Celebrity Cruise Commercial: A Promotion for Skin Cancer?

Out of the corner of my eye, when I turned on the TV to watch the Sunday morning news shows, I saw the end of a commercial for a Celebrity cruise. A beautiful redhead sunbathes poolside on a ship deck. While Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 psychedelic hit “White Rabbit” plays, she dreams of an Alice-in-Wonderland-like journey showing what the cruise offers.

Vacation advertisement and skin cancer risk

A crew member comes over and smiles down at her. The beautiful redhead wakes up, shades her eyes with her hand and smiles back. Zoom out to the cruise ship and the tag line “Wonder Awaits.”

Wait, what? No hat? No umbrella? Was the commercial promoting skin cancer? Obviously not explicitly, but implicitly it did by the setup of the scene. The song takes you back to a time when sun protection wasn’t a thing, but the commercial is promoting travel now, not then. She still would have been beautiful if she had at least been under an umbrella.

Reaction to cruise advertismeent

I decided to look it up. I guess others have looked it up too. When I put in these three words, “celebrity cruises commercial,” the three other words that I wanted filled in: “redhead actress name.” It’s not that easy to find, because much of the commentary has been about the commercial itself without saying who the actress is. It sure has sparked a lot of reactions.

James Fox, managing partner of the ad agency who created it, told Travel Weekly, “We want viewers to see Celebrity the way we see Celebrity, as a modern and progressive brand with an incredible and unique product. We hope to convey the same feelings of wonder and intrigue you get from being on a Celebrity cruise, in a fresh way." The Travel Weekly writer mused, “The use of ‘White Rabbit’ as background music could appeal both to a baby boomer audience that remembers it from the 1960s and a younger group.”1

More reactions but none about skin cancer

The crew member who goes over to her is the actual captain of the ship, by the way. She is Kate McCue, the first American woman to captain a cruise ship.2 Some people commenting in a Catholic Answers forum were bothered by the drug references and promotion of what they called hedonism. “I supposed these commercials attract a lot of hedonists who do drugs,” someone wrote. Nobody mentioned the skin cancer risk for a redhead in the sun.

In another forum, a 69-year-old wrote, “The cruise ad is astonishing and makes me want to be on it -even if I don’t swim.” A supervisor for the company that did the visuals said the team enjoyed helping create “this really imaginative commercial that’s full of beautiful visuals.”3

A call for sun protection in vacation advertisments

So, drumroll, the actress is Dane Berkshire. She has fair skin, so I hope that at least in real life she protects it.

After all this googling, I went to yoga and sat next to a friend who had a Band-Aid on top of his bald head. He had gotten a squamous cell skin cancer removed. He is a fellow tennis player, and I wonder if, like me, he spent too much time in the sun.

In any case, cruise lines shouldn’t be promoting what we used to do. They could tweak it and still get the same effect. Sunscreen on the table next to her, or an umbrella over her, or a hat on her head, wouldn’t be quite as sexy, but skin cancer isn’t sexy either.

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