A website for Royal Caribbean Cruises, www.royalcaribbean.com, seen on 13 May 2023:
a. A search results webpage featured a cruise named “7 Night Italy Greece & Croatia”. Text below stated “Leaving from: Venice (Ravenna), Italy” and “Visiting: Venice (Ravenna), Italy, Dubrovnik, Croatia […] Sicily (Messina), Italy”.
b. The cruise itinerary page featured text “THIS IS YOUR 7 Night Italy, Greece & Croatia […]” and “ Leaving from Venice (Ravenna), Italy”. The page included a list of departure locations and times that included the text “Day 1 Port Venice (Ravenna), Italy Departs at 6:00PM”.
The complainant, who understood Ravenna was over two hours away from Venice by car, challenged whether the claims relating to the location of the port were misleading.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd said cruise ships were banned from docking in Venice and therefore were required to use whatever alternative cruise port was available to provide reasonable access to Venice and other regional attractions. They said that “Venice (Ravenna)” was used consistently in their webpages, and that the use of “Ravenna” as the qualification clarified that the ship did not dock or depart from the Port of Venice. They added that their booking materials did not suggest the ship would be docked in the Port of Venice. They believed that 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)”.
They explained that, since most of their guests were mainly from the US, many were familiar with Venice, but not Ravenna. Therefore, they suggested that consumers would be less likely to book the cruise unless Venice was featured prominently, whilst using Ravenna to qualify the docking port. They said they understood that there was a potential for consumer confusion, but they had always provided sufficient information to consumers regarding the departure point and itinerary before they booked the cruise.
Both ads promoted the same cruise, and stated “Leaving from: Venice (Ravenna), Italy”. The ASA considered the claim “Leaving from Venice (Ravenna)” would be interpreted by consumers to mean that the cruise would depart from a port in Venice. We considered that consumers were likely to understand that “Ravenna” was included to give a more specific location within Venice from which the cruise would depart. Ad (b) listed the ports the cruise left from, with the first port listed as “Venice (Ravenna)” as well as a further port that was listed using similar qualifying brackets as “Sicily (Messina)”. Since Messina was a place within Sicily, we considered this further added to the impression that Ravenna was a location 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. 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.
We noted there was an information page within the website that provided further information about Ravenna and within this the distance travel time of over 2 hours was detailed. However, we understood it was possible to reach the booking process without accessing that information and we considered that was information that consumers needed to know before deciding to proceed. In any case, such a qualification was likely to contradict rather than qualify the claim.
We acknowledged that Royal Caribbean Cruises had proposed to reverse the qualification so that the ad stated “Ravenna (Venice)”. However, we considered that was still likely to be interpreted by consumers to mean that the cruise departed from Venice.
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 breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
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.