Cruise Ship Art Auctions Scams

Here’s a fun scam: buying art at auction on cruise ships. In one case, a woman paid $20,000 for what she thought were high-value Salvadore Dali, but when they got shipped to her, an independent appraiser told her they were worth maybe $700 each. The business is conducted on international waters, so there’s no consumer protection laws to throw you a lifesaver. Consumerama says they’re not even run under real auction rules, but are instead, “coordinated inebriated sales hysteria.”

Cruise Ship Art Auctions: Disasters at Sea [Consumerama]
(Photo: jimg944)


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  1. SaveMeJeebus says:

    I had to sit next to a yuppie couple on our cruise and they would leave dinner early every night to bid on “artwork for the children’s gameroom.” They would come back the next night talking about how good of a deal they got. My wife and I just rolled our eyes. You’d have to be pretty stupid to think you were getting a valuable piece of art from a cruise. These are probably the same type of people who think they got the upper hand on the local street vendors.

    When I hear the term “international waters” I always think of a knife-fighting monkey named Furious George.

  2. salviati says:

    This certainly sounds like the art ‘auction’ I went to earlier this year. We had a ‘Day at Sea’ where there really wasn’t anything interesting to do, so we attended. Fortunately, my wife and I have very sensitive BS-detectors, so we made no intent to buy and set a very low budget. So after all was said and done, we got some free Champagne, bought a very cheap piece to give away as a gift, and happened to win a freebie. But I can see how it would be easy to get hyped up in-the-moment and end up with some serious regrets later. Sailors Beware.

  3. JustinAche says:

    I just go for the free champagne….mmmm….free booze

  4. fordpickup says:

    I used to work for the gallery that puts on these auctions. If you’re looking at a Dali or Rembrandt, more often than not it’s just a print signed by the artist. I’m not sure if they sail with originals of newer artists, but on a cruise ship, you’re basically just buying a tarted up poster (some of which are printed at the gallery.)

    The gallery has originals of new pieces (Tarkay, Fanch, Krasnyansky etc), but if you’re a serious collector, are you really buying that stuff? Really? Most of it I wouldn’t hang over a couch, let alone think it would increase in value.

    No, no sour grapes. I left on good terms and enjoyed my time there.

  5. Skiffer says:

    I don’t have to worry, I only go to international waters for the monkey knife fights…

  6. MeOhMy says:

    There’s a ton of information and case studies at:

    Actually, I used to think of the cruise ship auctions as “Don’t be an idiot and you’ll be fine.” My first cruise I bought a few things, nothing over $100. At land or at sea, you can’t get screwed if you buy what you like at a price you are comfortable with. My $60 print looks nice in my office and can’t exactly be worth a whole lot less than I paid!

    But as more and more horror stories come down, I get more and more concerned. I skipped the auction entirely on my last cruise. Even though I am not being screwed personally, patronizing them at all helps keep them afloat (pun intended). I just can’t in good consicience attend those auctions anymore.

    These days I stick with the “buy what you like at a price you can afford” mantra but I buy originals at local galleries. These are decorations, not my retirement fund.

    Unless you’ve already maximized pretty much all of your other investment avenues, collecting art is an AWFUL investment strategy.

  7. swunder says:

    My parents bought a signed & numbered Miro print from the Princess Cruise Line for some $$$$. A few years later, they contacted my parents and said that they could not in good faith guarantee that it was authentic and paid for them to ship it back and refunded their money.

  8. DrGirlfriend says:

    I will make my first attempt at a pedantic spell-check post to note that it is Salvador, not Salvadore.


  9. yg17 says:

    My cousin is an art dealer on cruise ships and this sounds exactly like the sort of crap he’d pull.

  10. elf6c says:

    Come for the monkey knife fights, stay for the illegal man vs horse boxing matches “The Slaughter On The Water”.

  11. Geekybiker says:

    When will people learn? Nothing you buy aboard a cruise ship is a good value. You get a cheap ticket and get everything else you possibly can elsewhere.

  12. Bay State Darren says:

    I’ve got PhotoShop. Anyone with a boat wanna team up with me and make a killing? And a decent printer. And Booze.

  13. LetMeGetTheManager says:

    I wonder how soon you will see surgeries performed in international waters…

  14. ToadKillerDog says:

    I am a recent cruiser who looked at the art and gave my wife a hard limit to spend ($50.00). Fortunately the one and only piece of interest started at $60.00.

