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Corona Economics

Ashley Moody investigating ‘dangerous’ coronavirus sales pitches by Norwegian Cruise Line

Investigation follows news reports by Miami New Times alleging false claims.

Attorney General Moody announced she is investigating “misleading and potentially dangerous” sales pitches Norwegian Cruise Line allegedly made to customers who asked about the new coronavirus pandemic.

Moody’s office said in a release issued Monday that it has reports that the Miami-based company, which operates ships flagged in The Bahamas, “provided its sales force with inaccurate one-liners to respond to customer concerns about COVID-19. The misleading sales scripts allegedly downplayed the severity and highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus in an effort to close cruise sale packages.”

Allegedly among the sales lines: “The coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise.”

The alleged false statements were first reported by the Miami New Times nearly two weeks ago. Moody’s office said it was responding to media reports, but did not cite the Miami New Times specifically.

NCL did not immediately respond to inquiries from Florida Politics about the allegations.

On March 12, Miami New Times published a response from Norwegian Cruise Line that stated, “We remain committed to operating with integrity and providing our guests with the best possible vacation experiences across the globe. We are aware of the article in question and are looking into the matter.”

Moody’s office said the company is cooperating with her office’s investigation in the early stages.

Beset by stunning reports showing cruise ships unable to dock because of on-board coronavirus outbreaks and news that at least a couple of the early cruise line outbreaks were rampant, Norwegian Cruise Line announced March 13 it was suspending cruise operations, along with other major cruise lines. As early as March 8 the U.S. State Department had warned Americans to not take cruises.

Florida is home to the American cruise industry and the embarkation point for about 59 perfect of all cruise passengers. However, almost all the ships are foreign-flagged, removing them from most American regulation. The sales office and headquarters, however, may be fully under Moody’s jurisdiction.

“We are in the thick of a public health crisis like our modern world has never experienced. My Consumer Protection Division is conducting an extensive investigation to get to the bottom of the disturbing allegations against Norwegian Cruise Lines,” Moody stated in a news release. “Let this serve as a warning to anyone seeking to mislead consumers during these challenging times. I will do everything within the power of this office to hold accountable those who would prey on Floridians during this health crisis.”

Moody’s office cited reports and whistleblower-leaked emails that allegedly showed “NCL managers encouraged employees to downplay the risks associated with contracting COVID-19 with lines like, “the only thing you need to worry about for your cruise is do you have enough sunscreen,” and “the coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise.”

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and countless health experts, these statements are blatantly false,” the Attorney General’s Office stated in a news release Monday. “The CDC states on its website, “the virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community.” The CDC also advises people to “defer all cruise travel worldwide.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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