BBB Tip: Is That Free Cruise Really Free?


Now that consumers have begun traveling again, it’s likely that phone calls, texts or emails offering “free” vacations have also begun. The promise of a free cruise or all inclusive trip sounds enticing, but is it really free? Before the packing begins, understand that you know exactly what is free and what the additional costs are.

Consumers should understand that because a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it does not necessarily mean the trip is entirely without cost or restrictions. Watch for add-on fees for air transportation to the port, port charges, taxes, tips and other undisclosed fees.

BBB offers the following tips to consumers receiving phone calls, text messages, mailers or emails about free cruises:

  • Research the company by searching the internet and contacting BBB. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at
  • Ask for references of people who have been offered and taken a similar cruise and contact them.
  • Read any contract carefully before signing or paying any money. Understand the company’s refund policy in the event you are not satisfied with the service.
  • Ask for the location of the corporate headquarters, check it out to make sure it is an actual address, and the business is located there.
  • Read any fine print for mandatory attendance at a timeshare or vacation club presentation.
  • Consider any fees that are required to claim your trip. Does it still feel “free”? Do the fees seem reasonable? Any trip or prize that requires a wire money transfer should be suspicious. If you do choose to pay fees and claim the prize, pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the charge.

Red Flags:

1. If you are proclaimed the winner of a drawing and don’t recall or have proof of the drawing, ask questions.

2. The trip sounds incredible, however, there is a suspicious catch to it such as a mandatory presentation, referral program or some other catch.

3. Anytime someone says you must accept the offer now or it’s gone forever, walk away or hang up the phone.


You can — and should — check out the company’s reviews and complaints history on

If you feel you witnessed or were part of a scam, contact your local BBB, the attorney general’s office, the U.S. Postal Inspections Services toll free (877-876-2455) or the Federal Trade Commission toll-free (877-382-4357). You can also report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

BBB has additional tips on travel scams.


Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

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