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10-Year Anniversary of CruiseMates

Written by: Paul Motter

August 25 is the 10-year Anniversary of CruiseMates.com. We started in 1999 as the first ad-supported online cruise guide on the Internet. We have seen a lot of changes over the years, some good and some not, but we are still here and I can’t imagine ever going away.

Many of you know that Cruisemates was started by Anne Campbell and Paul Motter in 1999. In 1999 the advertising revenue model of the Internet was still new. Most cruise lines didn’t even have Web sites yet (most of them finally got online in 2000). Some of them started out with famously bad sites that had to be reinvented from scratch. We reinvented ourselves a few times.

10 years is an eternity in Internet time. Most people did not even know what the Internet was before 1995 – when Amazon was introduced. In that context CruiseMates is practically a reptile of Internet history.

History…. we started with a nightly cruise chat, basic message boards, cruise reviews, cruise news and bargains listings, a newsletter and virtual cruises. Our first article, a feature by Kuki with an original picture by Paul Motter, showed our humorous side and won a lot of converts to our site immediately. Here it is in its original form: Middle Aged and Sexy.

We also had the support of several excellent cruise and travel writers who are still around; Fran Golden, Sam and Arline Bleecker and Mary Ann Hemphill. Honestly, we wouldn’t have made it without these fine folks and so I extend a warm and special thank you.

We innovated some ideas for travel content on the Internet. We were among the first cruise sites to use video inside of a cruise feature article, as early as 2000 for the introduction of Costa Atlantica in Venice. We started a service we called “cruise bazaar” where people could tell us what kind of cruise they were looking for and travel agents could bid on the price – there was no money made there, just a free service. That was before most cruise lines implemented flat pricing policies which has changed this concept into something different today.

We were accepting user-submitted cruise reviews long before most major hotel and destination sellers were doing so (although I cannot say we invented that idea, it was not so common). We also had one of the first complete sets of cruise line and ship reviews online.

How has the industry changed in the last 10 years?

In 1999 the biggest story was the introduction of Voyager of the Seas. At the time the ship was doing what Oasis is about to do, take cruise ships to an entirely new dimension. We heard, “it’s too big, you’ll never get me on that thing.”

Now towards the end of 2009 we are close to the launch of Oasis of the Seas, the newest “World’s Largest Cruise Ship.” Perhaps what is most amazing is that during the intervening 10 years there have not been that many ships built that exceed the size of Voyager from ten years ago. Only four larger have been built so far, three Freedom-class from Royal Caribbean and Queen Mary from Cunard. Norwegian Epic will be bigger when she is introduced next May. Oasis and her sister ship Allure will also be bigger. That is only seven actual vessels bigger than the biggest cruise ship built ten years ago, and only two not from Royal Caribbean. That says something about Royal Caribbean.

Since the Freedom-class is largely based upon the Voyager-class, what we have really seen is a ten-year cycle for the next generation of ships to emerge converging with the lifetime of CruiseMates so far. Soon, with Oasis of the Seas and Norwegian Epic, we are about to embark on a new cycle in the cruise industry.

Between September 11 and the current economic meltdown it has been a challenging decade. What were some of the major changes in the last ten years?

There was the acquisition of NCL by Star Cruises of Malaysia (and now Apollo Management as an equal partner). There was the brutal battle for Princess Cruises – originally announced as a merger with Royal Caribbean to create the biggest cruise company in the world. Then Carnival upped the ante and won the shareholders only to have the deal face a year of scrutiny by the Trade Commissions here and in Europe before approval.

There was the demise of Renaissance Cruises only to spawn two brand new highly regarded cruise lines; Oceania Cruises and Azamara.

There was end of the marriage of two ships, Independence and Patriot of the United States Lines (formerly America Hawaii Lines), which also merged with Delta Queen Steamboats to become American Classic Voyages. Unfortunately, all of those ships have now gone away and the state of U.S.-flagged cruise lines is at its worst ever.

