One man learned the hard way that it's wise to take a cruise line's no tolerance policy seriously.

Zero Tolerance for Dean
I often receive angry letters from people who believe they were somehow wronged by a cruise line and want their money back. These cases run from compelling to laughable. I have one from a couple who wants a 100% refund because there was a foul smell detectable from their balcony. They turned down a 25% onboard credit with cash for the unused portion offered by the Hotel Manager during the first days of the cruise. Now that offer is no longer on the table and they are upset - writing letters and posting messages everywhere.

But I have another letter where the tone is very different, despite an incident that cost a Celebrity passenger over $12,000. The person involved admits his partial culpability and appears to be truly sorry for it, but I have to say I am in awe of the reaction and consequences dealt out to him by the cruise line.

width=200Dean Laderoute booked a full 12-night Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity Solstice, traveling with his wife, two children and a couple of family friends. After the welcome aboard champagne including the free bottle in his suite and wine with dinner, Dean admits he was feeling no pain. He didn't care when his kids rolled their eyes as he danced his wife to the music in the atrium.

After dinner, Dean and his friend sat down to play Caribbean Poker in the casino. A Russian man was taking his cards very seriously, and according to Dean, had a body guard and his friends surrounding him. Dean and friend were conversing with the casino staff in Italian and French, doing their best to ignore the Russian slamming his hands down and yelling in Russian every time he lost, and the glares he shot at Dean while they were talking to the staff.

Soon the pit boss walked up to Dean and said, This gentleman (referring to the Russian) asks that you only speak English at the table. Somewhat surprised, and not in the mood for stangers telling him what to do, Dean asked the Russian directly why he wanted to limit their conversation to English. He noted that the play is against the house, not between players. There are no rules on ships that say a passenger must only speak English, or that they cannot speak to the staff, even in the casino. Nor does one passenger have the right to tell another passenger what to do. The Russian man did not even react to what Dean said in English, the language he has requested they speak. Choosing to ignore this somewhat confusing set if circumstances Dean once again started speaking to the staff in Italian and French. All within their rights as independent paying guests on the ship.

Dean was aware that the Russian man continued to appear angry, but he was minding his own business. Suddenly the Russian man made a hand gesture like a double-barreled pistol, pointed it at his own temple, cocked his thumb and shot - glaring at Dean the whole time. The man had just sent a second non-verbal message to Dean, I'm going to kill you. Dean was shocked and responded in a way he now regrets, he attempted to douse the Russian with the contents of his drinking glass. Unfortunately the moist glass slipped through his fingers, fortunately it fell on the floor and no one was hurt, or even got wet.

With the outburst two security guards ran up and grabbed Dean from behind. Dean was mad, and he admits he let out a few swear words directed the pitboss, but witnesses also quickly approached to indicate the Russian had been the provocateur; belligerant and threatening. It didn't matter. Dean wisely calmed down and asked to return to his stateroom. The guards accompanied him there but he was not confined. He soon decided to return to the casino and apologize to everyone, but the Russian had left.

The next day, the first full day of the cruise, the Hotel Manager contacted Dean Laderoute to say he must leave the ship the next day, in Santorini, Greece. Dean initially thought it was a joke, but no one was smiling. He asked if the Russian had filed a complaint and was told not yet. Apparently some staffers did not agree with the decision and said they were pulling for him, but the final word was between the captain and Miami and Dean was never allowed to speak to either of them . He was put off the ship with no compensation for the cost of the cruise and no expenses paid to help him get back to the United States.

Keep in mind this didn't happen at the end of a Caribbean cruise. The cruise had cost Dean $8424 for his portion alone, and he racked up another $3690 keeping up with his family by flying to each port and staying in a hotel. That involved four flights and ten nights in hotels and all of his meals. A few moments of losing his temper, although he was provoked and no one was hurt, cost Dean Laderoute over $12,000.

When Dean was asked to leave he initially thought they were joking. Cold harsh reality set in quickly, however, when it was explained the cruise contract gives Celebrity the right to put anyone off the ship for bad behavior, and Dean's swearing was cited repeatedly as the main egregious concern.

What is the lesson here? That everyone had better take the zero tolerance of crimes policy on cruise ships very seriously. You can be put off the ship and you will not be compensated. With all my correspondence with Dean I have to say this much - he is contrite and accepts the responsibility for what happened. He wrote to me saying I hope other people can learn from my experience. I certainly learned something.

In the long run I do not know what happened to the Russian man, but it is safe to say, according to witnesses, that Dean was minding his own business and not breaking any rules when he was provoked. I don't know if the Russian was also put off the ship for making a death-threatening gesture, but if not I would like to know why not. I also think that the Solstice captain could have found a more workable solution. Dean promised to stay in his cabin if need be - anything not to have to leave the ship to no avail.

Dean was told the ship would be responsible if any further flareup occured between him and the Russian. Risk Management. Wouldn't a meeting between the captain and the two parties have determined that? Call it a fair hearing. I understand zero tolerance and risk management, but come on - this is real money and real people. It seems a bit cowardly not to give people a second chance.

This is just a sad story all the way around. Anyone who witnesses such events can gauge pretty quickly if a person is a habitual trouble maker, or if something extraordinary happened. I don't know Dean but I have to say that within the context of all the complaint letters I receive, rarely do I see a person more contrite and less outraged or demanding, especially considering he lost over $12,000 in vacation investment.