Drug-sniffing dogs and $500 fines: Carnival tries to tame cruises

Drug-sniffing dogs and $500 fines: Carnival tries to tame cruises

Carnival Cruise Line has a message for spring breakers planning to set sail: If you think you can get away with the type of bad behavior that goes viral on social media, think again.

"We've all seen the news coverage and social media posts of people behaving badly," Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said in a video address posted to YouTube on Feb. 15. "It's happening in stores, restaurants, at sporting events and schools, on airplanes, in theme parks and, yes, on cruise ships, too."

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Duffy said in the video that all of the line's ships have added more security workers, and the company has introduced narcotics-sniffing dogs at home ports to screen luggage. Drug dogs might also be in place at destination ports, she said.

About two weeks after the message was posted to YouTube, Carnival sent a letter to customers on upcoming cruises reminding them about their expectations for conduct on board.

"You will be sailing with us during Spring Break, which is traditionally a period of high occupancy," a Feb. 28 letter to passengers said. "As part of our commitment to create the best environment to provide a fun and memorable vacation for all, we would like to remind you of our Safety First! guidelines, as we CHOOSE FUN TOGETHER."

The Safety First! guidelines include rules about what cannot be brought onboard (hard liquor, beer or any kind of marijuana or other drugs); how to listen to music or watch videos (with earphones) and the only way to get a lounger on the pool deck (show up early, no reserving allowed).

On Carnival ships, smoking is only allowed in designated areas, and lighting up anywhere else will result in a $500 fine; so will throwing anything overboard.

The cruise line has been warning of consequences for unruly behavior for months and routinely communicates with passengers ahead of trips. A number of fights on Carnival ships drew widespread attention in June, July and September, spurring the operator to make changes to policies for visitors on its ships.

Carnival introduced a curfew for guests under 18 in September. In October, the operator updated its cruise ticket contract to warn that disruptive passengers could be fined $500, forced to reimburse expenses, made to disembark early and banned from future cruises. Carnival has also put up new signs in terminals and on ships reminding passengers of the rules, and new videos are being shown on stateroom TVs. Many star basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, who is Carnival's designated "Chief Fun Officer."

The videos, which started airing onboard in mid-February, include information about the youth curfew, security, food waste, dress guidelines and "being a team player."

"This ship is a shared space," fleet cruise director Mike Pack says in one of the videos. "So blaring music from your balcony, loud noises in the hall, hogging the chairs by the pool and crowding the elevators are not the way to show respect."

Carnival spokesman Matt Lupoli said that while the cruise line has been trying to reiterate its expectations for guests over the last six months, another round of education made sense.

"It does seem like spring break is a good time to remind guests," he said.

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