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The worst place on a cruise ship

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 21 - 2008

Cruising What’s the worst place on a cruise ship? If you ask regular cruisers, they might tell you to avoid the cigar bar or the Lido Pool area. But for me, it’s the art auction area.

Why? Quite frankly, I think art auctions are a misuse of space on cruise ships — not to mention a complete waste of time and money.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate fine art. It’s just that most of the so-called art displayed for cruise ship galleries and auctions isn’t so fine and borders on tacky.

I am not alone. I’ve heard the groans amongst my fellow passengers upon encountering art displays around the ship. These art roadblocks force cruisers into a weaving obstacle course just to get from one part of the ship to another.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there was something interesting to look at. I mean, how many paintings and prints of cottages should one be inundated with? Even worse, the neon-colored glossy fliers heaped upon guests in their staterooms touting the auctions and free champagne are offensive, not to mention far from being a green-friendly practice.

Offensive or not, art auctions and galleries on cruise ships generate revenue and that’s music to most cruise executives’ ears. Still, off the record, many cruise line managers admit they aren’t big fans of the practice. Nevertheless, in the age of shrinking corporate balance sheets, any revenue source is a bright spot.

What’s not so bright is deceptive practices heaped upon some cruise passengers.

Art job

While on a recent cruise I decided to do a pre-dinner stroll of the art gallery and came upon a Picasso “painting.” I use the term “painting” because that’s exactly how several art gallery personnel described it.

They were using this “painting” for a contest. Guests had to estimate its value. The passenger who guessed closest to the actual price would win hundreds of dollars in credit to use towards an art purchase.

The Picasso in question was a man holding a cat. I knew it wasn’t a painting, but a print. I decided to play dumb and asked a lot of silly questions just to see what would happen.

I asked one of the gallery workers if this was a real Picasso painting worth millions why wasn’t it guarded? The worker laughed and said in a heavy Eastern European accent that there were plenty of them watching the “painting.”

I asked why this expensive “painting” was on a ship? Then I got the Park West Gallery spiel that they were the largest art gallery in the world with an extensive original art collection and had the most expertise on selling art at sea.

Indeed, Park West Gallery is the largest player in the high-seas art stakes. The Southfield, Mich., company has galleries onboard Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Regent and Oceania vessels. When Park West makes a sale, the cruise line takes a percentage of that sale.

I walked out of the gallery shaking my head, wondering how many gullible passengers would fall into this art trap and wishing the cruise lines would give this whole concept the heave-ho.

So, it was no surprise when I read that some passengers shared my misgivings about these art auctions in general and Park West in particular.

In one example, a passenger paid $19,468 for three Dali prints, only to come home and have them appraised from $850 to $1,000. Another passenger went to a German art fraud detective with his purchases and was informed that they were photomechanical reproductions and not lithographs. The German detective referred to the pieces as “poster art.”

Beware of buyer’s remorse

Shipboard art auctions can be a lot of fun, and they do offer free champagne. And that’s the problem.

Lured by the secure environment onboard the ship, many passengers are more likely to believe the value claims made by the art auctioneers. If you’re not careful with the cheap bubbly, you could end up owning a painting of four dogs playing poker.

I’ve seen this happen a number of times, and I’ve seen the remorseful bidder go home hundreds and thousands of dollars poorer.

Case in point: John and Helen Finch of Pittsburgh took their first cruise several years ago, a seven-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise on Princess. Seeing attractive art every day on the ship, Helen decided to attend one of the onboard art auctions. Before she knew it, she’d paid $800 for two lithographs — not something she had planned for. Even worse, the sale was final – the Finch’s were stuck.

My advice, if you see something you really like, take a picture of it and see if a local art gallery can find it or something like it for you. You usually get better art deals on land, where you can play the competition among galleries.

Better yet, take a photo of a beautiful landscape on your cruise and frame it. That will be a far better value and a terrific memory that will always remain priceless.

