Cruise Critic Makes Waves for RCI

August 2, 2001

When Cruise Critic readers registered vociferous protests against Celebrity Infinity’s new policy, implemented in June, to suddenly charge for entrance to that ship’s thalassotherapy pool -- and the cruise line, having read the posts, actually backed down and reversed the decision --we offered a prediction. That Cruise Critic posters, having been empowered, their protests heard, would then turn their sights to another of the cruise industry’s egregious -- and increasing -- habits of nickle-and-diming for the most bizarre things.

And so they have.

This time, Royal Caribbean (ironically, a sister company to Celebrity) is under attack over one portion of its liquor policy. While no one -- and we mean no one -- has any complaints about minimum drinking ages, or disallowing passengers to drink their own beverages in ship lounges, or even corkage fees if you bring your own bottle of wine to a restaurant, this one rankles: “Any guest boarding a Royal Caribbean International vessel with liquor, wine or champagne purchases will be asked to comply with our collection policy upon embarkation. The goods are stored on our vessels and returned to our guests on the last night of their voyage, except for special occasion requests.”

The policy, received by one of Cruise Critic’s posters and then displayed under the “RCI We’re Not Children” moniker -- and which was sent by Maria Sastre, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of total guest satisfaction as, we can only assume, an effort to clarify -- only further riled the crowd. Why? Passengers enjoy the romance of, sipping a glass of wine on their balcony at sunset or celebrating a special occasion with a bottle of champagne -- in private.  It’s not that the policy prohibits having a cocktail in your cabin. The crux of the issue is this: It just wants you to buy your liquor onboard, from Royal Caribbean shops, at Royal Caribbean prices.

The debate has clearly struck a nerve, says Laura Sterling, who says that this one discussion thread  has received a nearly unprecedented 10,000 page views. RCI’s clarification, says Sterling, “won’t shut Cruise Critic posters up. They’re serious about this issue and I think Royal Caribbean knows it.

“The key,” she adds,  “is what’s Royal Caribbean’s next move?”

At press time, Maria Sastre, the line’s vice president for total guest satisfaction, had not responded to Cruise Critic’s requests for information. But we’ll keep you posted.