Royal Caribbean has been banned from stating that cruises depart from Venice when in fact they leave from Ravenna, which is 90 miles away.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has pointed out that Ravenna isn’t even in the same region of Italy as Venice, and it takes two hours to drive between the two cities.
A customer had complained to the ASA about Royal Caribbean’s claim on its website that its seven-night Italy Greece & Croatia cruise left from Venice (Ravenna) Italy, and on another page it said that a cruise visited Venice (Ravenna), Italy, Dubrovnik, Croatia …and Sicily (Messina), Italy,
The complainant challenged whether the claims relating to the location of the port were misleading.
In its defence, Royal Caribbean said that since cruise ships are banned from docking in Venice, they’re required to use whatever alternative cruise port is available to provide reasonable access to the city and other regional attractions.
It said that ‘Venice (Ravenna)’ was used consistently in its webpages, and that the use of ‘Ravenna’ as the qualification clarified that the ship did not dock or depart from the Port of Venice.
It added that its booking materials did not suggest the ship would be docked in the Port of Venice.
It said the use of qualifying words or place names was ‘common practice’ in the travel industry and was ‘well understood by the average consumer’, and proposed reversing the qualification to ‘Ravenna (Venice)’.
It explained that since most of its guests were from the US, many would not be familiar with Ravenna so they would be less likely to book the cruise unless Venice was featured prominently.
However, the ASA said the claim ‘Leaving from: Venice (Ravenna) Italy’ on the website would be interpreted by customers to mean that the cruise would depart from a port in Venice.
The fact that Royal Caribbean also used similar qualifying brackets for Sicily (Messina) and since Messina is actually in Sicily, the ASA said customers would assume that Ravenna was also in Venice.
“Consumers would likely assume they could travel to Venice to join the cruise at its departure port. However, we understood that both cities were independent ports that were distinct from one another,” said the ASA.
“Venice was the capital of the Veneto region, whilst Ravenna was situated in the Emilia-Romagna region, and was approximately 90 miles away, with a journey time of over two hours by car.
“In order to reach the departure point, consumers who travelled to Venice would need to arrange separate transport to reach the actual departure port, which was a significant distance away.”
While Royal Caribbean stated on an information page that it would take more than two hours to reach Ravenna from Venice, the ASA said it was possible to reach the booking process without accessing this information.
In its ruling, the ASA said: “Because consumers were likely to understand from the ad that the cruise would depart from Venice, and that was not the case, we concluded the ad was misleading.
“The ad must not appear in the form complained of. We told Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd to ensure ads made clear where cruises departed from, and not to misleadingly imply a cruise departed from or visited a particular place if that was not the case.”