts and how many followers. The fake ones often have just a handful and very few posts.


Scammers though are also currently taking advantage of the respect and trust we have for Ship Captains. I have seen three examples, with in one several hundred thousands of dollars being scammed.

Captain Kate McCue of Celebrity cruises is a social media hit. Scammers take her photos to set up fake profiles to contact and flirt with men, eventually asking for money to help her out with some sort of crisis.

It’s been done on a bigger scale where the photos of a Danish captain, Captain Masden were used by scammers to create a Captain Thomas Steve looking for love and romance online, again eventually soliciting for money gifts and help with other issues.

The real Captain Masden says he has been contacted by thousands of women from Europe, Japan, China, and Australia, who have been scammed. He even put a warning on his Facebook page pointing out that he’s gay and married to a man.

But Captains do seem to be a blind spot for cruise lovers, as in the UK a man called Jody Oliver pretended to be a Captain on Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises. He managed scam over £320,000 (about $400,000) from friends and family of someone he was dating by claiming he was getting them cheap cruises and vacations.

captain kate cruise scams


There is also another scam targeting people who are looking to work on cruise ships. The scammers create fake profiles of senior crew that look like they could credibly offer a way to get work on cruise ships.

For example, Danny Thomas, who is now the Hotel Manager on Ritz-Carlton Yachts but was with Celebrity Cruises before that. He is active on Instagram, and I have seen many fake profiles using his pictures offering help to get work. The fake Danny aims to rip people off with fees for applications, visas, and health screenings before disappearing with the money.

So, in short, beware of any cruise line employee asking for anything online! And again, before you follow any of them check the numbers of followers and posts.

By the way, I am also being used to scam people but before I get into that, I first want to talk about scams around other cruise arrangements we all make.

Pre- and Post-Stay Scams

With the costs of flying to our cruises and pre- and post-cruise hotel stays spiralling, I am sure you, like me, are on the lookout for cheaper ways of doing both. The scammers have noticed this too.

The scammers are catching cruisers searching terms like cheap flights and hotels, by setting up authentic looking but fake sites. Once booked several things may happen, the site disappears and there is no booking, or close to the trip cruisers are getting a call saying the flight or hotel booking has been cancelled and new ones must be booked at higher price.

A big warning sign by the way is if the site won’t take credit cards and only debit or bank transfers for payment.

To avoid being scammed, use companies you’ve heard of, or check reviews of those you have not. Check the site has the “padlock” so that shows that it is secure and always use a credit card as you can recover money from them if the provider does not supply the booking.

This also applies to cruises. I have found sites popping up with names that sound like search terms like “Cheapest Alaska Cruises” or similar. However, once you try and book the eye-watering low prices listed, you are likely to find that it’s no longer available but higher cost grades are.

While there are some deals to be had, usually the line will have the best price so always check the rates there at least. And look at well-known agents known for sharp pricing at times like CostCo, VacationsToGo and so on.

Next, I want to warn you about me, and how I may try and scam you.

cruise scams how to identify a real page

Me Scamming You

First off, believe it or not, scammers have even been using my photos on dating sites posing as a fake engineer on cruise ships like Holland America Oosterdam. So if you see me on a dating site and start getting messages and photos like these, it is not me!

If you ever get a message from me on YouTube with my picture and channel name replying to a comment you’ve left where I say I have something great to offer you along with a WhatsApp number or Telegram to contact me, please don’t!

Scammers are creating clone channels using my profile picture and Tips for Travellers channel name and then start replying to comments with enticing offers. It takes me and YouTube time to spot them and block them and get them closed. They are doing it for many channels so be on the watch out for this.

If in doubt about a comment from me, click on the profile picture in the comment, if a scammer fake channel they will have no followers or content.



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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