A wealthy Manhattan couple found out the hard way recently following an argument during a black-tie dinner on Cunard's Queen Mary 2.
As has been widely reported in the media this week, Sir Frederick Evans, 91, a British citizen, and his American wife, Broadway show producer Gloria Sher, 82, had booked back-to-back cruises to the East Coast, across the Atlantic and on to the Mediterranean, but were asked by Commodore Bernard Warner to leave the ship just days into the voyage. Why? A spat with another passenger during a formal night seems to have been the final straw.
According to a report in the New York Post, an unnamed passenger said within earshot of Sher, who is Jewish, "There are too many Jews on board." Sher replied with an expletive before adding, "How dare you insult me!" She reportedly then stormed off to her suite.
The following morning, Commodore Warner visited the couple in their suite and said that as they had insulted another passenger, they would have to leave the ship in Quebec.
Because of their advanced age, the Evans-Shers were allowed to stay onboard until arrival in New York several days later, but on the condition that they remain in their suite, without access to alcohol.
It may seem harsh, particularly since Sher appears to have been a victim of anti-Semitism. But, as ever, there are two sides to the story, and Cunard executives clearly feel pretty strongly about the incident. A statement from the company said:
“Although we generally don't comment on the specific circumstances of our guests, in this instance it was determined that the guests' behaviour was not in compliance with the Passage Contract.
"During the course of the voyage, it was observed and reported that Sir Evans and Lady Sher engaged in multiple incidences of disrespectful and disruptive behaviour towards crew members and other guests. Therefore, the Captain exercised his duty to enforce the terms and conditions of the Passage Contract which are designed to protect the safety and well being of all of our guests, and thus Cunard fully supported his actions in dealing with the situation."
Although nobody is condoning the other passenger's remarks, sympathy for the booted couple is in short supply on the Cruise Critic message boards.
Member PB82, from New Jersey, was on the cruise, comments: "My wife and I heard her obscene rant in the Queens Grill Lounge about not being allowed to play the piano. Based on that alone we support the Commodore's decision."
Meanwhile, member pnhmrk from York comments: "I've just heard from a friend who was on the ship. To summarise his post the woman had been a very disruptive influence on the ship ever since sailing. I believe that she had been warned repeatedly before she was confined to her cabin!"
Sure enough, Point 4 of Cunard's Passage Contract states that the line can "...confine you in a stateroom if, in the sole opinion of carrier, the captain or any doctor... your presence might be detrimental to your health, comfort or safety or that of any other person, or in the judgement of the Captain is advisable for any reason."
All cruise lines issue these passenger contracts and are quick to enforce them if necessary. In August, 10 passengers were asked to leave Carnival Dream in Mexico following a brawl in the ship's nightclub.
Evans and Sher, meanwhile, have been refunded a mere $839 (£530) and have been forced to cancel three future cruises with Cunard.
What's your opinion? How much "disrespectful and disruptive behaviour" is too much on a ship? Are the pair victims? Or would walking the plank have been too good for them?
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor