The Internet (and CruiseMates in particular) provides a wonderful tool for researching information about cruising in general, as well as reviews of individual ships. But how should you react when you come across conflicting views of the ship you're interested in? It's not unusual to find ship reviews from the same sailing of the same ship that express diametrically opposed opinions. So which review do you believe?
The Negative Spin
Human nature being what it is -- particularly in the "online world," where people enjoy anonymity -- keep in mind that those who have a negative experience on a cruise are much more likely than happy cruisers to search out a place to voice their complaints to the world.
That is not to say negative reviews, opinions, and experiences should be totally ignored. It is important to read those viewpoints, since they are at least presenting you with a possibility of what your future experience may be on the same ship.
People on the same ship at the same time can have different experiences, and enjoy or not enjoy the same cruise. When they report on their cruises later, neither person's viewpoint or opinion is necessarily wrong. Much is dictated by each cruiser's previous experiences, and the expectations they bring onboard.
So how do we know which reviews to believe?
Unless a writer lists his or her previous experiences, and what they were looking for, and tell us something about themselves at the beginning of a review, it can be difficult to evaluate the credibility of their latest cruise report. But there are certain things to look for that can provide a clearer picture of what we ourselves can expect from a ship, based on the reviews.
Subjective vs. Objective
When reading reviews, one should distinguish between the writer's subjective and the objective viewpoints about the ship.
Subjective views are personal opinions, such as how the reviewer enjoyed (or didn't) the taste of the food; how much they liked (or hated) the entertainment; or if they enjoyed the personality of their servers. These subjective opinions can often be affected by events that have no direct bearing on the area they are talking about. For example, some people might be upset by a long wait going through the check in process, and they'll let that negative experience set the tone for the balance of their cruise. Thus they may tend to look at many things during the cruise with a more critical eye than they would have otherwise. These types of reviews are normally easy to pick up by their tone.
Objective viewpoints describe the physical areas of the ship and its operations that are most likely to remain unchanged, so it's likely that your experience in the area described will be much like the writer's. This applies to descriptions of the ship's layout and public rooms, and its interior design influences. These aren't likely to change unless the ship happens to go in for a major dry dock before you sail it.
The Professional Viewpoint
The professional reviews in CruiseMates' review section are, as much as possible, written with a focus on providing objective views of the ship and the cruise experience on it. We try to avoid expressing our opinions about all the subjective details of an individual experience and try to concentrate more on the quantitative information.
Of course, when discussing food quality, portion size, service, and even entertainment, the writer's personal views guide them. But even when subjective opinions come in to play, all the CruiseMates reviewers are very experienced cruisers, familiar with various cruise lines and travel in general, and thus can express an educated opinion.
These professional reviews are written to give readers as accurate a description as possible of the experience you'll encounter on that ship.
That is not to say that we see no benefit to reading the non-professional Readers Reviews posted on our web site. We think there's a lot to be learned from the typical vacationer/cruiser, and that' s why we have a specific area devoted to it. We think "everyday cruisers" also have important information, opinions and experiences to share. And while our professional reviews may concentrate on quantitative information, we rely on the Reader Reviews to augment our reports by providing personal opinions and descriptions of individual cruise experiences.
Some sites may edit reviews submitted by readers to remove negative comments, but at CruiseMates the reviews submitted are posted in their entirety, regardless of negative or positive comments, as long as the language fits normal community standards, and comments are not libelous.
Certainly no one should book or cancel a cruise based on any one person's opinion -- even if it's mine! With the amount of money you will spend on a cruise vacation, you should also invest some time in researching the ships, and reading as many reviews as you can.
We Want Your Reviews
And after you return from your cruise, we encourage you to write your own report on your cruise experience, and post it in our Readers Review section. Go to cruisemates member reviews where your review can serve to update older reviews, and will remain archived for the benefit of future cruisers.