Florida’s attorney general is investigating claims that Norwegian Cruise Line misled passengers about the risk of coronavirus in the weeks before the company suspended global operations amid the growing pandemic.
The investigation, announced Monday, originated from a Miami newspaper report that exposed internal emails by company managers instructing employees to lie if asked about the virus, Ashley Moody’s office said.
"We are in the thick of a public health crisis like our modern world has never experienced," Moody said in a statement, according to CNN. "My Consumer Protection Division is conducting an extensive investigation to get to the bottom of the disturbing allegations against Norwegian Cruise Line."
The root of the allegations points to the company’s sales staff making “misleading and potentially dangerous sales pitches” to customers that downplayed the risks of coronavirus, CNN reported.
The emails, which were handed over by a whistleblower at the Miami-based company, reportedly offered no warnings to customers about the indiscriminate spread of the highly contagious virus.
In early March, a Norwegian Cruise Line employee came forward with alleged proof that managers were asking sales staff to lie to customers about COVID-19 to protect the company’s bookings, according to the report by the New Times in Miami.
A senior sales manager at Norwegian’s Miami offices provided scripted responses for the sales team to use if potential customers expressed concerns about COVID-19, the newspaper reported, citing the leaked emails.
“Team,” the email reads in part, “these are one liner’s to help you close your guests that are on the fence. DO NOT USE THESE unless the coronavirus is brought up.”
The emails included lines such as, “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,” CNN reported, according to Moody’s office.
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Moody said Norwegian is cooperating, although the company didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment about the investigation, according to the network.
The company did, however, give a statement addressing the matter March 12:
“We remain committed to operating with integrity and providing our guests with the best possible vacation experiences across the globe,” the statement read, according to CNN. “We are aware of the article in question and are looking into the matter.”
At President Donald Trump's request, Norwegian suspended all outbound cruises from the United States on March 14 for 30 days, along with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC cruise lines.
Norwegian plans to resume its cruises April 12.