Some Australian passengers of the Royal Caribbean International Cruise said that their voyage turned into a nightmare after 1300 employees of an Indian tobacco company virtually “took over” the ship. According to a report in Newsweek, around 1,300 workers from Indian gutkha company Kamla Pasand, came onboard the cruise on the Voyager of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean International, for a conference just before it left the Sydney dock in on 6th September.
The report said that the Indian men took over the ship’s pool decks and bars and blocked other passengers from using many other parts of the cruise. While this huge contingent from India ‘jigged and jived’ on the ship’s main deck, other passengers and families had to retreat inside.
As per Australia’s 9News, the ‘wild bender’ of passengers from the Indian tobacco firm forced the cruise company to apologise and issue mass refunds to the distraught families.
The report also quoted a female passenger as saying that employees onboard were filming her and her friends with smartphones. The ship’s huge outdoor movie screens – which are installed to play blockbuster Hollywood movies for families onboard – were instead showing the tobacco company’s videos.
Employees also allegedly brought burlesque dancers onboard. “It was almost like a huge bucks (bachelor) party, a bucks night for 1,200 people,” a passenger from Sydney Cassandra Riini told the Australian Nine Network’s A Current Affair.
Others left the deck as these scantily clad dancers gyrated there, media reports said. The ship, Voyager of the Seas, has a passenger capacity of more than 3000 and above a third of it was taken up by the group from the tobacco company who joined the ship from Sydney.
Reports also suggest that other social events which usually take place on the ship like bingo and trivia nights were cancelled as Indian passengers showed little interest in them and rather opted to attend the cabaret.
The cruise company later conducted an investigation after complaints by Australian passengers and they refunded tickets of the agitated passengers.
Ratna Chadha, CEO of Tirun Travel Marketing, which is the exclusive India representative of Royal Caribbean International, however defended the company. In an official statement she said, “Post Voyager of the Seas’ three-night sailing on September 6th, we received feedback from handful of our guests regarding our client’s group’s activities onboard and we were able to provide them with a satisfactory solution. Royal Caribbean is looking into this incident including all guest feedback to ensure that it operates with the safety of our guests and crew as our highest priority.”
Talking to Financial Express Online, Ms Chadha said, “There was no incident reported on board, there were more than 3000 passengers, of which only six Australians complained, post-defacto (after de-boarding the ship).”
“They did not complain on board, why did they do after going home? If their experience was this bad and unbearable why did they continue sailing and also lodged no complaints onboard.” she questioned, adding that everything was conducted according to the mandate including the entertainment that was provided onboard. “All the passengers were at the show and were having fun. There were families onboard, with children, which Kamla Pasand had taken. So, the entertainment was all family style and in any case it was as per ship’s policies,” Chadha said in a chat with Financial Express Online.
Raising doubts over the motive of passengers who complained, Ms. Chadha said, “They are just maligning Indians for no reason at all. They can’t see Indians having a good time. These guys (Kamla Pasand employees) knew their limits. On a cruise line which has a guest conduct policy, a group policy, and an enclosed environment, one can not do all this. This is a family cruise line, there is some other motive behind it”
In a statement, the cruise company said: “We operate with the safety of our guests and crew as our highest priority, and are currently looking into all guest feedback regarding this incident to ensure it does not happen again.”