Norwegian Cruise Line tests the tumultuous waters of a Twitter social media cruise.
|Twitter followers waiting for the next tidbit of information.|
"Norwegian" just put out a press release with the headline "Norwegian Cruise Line Hosts First Ever Tweetup Cruise On Board Norwegian Sky." This convoluted sentence refers to a cruise for Twitter enthusiasts aboard the NCL Sky this coming November.
The implication of that headline is that tweeting from a cruise ship is a brand-new idea and NCL will be the first to do it. The local Miami weekly entertainment newspaper New Times fell for the ruse. They offered the headline, "First Twitter Cruise to Set Sail from Miami in November." The article says "This November, Norwegian Cruise Lines will set sail with what it's claiming is the world's first Twitter-themed cruise." In fact, the Miami New Times got it wrong and that is not what NCL is claiming. In the text of the press release NCL says it is the line's first Twitter cruise, not the first one ever. I am sure NCL knows that Princess Cruise Line did a twitter cruise in November of 2009 called #followmeatsea. In fact, many people in the cruise industry know about that cruise because it was widely regarded as a public relations disaster. That cruise led to a hailstorm of debate about fluffy articles from free-loading travel journalists enjoying free perks on a cruise ship. To NCL's credit, this is NOT a free cruise for the media – so if there is any fluff to be tweeted it will be at the cruiser's expense. The problem is that the outcome could still be largely the same – just because the medium is still Twitter.
If you do a Google search on this you will see the reporters onboard the Princess 2009 cruise had been invited to participate with a free cruise and several included amenities such as free internet access - which on a cruise ship can cost as much as $.75 per minute. According to one an article called the "Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media: lessons from #followmeatsea," this was the first mistake.
The reporter from the site "BlogHer" wrote: "What was meant to be a fun adventure, an opportunity for the host to use social media to promote their services, turned into an object lesson into how not to use Twitter. The issue at hand - a totally valid one - was the environmental and social impact of cruising. Vocal critics of the industry used the hashtag to promote an anti-cruising agenda. So far, so good, but the discussion quickly turned to personal attacks, defensiveness, and an absurd one-upping around who's a "better" traveler."
The onboard Tweeters were soon overwhelmed by onshore Twits (my word for twitter-maniacs) who had decided to wait in hiding for the Twitter cruise to start just so they could disrupt it. They soon started a heated debate about environmental issues, crimes at sea, and other embarrassing questions the reporters couldn't answer and the cruise line chose to shy away from.
Now, I am sure NCL knows about this previous Twitter debacle because NCL has been very conscientious about its social media strategy for public relations. At one time SVP Andy Stuart announced he had agreed to spend at least 30 minutes on Twitter every day, at the request of one of his public relations team members.
That was in March 2009 – before the "#Followmeatsea" disaster. Now, @nclandy (Andy Stuarts' Twitter name) spends more like 30 minutes a week, or maybe a month on Twitter.
However, the NCL Twitter cruise will be different from the Princess one. There will be no freeloading reporters or even free Internet access – everything is full fare. I am sure they also hope that enough time has elapsed since the Princess #followmeatsea kerfuffle that the current Twitter cruise antagonists have forgotten all about it.
But I wouldn't count on it – not with regular anti-cruise line tweeters like attorney Jim Walker; a Miami lawyer who specializes in suits against cruise lines, posting to Twitter several times every day for the last two years. Walker wrote extensively about the Princess #followmeatsea cruise on his blog, a site where he regularly bashes the cruise industry. There are other cruise antagonists posting almost daily on Twitter as well.
I Wish Them Luck
I really don't understand the attraction of reading tweets by people just because they are in a "special place." After all, I am not in their special place, and even if they are, they are still just tweeting, which they could do from almost anywhere. But I do hope this goes well for NCL. Sadly, my expectations are that it will not. Too many people in cyberspace would rather create bedlam than celebrate the finer things in life.
The only thing I can say to NCL is this – look up the many articles that were written about the #followmeatsea cruise and take heed to avoid all of the things that went wrong. Be ready for challenging questions, and don't lose your cool.
For cruise-loving tweeters, or the other way around, here is the information on the Norwegian "SeaTweetup," the "first ever Norwegian Cruise Line Tweetup at sea." The cruise sails from Miami on Friday, November 18, 2011. It is a three-day weekend getaway to the Bahamas returning Monday morning.
The cruise fare starts at $271 per person and the cruise will offer exclusive events like social media marketing panels and discussions. Participants will have access to the ship's Wi-Fi network, and invitations to exclusive in-port events to post, tweet, and blog throughout the weekend.
The "one-of-a-kind cruise" (NCL's words) allows Twitter users to "share their experiences with followers, as they build and strengthen relationships and create new ones." For more information on the first SeaTweeup cruise on board Norwegian Sky, follow @SeaTweetup and Norwegian @NCLFreestyle on Twitter and include hashtag #SeaTweetup. To reserve your spot on the sailing, visit the website at www.cruisedeals.com/groups/tweetupatsea.