Florida cruise company folds amid controversy

A holiday company offering Florida cruises, which has attracted widespread criticism for its dubious “hard-sell” business practices, has gone bankrupt.

Travel House of Virginia (THV) is one of the biggest of a number of companies based in Florida which have been mailing thousands of potential travellers in the UK over the past two years.

THV offers what it describes as a “Florida cruise holiday” for just a few hundred pounds. However, those who take up the offer find the cruise is a ferry ride on a gambling ship and they have to pay extra for the flight, food and accommodation. The company’s leaflet suggests travellers will stay at the upmarket Holiday Inn, while in fact rooms are provided at the Holiday Inn Express which is the hotel chain’s bargain-basement operation.

Those who wish to take up the offer must book by credit card over the phone and are told that unless they book immediately the offer will be withdrawn.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has received up to 500 calls of complaint a month from UK consumers about THV and similar companies, although ABTA itself has no connection with or jurisdiction over the operations since they are based in the US.

“We have been very concerned about these schemes for some time,” says Keith Betton, ABTA’s head of corporate communications.

“Our advice has always been: if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”

The Florida Department of Consumer Services will take action on behalf of consumers who have grievances against THV, although the organisation is legal under US law according to the UK based Florida Tourism Marketing Corporation.

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