    Two little points.
    a. You go on a cruise for a good time. If gloating about your imagined bargain is part of it…. Good for you! At least you are not running monkey fights.
    b. Cheap tickets? Tickets are no longer cheap.
    c. (Bonus point) Has consumerist ever run a comparison on cheap ways to get tickets, good cruise lines?

  15. rolla says:

    i dont think i would buy anything of significant value on a cruise ship. international waters = no buyer’s recourse

  16. toddkravos says:

    My buddy fell victim to this some years back with these dali works. luckily for him, he didn’t pay 20k each but rather only a few hundred dollars. They’re worth much more than he paid.

  17. Instigator says:

    It isn’t just cruise ship auctions where inexperienced “art collectors” can get screwed. Here’s a link to a highly enlightening article about the traps that predatory art galleries on dry land set:


  18. reykjavik says:

    I thought only cheap teachers and fat peasants go on cruises?

  19. IndyJaws says:

    Why do I keep having the vision of Mike Brady warning, “Caveat Emptor?”

  20. floydianslip6 says:

    @Bay State Darren: Only if we start by making reproduction posters of album art by RIAA artists before getting to the Blake.

  21. Broncoskip says:

    My last cruise did seem a little like QVC at times.

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    That’s why I only bid on shirtless, glistening-bronze-chested cabin boys during cruise ship auctions. WYSIWYG and since you know beforehand you’re bidding on a depreciating asset, no tears shed once you discover he’s worth much less than the Activities Director led you to believe.

  23. BuddyHinton says:

    I sat through one of these with my mom and my (then) new wife. I believe the auction company was indeed Park West Galleries. This “auction” started up and they had both my companions on the hook. Myself, I was an extreme pessimist (useful as a Consumerist) and hated this event.

  24. ltlbbynthn says:

    I worked at one of those “auction” places in a hotel, and the company also did stuff on cruise ships and resorts. I actually thought most of the art was very nice. They had prints by current artists, and a contract with a few of them so we had their originals, which were of course overpriced, but the rest of them were very reasonably priced.

  25. Glaven says:

    Dali is one of the most ripped-off artists ever, so anyone actually trying to collect real Dalis has to be very, very knowledgeable about it. When Dali was still alive, but feeble, friends and family were allegedly making “art” and getting him to sign it, some even claim they were getting him to sign blank canvases. He was really prolific, so that helped to camouflage the entry of extra runs of unauthorized prints and so on. There have been factories churning out “authentic” prints made with “the most authentic version of his signature” printed on and “letters of authenticity” attached, selling for thousands.

    This doesn’t mean that the “authentic” crapola won’t have resale value, of course. Most people don’t know or care. But if you care about integrity, be very, very careful. And I would say that buying out on waters where the jurisdiction isn’t clear is not sufficiently careful!

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    As someone that knows quite a few struggling artist types, it grates that there is an ocean of suckers paying dearly for the chance to get ripped off, while real, living artists struggle to get food to eat.

    If only a few of these patrons signed up for the walking tours (or sites) that many art districts have – and take a chance buying art they liked rather than shopping based on what the pretty label says – both the buyers and the artists would be much happier.

  27. goodkitty says:

    “…they’re not even run under real auction rules, but are instead, ‘coordinated inebriated sales hysteria’…”

    Oh, so it’s like eBay.

  28. dantsea says:

    The closest I’ve ever come to attending the cruise art auction is flipping through their catalog while on the toilet in my cabin bathroom. You’re welcome for that mental image.

    I considered going for the free champagne, but figured the pressure to buy would be just short of a time share presentation.

  29. Mary says:

    You know, I didn’t know they did art auctions on cruise ships until my boss had some art he bought shipped to the office and I opened the envelope with the certificates of authenticity.

    I’ll stick to convention art auctions. The art is more my style anyway.

  30. MYarms says:

    LOL I used to be the audio engineer on a major cruise line and since I had to run the mics for the auctions I would sit around and watch all of the rubes get taken for their money. In essence thats really all a cruise is, a chance for the cruise line to separate you from as much of your money as possible. Now I can’t say for sure if all of the artwork was fake or not but every week I would watch a new crop of people drop retarded amounts of money on it.