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20 Responses to “The worst place on a cruise ship”

  1. Kent says:

    I agree totally. The art auctions have become horrendous. They are intrusive as their art is everywhere obscuring the ship’s art. Their art sessions are intrusive as well taking up lounges for hours due to set up the auction and take down. On a Princess ship we were on they had the dang thing in the atrium making it difficult to get anywhere. I have friends who have bought art on a ship and they seem happy. I NEVER would. To buy is to encourage them to stay around. It’s like feeding a wild animal. Don’t feed them and they’ll crawl back into the woods.

  2. Ben says:

    It’s a really good write-up!
    Good luck to all!

  3. seo company says:

    Even I’m 100% agree as well..
    thanks a lot guys..

  4. As a former art auctioneer, I feel your pain. I got out several years ago when the business turned completely and utterly corporate and greedy. In my day they took great pains to avoid inaccuracies such as what is original, a painting, a reproduction, what have you. I am not so sure nowadays.

    Just for the record, though, I should mention that the examples of overpriced Dali artwork is the same argument told over and over, always with a different name of the buyer, the ship, and the year, yet it is the same example every time. That guy went directly to a Park West competitor for a second appraisal, one who was trying to move into the lucrative ship sales market and slandered the Hell out of Park West. He was caught red handed doing so and forced to apologize to everyone involved and lost his butt in the process. I am not defending anything other than this particular case, because I had to get to the bottom of it years ago to ensure for myself that I was doing something credible.

    This write-up is very correct in stating the reasons why art auctions are on board. It’s all about the money, of course. But you know what? All that crappy, hideously bright or trite art is what overwhelmingly gets sold. As P.T.Barnum once said, no one ever went broke underestimating humanity!

  5. Is there no way to have some legal actions taken against such straight faced liars? It is nothing but a simple case of fraud!

  6. kennnk says:

    Thank you very much.

    good luck for all!!!!.

  7. willy says:

    i never knew before, and thanks!

  8. WebSam says:

    A really good review, inside view to ship printing “painting”…

  9. sunil says:

    lolz.. it would be better to download the paintings and have them blowed up instead of wasting bucks real fast.. if they do intend to waste their bucks, why not just help the needy

  10. Health says:

    Very good article! Thanks!

  11. CrazyFrog says:

    Completly agree with you 🙂

  12. Great article. Thank you

  13. Don’t really think there is a bad place, after all you are still on vacation and have nothing better to do than eat and sleep. I just don’t go to the art show.
    I didn’t travel that far to look at art.

  14. Ori says:

    Great Post! Thanks

  15. Blue Benz says:

    I agree, space wasting I think..

  16. Hank says:

    Hallelujah! I am glad to head that I am not the only one that feels that way. But sadly fell for the auction thing on the first cruise I ever took and learned from that experience really fast.
    It doesn’t look good on the part of the cruise line to be bringing in these folks to lure people into buying misrepresented art. I can get something far nicer at a flee market. LOL!

  17. It’s just another one of those occasions where tourists are seen as walking wallets. In most tourist destinations, there’s a whole industry aimed at making you part with your money. No problem as long as you learn to recognize tourist traps. But what amazes me here is that the same company that sold you the passage also sets up the trap!

  18. Ashok says:

    i agree with you, it is the waste. it is no useful

  19. Mohammed k says:

    I agree that they’re just trying to get every last buck out of you, but I also think that art is art and no art is bad art.

  20. artloversunite says:

    I can’t believe that nothing can be done to these scam artists. Is it because they float in international waters? I was on a cruise and I went to a talk on “fine art”. I really wanted to amuse myself. The talk was on how art has evolved from Rembrandt to Peter Max. They supposedly used authentic etchings and signed prints. They claimed that the art they had was absolutely authentic. After the talk, I walked up to the art to closely inspect it. Of course, I am no expert but I was very skeptical of their authenticity. I asked the Park West rep if the Rembrandt was actually real. She said it absolutely was. She went on to say that Park West bought it directly from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She said they cleared it from their collection to be sold. After that speech, I knew that they were fakes.

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