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Do We All Have To Be Critics?

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One very prominent, and indeed important part of the Internet has become user reviews. In fact there are web sites valued at hundreds of millions of dollars where 100 % of the content on the sites is provided by users. This applies to just about everything; there’s user review sites not just for cruises, but for most anything; from hotels, destinations, travel modes, luggage, restaurants, automobiles, to ratings for brands of underwear.

It’s the information highway, and everyone seems to want to hear from the people behind the wheel more than they do from the people in the helicopter above giving reports on the over-all view. That’s a good thing in many respects. They want to hear reports and opinions from “people just like them”, and they want the unedited opinions. It seems they are often willing to take those people’s words at face value.

As a result of all of this, it seems opinion reporting has become the more popular norm in all aspects of our lives, and simple reporting of the facts has been left by the wayside to a larger degree than ever before.

At first glance this trend seems to be a positive one; real people, giving real reports. However, perhaps expectedly, reports have been surfacing about “shills” writing for various establishments, merchants, and retailers, and posting them as user reviews. And it’s become a serious issue many of the user supplied content sites are battling.

Viewed in its totality, user supplied content is an outstanding asset for those wise enough to do research. The information, if valid, is always kept current by more recent users, and millions of people have become reliant on that up to date information, so it’s very useful. And all of this was virtually unavailable a short decade ago.

The concern I have, particularly in regard to cruising, is so many people are going on vacation with a mindset that they must be a critic, so they to can participate in the “review frenzy”. While even we at CruiseMates love to have people submit their user reviews, it does seem too many people attempt to look for things they can criticize, rather than living in the moment, and enjoying the vacation they spent their hard earned dollars on. I think it’s much more important to enjoy your vacation, then afterwards reflect on it as a whole, and write your review.

Even when I am writing live Virtual Cruise Reports for CruiseMates – which are really daily blogs from the ship – people will post asking me my opinions of the ship, even when I’ve only been onboard a couple of days. I don’t even begin to look at considering an evaluation of the ship, or even how I like the cruise, until it’s much closer to the end of the trip. And I won’t even begin to write a review of the ship until it’s over.

To do differently allows occurrences earlier in the cruise to become more important than they really are, when viewing (and writing about) the trip in its entirety. If there’s negatives, you absolutely should include them to share in your review, but don’t depart on your cruise intent on being a critic. It only takes away from your experience.

It’s probably also worth considering there is a difference between a report that is formatted as a daily diary (like the Virtual Cruise Reports I write), and a ship review. There’s certainly valuable information to share, and be gleamed from either format. But I think it’s important to decide which format you want to write in and follow through so it doesn’t become confusing. If you choose to write it as a daily diary, a conclusion with your final thoughts can be very helpful.

But… and a BIG but…. Don’t feel you have to write like a professional critic! The best professional reviews are not written by critics. They are written by people who know how to describe the ship and experience you’re most likely to find when you sail that ship. They report on the more factual aspects of the cruise experience, and don’t give as much weight to what well could be anecdotal incidents which later cruisers aren’t likely to encounter.

Most importantly, go and enjoy your cruise. You paid for it!! When you get home relive that enjoyment by writing a review, and of course post it for everyone to read in our Member’s Reviews.

What are your thoughts? What do you want to see in reviews? Do you think people over-use their reviews as a place to grind their axe? Do you prefer the daily logs or the just the facts approach?

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –


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Comment from Parrot Mom
Time January 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

What drives me crazy is DAILY reporting from a ship by a cruiser..don’t they have anything else to do..Normally, I would not write a review and had intended not to, but on our recent cruise I found a blank note book and decided because the exerience was new (free style) and revisiting NCL that I would take a few notes.. After booking a cruise I often read reviews for the positive AND negative and take it all with a grain of salt and make a few notes to take with me. Personally, I found the experience of writing the review of the Gem positive, especially after reading others.. This was a chance to give back to other cruisers, those that have given me information as to restaurants, hotels, guides and the ship in general.. Will I do it for the next cruise…I don’t know…Our experience on another cruise last April was so negative that any comments made about the experience resulted in being “flammed”, so I never did get to write the positive and negative items..I had lost my enthusiasm and didn’t feel anybody really wanted to know my experience. Yes, I enjoy looking at reviews.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time January 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

It is a fact that a good portion of so-called “reviews” are actually compliant letters written to poke the cruise line in eyes for what someone feels was a bad cruise.

Those I read with a grain of salt – not because i doubt it is possible to have a bad cruise, but because my experience now is that many bad reviews are based on pretty trivial things that the cruiser just couldn’t get past – and it ruined their whole cruise.

Kuki sums it up – people get so focused on one thing they forget they are on vacation and need to enjoy the moment.

I once watched a couple on the very expensive cruise line who were upset their day one request to board early had been fouled. For the rest of the 10-day cruise they had a new complaint every day and it was all they could talk about.

This was probably a $20,000 cruise for them.

Our cruise reviews online are intentionally fact-based ship manuals more than they are reviews of our personal experiences.

Member-submitted experiences often do a day by day diary, and I think these are effective for people looking to take the same ship and itinerary.

What makes ME nuts are the people who document every stray hair in the bathroom, rust on a rail and frayed carpet – as if those things are going to ruin my precious time in an exotic port of call.

Comment from Parrot Mom
Time January 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Guess we aren’t alone Paul..We just read a comment in a cruise magazine commenting they did not get “animal towels” on their bed everynight..ARE THEY SERIOUS!! When I read comments like that or that people want chocolate on their pillow at night it drives me crazy.. With the huge amount of traffic hallways get and furniture no wonder furniture gets worn..I’m sure most passengers don’t care how they treat the cruise furniture.Sometimes I just want to say to people…get over’s not important

Comment from Dave Beers
Time January 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm

A case in point: When Paul and I had dinner at 150 Central Park aboard the Oasis we were both disappointed when they shorted us two courses, with dubious excuses. Did this ruin the dinner? No. But I have no doubt some would have carried it as an open wound for the rest of the cruise, and used it to color every other experience.

What annoys me about cruise reviews? Those who blame bad weather on the cruise line and think they deserve compensation because the seas were choppy or it rained in Cozumel.

Comment from Mike M
Time January 14, 2010 at 1:57 am

There are times when I know I will not approach a cruise in “review mode”. My Baltic cruise, on NCL, was a celebration of our 25th anniversary. The last thing I wanted to do was take notes and write a review. If you go with the mindset that you will do a review of a cruise you “will” look for things to comment about and it’s far easier to remember things you didn’t like because there are far more things you did like.

I use cruise reviews as a tool in making a cruise decision. Like any tool you have to know how to “operate” it. I read cruise reviews with a grain of salt and know that many of the negative comments are usually trivial but if I see a recurring theme in regard to service, food, cleanliness or something else then I will put some stock in it. It’s the same process when reading reviews about a TV I want to buy.

The one thing is that I do enjoy and I want people to continue to write reviews because it does provide a valid tool for others as long as they know how to use them. It also allows a common man perspective of cruising rather than only receiving information from travel writers who have their own agendas, likes, dislikes and other factors that influence their writing. At least with a reader review I know that they will have these biases going in rather than the professional reviewer who’s bias is more concealed. The professional reviewer may be objective but their personal preferences and frame of reference always is a factor.

In a nutshell: If you want to do a review, do it. I appreciate it and I know others do too.

Take care,

Comment from Beenie Weenie
Time January 14, 2010 at 6:34 am

Now we are reviewing the reviewers? No seriously, Kuki makes a valid point. Enjoy yourself, live in the moment, don’t sacrifice experiencing your vacation because you’re too busy reporting on it. Look at the big picture.
I have gotten an immense amount of value from other peoples reviews and really appreciate their insights. It has saved untold frustrations to be forewarned of problems and pitfalls and it has helped me make the most of our time on board and in port.

Comment from Debra
Time January 14, 2010 at 4:49 pm


Thanks for another very interesting article. Most people do not go on any cruise to be a critic but rather just to enjoy and just report what they like or report any major problem that could affect future cruisers. There are always going to be a few that look for dust bunnies under the bed and can’t wait to report those kind of personal minor problems. I am sure there enough dust bunnies under my bed that I could make dust bunny stew out of them. LOL
I think we all know a few people who enjoy vacations, but are sadly at their happiest when they are involved in any kind of a controversy with a crew member or cruise line.

Sure there are always going to be a few shills promoting their cruise line for whatever reason, that infiltrate various cruise boards, but they are in the minority and usually pretty easy to spot. Oddly enough, these few are most likely to complain the most with those they disagree with.

Having cruised on many cruise lines, what I consider useless information is subjective comments about food, service or entertainment, since in reality it is about the same on all mainstream/premium cruise lines. Taken with a grain of salt and disregarding the highly biased reports, most reviews and opinions do give the average cruiser an idea of what to expect.

Each of us should realize that each cruise ship will be a little bit different, but at the end of the day they are all about the same, with a few major exceptions.

Things I like to see in reviews are info about type of entertainment, ship conditions and less whining about anecdotal incidents that are of no use to future cruisers. I also enjoy reviews that use a just the facts approach. I feel that there is a huge difference between those who may have an axe to grind about petty things, and those who, for reasons known to themselves, have an axe to grind against anyone who may report a serious problem involving their favorite cruise line.

All in all a great Internet cruise article and food for thought.


Comment from Rob H
Time January 23, 2010 at 12:24 am

Mmm.. well we have done four cruises now either based on destination or a way to see family in different parts of the world.

Prior to our first cruise I browsed the Internet for reviews and comments to see what the ship was like or the destination and best way to travel to port.

Those articles really helped so when we returned I sent in my first review to this site and others. Course I’ve now sent in four articles over the years and the best experience to know I did the right thing was when I would get a rely from someone in the cruise world to say thank you or could you help us.
Sometimes when the day was ugly I’d get a cheery , great article for someone a few years later. Now that I’m retired ( parttime) I’ll have to find a way to catchup with Kuki.


Comment from Marilyn
Time January 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Great article Kuki. I too enjoy the reviews, but get frustrated when someone compares one cruise experience on one line to perhaps one or two experiences on another – as if you could generalize to the whole fleet from one experience of 5-14 days on one ship!

Comment from JimInBuffalo
Time February 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Kuki, Thanks for the great article. I was just thinking about some of the best cruises that I have had in the past few years. To me, I remember the people that I have met and the fun that I have had from interacting with them, the crew and the entertainers on the ship. We have had some great times cruising and we can’t wait to go again. Our last cruise was to Canada and New England and even though the weather wasn’t great and we had been to most of the ports previously, I think that it was one of the best cruises I have ever had. I don’t worry about the little things that go wrong. I don’t keep notes but I do try to write an honest and pithy review to this site when I return.

Comment from Camilla
Time May 9, 2010 at 7:30 am

Also this post is a very true matter. We also had great help in many aspects over the past years (in the German forum and this year also from the english forum). Many times we consult the public throuhg reading the reviews of our interest. Of course sometimes it can also be quite confusing, since it’s on everyone’s own side of view if the time spent on THAT ship was a great experience or wast of time and money…. Anyhow, also I won’t stop providing our crusing fellows with our experience, since we really got lots of help so why not providing it to others as well?

Comment from Jerri S.
Time September 29, 2010 at 6:42 am

I too like to read all the reviews by regular people and the critics. I just take the reports from those who complain the whole review they wrote on the internet with a grain of salt.
It sounds like nothing would make them happy with the cruise line or every day life.
One complaint ok but the whole review just doesn’t cut it.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time November 1, 2010 at 6:01 am

I have been sailing for 40 years, since I was a teen. I review openely, and read reviews avidly, on the shps and cruises. I respect this site and have for years. There are other sites for ship reviews, and I do not care for them.

I have had several awful cruises, BUT I have not submitted a reviewon them. My tastes and your tastes certainly may differ. Again BUT what I find distasteful or even unacceptable, may be a personable quirk.I do however, skip reviews where they did not get the towel animal, or the cabin steward made the room up late, or the steak was not cooked as ordered – SEND IT BACK -GET ANOTHER, or oder something else!

When I cruise, some complainer will try to talk my ear off. What do I do? I don’t want to her their jabber, so, when I see a man, usually male, or woman, in white, with a name tag, be they officer or staff, I call them over, and I simply say “This person has a complaint. Handle it now, please.” It works like a charm!

So, for my worst cruise EVER.

Three years ago, Pacific Mexico, line/ship to remain nameless.

First, we were upgraded no charge, nice – not! Our stateroom was filthy. Hair in tub, ring in toilet, melted candy and used Q Tip in dresser drawer, door knob fell off, dust bunnies, no, dust dogs, they were so big, under the bed. Toilet plugged and stunk. Sheets with holes, and towels that were frayed. We trusted this line, and never again.

Were our complaints taken care of? Yes and no.

They were implimenting a opem concept dining, and we hated it. Our table for two in writing on our ships ticket was honored, and I was actually told taht nobody ever gets a confirmation. Also, after three days the bed was configured to king.

I feel that submitting a bad review on this particular cruise above may influence a first timer, and my goal is to have everyone, whatever ship they sail, to be given the chance to have a good cruiseon that particular line/ship.That may well have been an isolated incident. I will never know.

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