There was the highly laudable effort by NCL to create a fully U.S.-flagged cruise line in Hawaii with NCL-America. They committed years of struggle to create a three-ship American-flagged and crewed cruise line sailing in U.S. waters, only to see it struggle financially due to union costs and the inability to compete with other cruise markets. NCL also lost its flagship, the Norway, to a devastating explosion, and acquired the SS United States only to find it an unprofitable prospect. If you ever had to give a company credit for trying it would be NCL, and now the company is finally reporting that it is doing better than ever. NCL-America is down to one U.S.-flagged ship.

As for CruiseMates, we were acquired by Internet Brands in 2006 and that has been a beneficial alliance with a solid company that has kept us growing through good times and now through tougher economic times.

And what about the Internet, how has that changed? I was a Seatrade conference in 1999 where somebody said “in ten years there will not a single cruise sale that does not have at least one Internet component.” I believe it he was exactly right. Whether the original cruiser does his research online and books directly over the Internet, or the travel agent books it online for the cruiser, or if the cruise documents are printed from the Internet, at some point every almost cruise sold today has some kind of Internet component (with rare exceptions, of course).

CruiseMates is so proud to have played a part in the early days of the Internet cruise world. 10 years online makes us an institution in the abbreviated world of Internet time. And so this year I have a list of people to thank for contributing to the success of Cruisemates:

First of all, I have to single out Kuki who has been with CruiseMates since day one and is still here today. I was just watching his video as a stand up comic on the last John Heald Blogger’s Cruise. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without him.

He has coordinated all of the CruiseMates Cruises and will be hosting the upcoming culinary cruise we have scheduled on Norwegian Epic with Matt Sigel from Hell’s Kitchen. Over the years we have had dozens of successful Cruisemates cruises and we will continue to host these as long as we can.

I also want to thank the following people for letting us be in their world:

Anne Campbell
Fran Golden
Mary Ann Hemphill
Sam and Arline Bleecker
Ben Lyons
Ted Scull
Pat Hagan
Luisa Frey
Michael Lari
Mike Mastellar
Gaile (Tweety)
Y2C
Jim Bragg
Donna Nye
Art Sbarsky
Jim Glab
Mary Lou Scanlon
Linda Pearl
Tim Rubacky
Dan Pollulak
Ingrid (mermaid)
Judy Cuervo
Todd de Haven
Lou Ann Kane
Alex Gaynor
Todd de Haven
Donna Belanger
Carol Mendelssohn
Nate Andrews
John McGanty
Rita Ippoliti
Triton
Brad Ball
Julie Benson
Jackie Chase
Jen de la Cruz
Dana Dominici
Erik Elvejord
Vance Gulliksen
Elizabeth Jakeway
John Primeau
Tracy Quan
Courtney Recht
Rick Sasso
Gordon Thorne
Mimi Weisband

Press Coverage by:
Chris Elliot
Laura Bly
Gene Sloan
Anita Potter
Spud Hilton
Peter Greenberg
CNN
ABC World News
The View

Of course all of our advertisers who have supported us for many years: Cruise agencies and cruise lines. Frank del Rio of Oceania for being one of our first advertisers (Renaissance at the time) and Ron Russo of Best Price Cruises, Pat Neidhart of Cruises-N-More, Nancy Bogert, Brad Anderson of America’s Vacation Center, Alan Fox of Vacations to Go. iCruise, CruiseBrothers, CruiseCompete and all the rest. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, NCL, Holland America, Oceania Cruises, Avalon, Red October.

Thank you!

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Comments

Comment from kuki
Time August 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Happy Birthday to US!!!! It’s been an interesting and fun 10 years working here at CruiseMates.

Another 10 years and I may actually learn how to write.

Comment from Mike M
Time August 25, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Wow! Ten years. I wasn’t around at the “very” beginning but I found Cruisemates in late 1999 when researching my first cruise on Celebrity Mercury. There were a couple of other sites and when I asked a simple question. (It was the infamous alcohol question) :) I was flamed by a number of people. Cruisemates answered my question and many, many more. I have always said that I hung around here so much that Cruisemates had to either charge me rent or put me to work. While that is a humorous remark it is somewhat true.

I have cruised many many times since 2000. I don’t really have an exact count right now but it’s over 25 and a number of them have been when I’ve hosted and joined a Cruisemates cruise and these cruises are some of the most fun and memorable.

I also have to add one personal note: In 2001 I was stricken with a severe neurological disease. I have to admit that Cruisemates and everyone associated with the site, gave me the opportunity to work with the site and helped me over many rough times. I thank Paul, Anne Campbell, Kuki, the entire staff and all the readers for the work, support and knowledge that I have gained here.

Take care and Happy Anniversary!!!
Mike

Comment from Dave Beers
Time August 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Paul, Kuki, everyone,

Congratulations on 10 great years of informing the cruising public and telling it “the way it is”. I’ve always admired CruiseMates for the editorial integrity and fairness exhibited here.

I was both humbled and proud to be asked to represent this wonderful website recently, and it was quite clear that my saying I was representing CruiseMates carried a lot of weight with the other travel journalists. Having the respect of your peers is priceless, and I can truly say that I respect and admire CruiseMates and the people who make the site work – the staff and the loyal membership.

Comment from Trip
Time August 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Hard to believe I started here 10 years ago! From the get go, it has been so interesting to get in touch, in this “new fangled” way, with so many other people with the same love of cruising as I have. Learning is power, and it’s been a great experience, listening, and, helping the many, who, come here for help, and advice..Sail on Cruisemates!

Comment from Paul Motter
Time August 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Thank You mike, mo & dave. Mike, you have been my go-to technical guy from day one, always helping me sort out the tough issues. I can’t tell you how much your neurological disorder brings me chagrin just in knowing there is a limit in how much I can push you to help me out. I know you always do your best and that is the problem, I know if I ask you will try and we all know you have limits to your stamina. Your wife had to tell me when you had to slow down.

I am just so happy you have stuck around the site and continued to add your personal insights all the time. You have been such a blessing to us all. Sincerely!

Comment from Paul Motter
Time August 25, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Linda, what I love about you is that we live in such different spaces – you doing your shopping & cooking, me doing technical work and grousing about business matters. You are like a friend who always says ‘just sit down and take a load off.”

Comment from Paul Motter
Time August 25, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Dave…

Tell me about this “respect” thing again? ;-) No, seriously. It isn’t we who represent CruiseMates that garner respect, it is our collective consciousness and commitment to doing our very best that gets the respect. We all contribute.

Dave is the editor over at our sister (Internet Brands) site CruiseReviews.com, for those of you who may not be sure.

Speaking of the old days, Dave was an original editor at the old Sealetter.com which IB also acquired.

Comment from Anne Campbell
Time August 25, 2009 at 6:19 pm

CONGRATULATIONS EVERYONE!!! You do a terric job!

Comment from Dave Beers
Time August 25, 2009 at 7:26 pm

>>It isn’t we who represent CruiseMates that garner respect, it is our collective consciousness and commitment to doing our very best that gets the respect. We all contribute.<<

No better way to say it!

Comment from rollerdonna
Time August 25, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Happy Birthday CruiseMates, and thanks for allowing me to be part of your family!
I discovered CruiseMates shortly after getting a computer and discovering the internet.
I had so many questions at first, not just about cruising, but about how to do everything on the computer.
Mike M. and numerous others taught me everything I know, and now I write reviews and post photos with the best of them.
Thanks guys, it’s fun to be here, and I plan to hang around forever!

Comment from RayB
Time August 28, 2009 at 2:13 am

Thanks Cruisemates. I have been with you guys almost from the beginning and hope to remain as long as time permits.

Its been fun for the last 10 years. I hope I have contributed with those that so many are interested in.

Age now is catching up with me. So I hang in there one day at a time.

Comment from RayB
Time August 29, 2009 at 7:53 am

And this was those two persons who started this site. Yes we remember Paul and Anne. They were together on the Golden Princess in 2002.
[img]http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/galleries/213/3074.jpg[/img]

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