Azamara to Tweak Policy After Cruise Critic Members Gripe About Unwanted Phone Calls From Travel Agents

May 31, 2012
Azamara-policy (1:00 p.m. EDT) -- How would you feel if your private contact information were shared with a business you never contacted?

That was the case last week when Azamara Club Cruises upset past passengers and prospects when it began sharing their contact information, including e-mail addresses and telephone numbers, with a third-party travel agency without permission or notification. The good news: After several Cruise Critic members expressed concern and anger over the sharing of their private contact info, the line has promised to make its policy more transparent.

The agent e-mails and phone calls are part of a newly launched customer follow-up program. As part of the program, Azamara is sharing the contact information of customers who sign up to receive weekly deals or ask for more information with select travel agency partners.

Since Cruise Critic member cadcruiser first reported unwanted contact from an agent on May 23, at least three other readers have revealed similar experiences. "I signed up to receive special offers from Azamara on their website today," cadcruiser wrote on Cruise Critic's message boards. "My name and e-mail address were the only things I was asked to provide. As a result I am receiving e-mails from a third-party travel agency, which I did not want or authorize. I also received two phone messages from the same travel agent."

Two days after cadcruiser's post, Azamara's chief blogging officer responded. In his response, Bill Leiber detailed a previous thread in which he addressed similar concerns by two Cruise Critic members based in the U.K.

He explained the cruise line's privacy policy, which explicitly allows for the sharing of customer information with travel agents. Though the policy states that Azamara will not "trade, sell or share such personally identifiable information for use by any third party," the line excludes travel agents from the terms "third party."

"The term 'third parties' does not include… travel agent[s]," the policy reads.

Despite the cruise line's legal right to share passenger information without prior permission from customers, Leiber emphasized that Azamara will be making slight changes to its policy so that customers know what to expect.

"In the week ahead, the process will be modified so that it fully discloses to you that a travel company will follow-up by email and/or telephone and most importantly, obtain your permission before initiating the process," Leiber wrote. It is still unclear whether Azamara will eventually offer customers the ability to opt out of the program altogether.

Company spokesman Harrison Liu told Cruise Critic in an e-mail today: "Azamara Club Cruises will continue to monitor the progress of the program and adjust accordingly should any issues arise."

Azamara Club Cruises and its parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., are not alone in maintaining broad privacy policies enabling them to share customer information with select third-parties. Norwegian Cruise Line and the Carnival Corp. brands all state within their privacy policies that they may share personal data with business partners who will market, sell or perform customer service on the cruise line's behalf.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor