Is cruise reporting too fluffy?
Do you eschew cruise-related articles because you think they are too fluffy?
We publish several articles/week, do you read them?
Do you read articles at other cruise sites, or do you tend to just visit message boards?
What about cruise opinion pieces - do you think we need MORE honest cruise reviews, or are the reader reviews enough?
This is the Arthur Frommer Blog on Oasis of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean mega-ship that preceded another controversial megaship that was introduced just a few weeks ago - Norwegian Epic.
When Royal Caribbean Cruises announced it would build a 220,000-ton ship carrrying 6,000 passengers, we skeptics wondered where they would send the ungainly monster. Which islands, which ports, would be capable of accommodating the docking of such a humongous vessel?
Why not simply leave the oddity tied up to its dock in Ft. Lauderdale? Who would know the difference? Once passengers board this immense recreational theme park in the shape of a ship, they will undoubtedly be so attracted to electronic games, casino tables, Vegas-type entertainments, bowling alleys, boxing rings, shops, bars and internet cafes that they'll never know whether they are at sea -- or even moving.
Just for the record, Oasis does not have a bowling alley, but Norwegian Epic has six bowling lanes.
But is this more along the lines of what you would like to read?
I read all news articles CM homepage. I dropped my subscription to Cruise Travel Magazine, in part, because they never posted critical articles. I think CM does better than most in being fair; however, there does seem to be some level of "don't bite the hand that feeds you." After all, even the Epic reports turned positive in the end.
I like Stern's Guide to Cruises but have stopped buying others because their ratings are based more on how they feel ships should "perform" than a raw factual scale (e.g., RCI ships scoring better than some of the luxury ships).
Yes, there is fluff; however, there is also a lot of good information being published.
I read the articles (funny, same thing I said to my wife about Playboy magazine back when we were dating!) on CM and other sites. I don't think they are too fluffy. Who wants to read an article about cruising that just rips apart a ship, cruise or cruiseline. As long as I believe the author is being honest, I like a good fluff piece. It's when the author is obviously trying to influence you towards something or actually trying to sell something with their article that I stop reading. To me it's the author's honesty in telling whatever they are writing about.
The problem with blogs is they are so very subjective. Blogs are not supposed to be an objective report like a journalistic article, it's one person's "opinion".
I jut want to say I truly appreciate all honesty, including criticism. I always strive to make my reporting better.
I will try not to justify myself against anything anyone says until we have a number of responses.
Thank you ALL for your input and for reading the articles!
I would like to see a disclaimer at the beginning of each article stating whether the cruiseline paid for the trip, or the writer travelled on her/his own dime (or the publisher's). Even if not paid for by the line, were the crew informed that the passenger was writing an article about the trip? While there are many cruise writers who are instantly identifiable from their bio or post pictures for whom anonymity would be impossible, I think an unknown / undercover writer would have a cruise experience closer to that experienced by a random traveller. Yes, I'd be happy to volunteer for that role ;).
While I cannot speak for other cruise sites I have said many times in print that CruiseMates generally DOES NOT pay for its cruise fare when we are onboard a cruise ship. This is supposed to be dislosed by law according to a 2010 FTC ruling stemming from the "Royal Champions" controversy on another cruise site.
I can guarantee you there is not a single cruise reviewer anywhere that pays full fare to be on a ship to review it. I personally agree with you that this is vital information that must be disclosed. We have a "blanket disclosure" in a few places on our site, and anytime anyone asks I tell the truth (as you just did).
I have called on other cruise sites to disclose this and so far I have not seen any of them do it - I am sure there are other writers saying "why is he saying this - how stupid!" right now. I challenge anyone to ask the other cruise sites right now and see what they say.
Now to be clear - there is also no way anyone could afford to sail on every ship and write reviews without getting onto a ship for free most of the time. You cannot make enough money doing this to afford all of those cruises.
I did pay full fare to sail on Norwegian Epic last month (plus air to the U.K.), although I admit I was comped some Internet time to do my live blogging (I also paid $55 for Internet time). That blog was read by almost 20,000 people so I am sure it was worth it to them. I went on a 2-day press trip on Oasis when it debuted, but then I paid full fare to sail the ship so I could cover it for CruiseMates in full.
I have never seen any of the "top" cruise sites pay to cruise on any ship as I have done. So, all of the other Epic reviews online (and probably Oasis as well) were based on relatively short cruises where the writer did not pay for cruise fare.
And YES - you do deserve to have this information.
The thing to remember about a cruise is this - unlike a restaurant, they cannot really change a cruise just because a writer is onboard. The cabins, the decor, the entertainment, the food, the price of drinks and tours, etc, will all be the same regardless of whether I am onboard or not (we generally do pay our own expenses onboard).
Yes - a cruise line can make sure we get a good table, the best waiter, good theater seats, etc. But there is very little they can hide from us. They know this and in truth they generally do not go to that much trouble. We are more often placed on the same 2-day trips as the travel agents and generally get pre-set menues (and it isnt lobster).
The truth - the cruise lines know they have many travel writers in the bag and they don't have to do much more tha give them a free cruise to get effusive gushing. It's really pretty sad in a lot of ways. I try hard NOT to be one of those people.
I read some of the article on here and on other sites. For me I rather read a review by a nonprofessional about a cruise. I have read way too many professional reviews that read like a brochure from the line. In a review by a nonprofessional that person is not afraid to say what was wrong with a cruise where as it seem slike the professional never have a bad word, of course this is most like because if they do say something bad the line won't give them any more free cruises.
I really like to read a review that is in the form of a post so that others can ask questions. This way if you can say thanks and by the way what about??? and you can get more info. And usually it is pretty easy to tell if the person who writes the review is a fan of that line and never says anything negative, though a good reviewer will always tell both the good and the bad.
I wrote a review of the one cruise we took on NCL line. I hope that I was able to give both good and bad. And while I know that I did state the we would not sail on NCL again I would never tell anyone that I don't personally know not to sail them and did state this. IT was just our point of view. That to me is what any good review should do give both the good and the bad, no matter whether the person paid for the cruise or not.
But I as think about this the person who did not pay for the cruise definitely has to let everyone know about this up front and in order for me to trust the review it better not be all fluff. If it is I will discount that review.
My TA suggested that I read posts on CM and another major cruise message board . I find CM superior to any on line cruise site . I read articles occasionally but mostly I am posting on the boards .I do however ,read as much as possible on every topic of interest to me .
Here are some interesting links about cruise writer fluff...
Twitter Cruise Critics Go Overboard; Passengers Fight Back | BlogHer
"I was disappointed that the host didn't seize the opportunity to respond directly to their critics; I've looked, they do have green initiatives and as a resident of a cruise terminal town, I'm actually aware of some of them. And I was amazed at the defensiveness and vitriol from some of the people in the conversation."
Is Travel Blogging Becoming a Cheap Marketing Stunt? | Wild Junket
"Some bloggers have been firm on their stand against freebies and press trips, while others have got lots to defend – how would they make a living otherwise? Who will pay for their travelling expenses then? Do they have to pay to go to work?"
The Ethics of Travel Journalism - One Man and His Blog
"But, as Sarah points out, in this situation a lot of travel journalism just wouldn't happen, because the costs involved in sending the hack on holiday outweigh the benefit of having the report in the paper."
BATW Meeting: “Ethics & Etiquette of Travel Writing” — June 19 | Bay Area Travel Writers
"Edward Hasbrouck will discuss the new FTC regulation that may require writers (especially bloggers) to divulge any comps they’re receiving for items reviewed or mentioned favorably."
Do Freebies Undermine Honesty in Travel Writing?
"Which hit on an essential question: how is the average dirtbag travel journo—especially In These Times—supposed to pay for the travel he or she is writing about?
The whole thing is, of course, a bottomless can of worms."
This is a famous cruise essay that appeared in Harpers Bazaar - it is LONG but very good. The well-known writer, David Foster Miller, was paid to do the assignment by the Magazine - not comped by the cruise line - would it have made a difference?
"Would he have found himself tempering his irreverence ever so slightly had the trip been paid for by Celebrity Cruises, Inc.? Or would he have been able to spin it into even more hilarity." asks the blogger.
The Scrumptious Lies of Travel Writing : NPR
"We talk with travel writer Chuck Thompson about his new book, Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer."
I just want to say I read the Harper's Bazaar essay by David Foster Wallace last week and it is really funny. It is now considered the classic cruise piece among cruise writers. It is so long it is almost a book. (about 20,000 words I think)
He took the cruise on Celebrity in 1994. He had an oceanview cabin. he was sailing solo for 7 days, sharing a table for 8 back when all they had was assigned seating.
The approach is written as a solo cruiser, which some of you may remember is also not my favorite way to cruise, either. He talks about the despair of being in such a luxurious surroundings and how you get inured to it after 5 days so you actually get mad if the bed they made for you isn't "made right" and the free room service which he loved the first day now ticks him off if it takes 20 minutes to arrive. The smell of old trays now is an inconvenience when days before he was in wonder that he had not had to shop or cook for an entire day.
It is thought-provoking and was the only definitive cruise essay for a very long time. Like I said - a classic read.
I would say the majority of cruise coverage (media and user supplied) these days can be broken into three categories.
1. "Cruise Reports" - the writers present their personal experiences on a particular cruise and ship. (Similar to the Virtual Cruise Reports I/we write for CruiseMates, as well as "live from" reports from our readers).
Some people write and post these on the message boards and I believe mistakenly call these "Cruise Reviews"
2."Cruise Reviews" - the writers present information on the ship, including physcial descriptions, with an eye to what future cruisers on the ship being reviewed with encounter and should expect to experience when they sail that ship at a later date.
3."Cruise News Spot Reports" - where writers are on the ships very briefly, normally escorted by cruise line representatives, and a group of other writers. In this situation the writer's are basically writing brief new ship announcements; or announcements regarding significant alterations and additions to new ship.
As I wrote in my blog last week, other than throwing in some of the anecdotal experiences during their short visit, I believe it's nearly impossible to fairly "review" the ship. The short time writer's have onboard is to so degree controlled by the cruise lines, so the media will feature information about what they want coverage of.
These days, with the nature of the changes in our industry media, I think there's very places to go to read "actual Cruise Reviews", by "professional reviewers". The majority of cruise writing today seems to fit into the #3 slot above... Spot Reports.
As to making it clear when writer's are on trips as free guests of the cruise lines, this came up a couple of years back when the controversy of the "Royal Champions Program" came to light. At the time, in the course of discussions, I said it wasn't all that much different than cruise writer's being put onboard as guests of the cruise lines.
I (and I know you) received emails from writers asking why I would bring this information to light. Some writer's wanted to keep this information from going public, but after our discussions you made it our policy to admit right up front (in several areas of the CM site) that we accept complimentary cruises.
I've written quite a number of "Virtual Cruise Reports" and a number of Reviews for our Ship Review area over the years. I've never been told, or felt any kind of obligation, to overlook anything, or approach the reviews with a positive tact.
I have been critical when I felt it necessary, and to be honest I don't think the cruise lines have ever been "upset" with any negative comments.
They understand that readers appreciate a REAL look at their products. They also understand that no telling it as I see it, also diminishes any credibility I have with our readers.
And they have large enough PR departments who can write their own brochures for them.
I've learned to mostly avoid the short (two or three day introductory Press Trips), because when you're escorted and onboard with 20-100 or more other journalists, I do believe it impacts your views, or at the very least your coverage; leans you more to promoting what the cruise lines want to have more promotion and exposure of.
Generally I think it's normally pretty easy to figure out which articles, posts, or reviews are simply of the writer's agendas; whether professionally done, or user generated.
You can generally tell when the writer's concern seems to be write the pieces which they hope will ensure they'll be invited back. And you can generally tell when the writer's perspective is because they didn't get the "treatment" they thought they deserved onboard; didn't care for table or cabin assignments, etc.
As for user supplied reviews...I think the ones with agendas stick out as well. With all the user generated reviews there's nothing to say they are supplied by "real cruisers" , because they are anonymously contributed.
And as those user generated sites grow, it's become much more common to hear people questioning their validity because companies or their competition are very capable of trying to affect what people are reading there.
Though I love reading "user" reports and reviews, I normally give a bit more credence to the Professional Reviews, written by those I know who's track records allow me to understand I am reading their honest review of the products.
I should probably add, that in the almost 11 years I've been writing for CruiseMates, there hasn't ever been a case, where after writing the entire stories (blooms and thorns) about a ship, where a cruise line hasn't welcomed me back on another of their ships.
I don't think the cruise lines are at all in fear of writer's showing them their blemishes.
Even when they read some real BS and total misrepresenations of their prodcuts on message boards, etc. , they believe the lies and myths are generally self corrected by the more honest users.... and that's why they aren't seen everwhere defending themselves.
Just some rambling thoughts...
I sometimes feel I should put some negatives in a review because people might otherwise think I am shilling for the cruise line. But what if the cruise being reviewed really didn't have any issues worthy of note? Should a reviewer be obligated to note every little nit? "The dining room service was generally fine although my coffee was lukewarm one morning."
I think any negatives (or positives) need to be couched as either being something which affects the average passenger, or if it is merely something which annoyed (or delighted) the reviewer. If I didn't like the lamb shank at dinner but everyone else who had it at my table raved about it, which view should I present to the readers?
It can be difficult to offer a fair and balanced review.
Like any travel review/report the writer should ''tell it like it is'', so the average consumer can make their mind up. On a destination forum once I used to get really quite cross with those who continually described what was an average at best hotel as if it was "The Ritz"..just because THEY liked it. It should be a report given in an unbiased way to reflect the hotel as it is. Actually when questioned further, ALL those who liked it did so because it was CHEAP & if they had the money would not stay there!!
First of all - we try to keep our ship reports about what we see - not what we think. When I was on Norwegian Epic I did comment on a few things I thought - as when I said I did not like the decor. But otherwise I tried to limit it to what I saw.
David mentions - "what if you like the ___, but everyone else hates it". I was recently castigated by a stranger in the Epic blog because I said "all of my tabelmates did not like a particulr show, which I had high hopes for - expected them to like." He said I didn't have "the courage of my convictions" (I think he said it a different way, though).
But personally I really disagree. I think a reviewer MUST listen to other's opinions - especially regular cruisers (In my case I was quoting other reviewers, but they were making candid comments).
If you are on a ship and even enjoying it, but almost everyone you talk to has complaints (I ask a lot of people what they think) then you have to make an effort to listen to what they are saying and verify it. It is often things you didnt think to check; the kid's program, a certain show, a rude staff member, bad response to a cabin problem, etc.
On Epic I spent most of my time reporting on what I heard others say - and believe me, for the first three days it was ALL bad. BUt it was mostly about the ship not being ready - temporary things. Then you move on to people's opinions. The couchs on Epic are very uncomfortable, the bathrooms, people were moved to cabins below what they paid for,etc.
In that case it was a "virtual cruise" and I was reporting on a day by day experiential basis. My cruise review will be different. It will be based on long term details, not on what is happening on Epic right now.
Our goal here in our professional reviews is to report on the ships - not our experiences on the ships - a big difference. We only talk about tangibles; cost of babysitting, size of rooms, tips, drink prices, etc.
I also want to point out that Doug Ward was on my cruise, and he also tried to be on regular cruises in addition to media cruises. I consider him one of the best (you have to buy the book - Berlitz Guide to Cruising).
My personal focus is in trying to understand the cruise buyer for every ship. What did you get for your dollar on this ship vs. another. I honestly think the fluff sites have totally lost sight of the aspect. They go on about the water slides, bowling alleys, cupcakes, alternative restaurants, but they rarely mention whether something is worth the money or not.
How many cruise reviews gush about Oceania without mentioning it is almost twice as expensive as Azamara? How many mention when cruise ships seem to have unusually expensive shore excursions and also dock in places where you have to take a tour or be stuck on the ship?
Travel Trade Press
And here is another thing - travel trade press.
I am loathe to say this, but I was just on a ship where all of us reporters were shocked at how bad the eperience was. It was nothing like what was advertised. All of the reviewers ended up writing up the negative aspects, except one of the trade press people. That report was highly inaccurate and far too glowing.
And here is what I have come to realize: trade magazines are more fluff than even anyone because that is all travel agents want. They are all about how to sell a product. Agents don't want to hear negativity. They want to hear the selling points and how to play down the negatives. Now, if an agent sells that cruise I referenced and a client complains they can pull that article out and say "see, I only heard good things about it - the reviews were great." PLUS, if a client gets ahold of a negative article in any magazine they can use it against the agent.
Actually, I am just starting to catch onto this myself, but it is like living in the age of our current media - either you are on the team or you are the enemy.
I recently ran into a group of travel agents in Ft Lauderdale where I just introduced myself. Most were very nice but one lady was truly scornful to me but would not say why. Maybe someone was mad that she sold them a particular product and then took one of our reviews to her. Either that or she doesn't like the idea that we report the best priceswe see, or maybe she hates the level playing field the Internet makes. I don't know.
I asked her what the problem was - if I have done something wrong I want to know about it. She had nothing to say, which makes me think it is not about anything I did wrong, it was something I said that somehow put her in a bad light.
Or maybe it is just the fact that we exist - and that we have travel agent sponsors who advertise bargains all the time.
Travel agents do not want their clients having too much information. Travel Weekly used to have a busier open forum for agents (its still there but quiet), but many migrated to a new forum where only they can get in (you need an IATA#).
I think CruiseMates is the only site that ever does in depth articles on how to pick a travel agent.
Paul, you've certainly put a lot of thought into this subject of late. I don't think as many read the CM 1st page. I have the links from my blog go to page one, but it seems most regulars just have the forum bookmarked and tend to go there. I agree with Kuki's thoughts on this subject. People do mistrust a lot of cruise comments and reviews. RCCL sure didn't help matters.
People now have such a short attention span that 'short and sweet' articles and comments seem to be better received.
Last week on the Elation I'd leave dinner each night and go stand in the atrium just outside the Imagination Dining Room entrance. I'd simply observe the other passengers on decks below and above, down at the atrium bar, wherever, and I was struck by how happy everyone seemed.
They were enjoying the cruise, and I remember turning to my friend and fellow cruise writer Lisa and saying "these people are having the time of their lives". So that is how I reported it in the virtual cruise. As it happened, we were also having a wonderful cruise so it was a kumbaya moment. But even if I weren't having a nice cruise I think it would have been incumbent on me to tell what the joyful masses were experiencing.
It is quite true, as Paul and others are saying here, that you have to be objective and not overwhelmed with subjectivity, but you do have to consider both.
As a side note, the article which is the basis for this message thread covers the Arthur Frommer type of cruise, with the tuxedoes and people wandering around in the daytime wearing sansabelt slacks and shorts, sipping bouillon and reading Agatha Christie novels. Although I like the finer things, I have to admit if all cruises were like this I'd have abandoned ship a long time ago!
The truth is that 75% of our traffic comes in from Google - from people looking for cruise reviews (our most popular feature) and specific topic articles - so the bottom line is that a lot of people read our articles, but they are not always our regulars. We reach nearly 250,000 readers per month - and certainly most of them are not regular message board posters.
It is a real mistake to try to judge any site by their message board posters alone. In fact, even with boards the vast majority of people are just readers, not posters.
The truth is that I used Frommers comments on Oasis in my newsletter because i think I have said enough about Epic lately, but here is what he wrote about Epic - scathing to say the least...
Frankly I find Frommer's Epic column dripping in snobbery, which causes me to discount it's value as a meaningful piece. It is anti-fluff, and in a condescending way.
well, in a word 'YES'...at least at this place. itz sorta like the cruise-ship version of the main-stream media's slobbering love affair with borack obama.the lack of anything negative is boring and certainly doesn't increase your readership...to the contrary... it bores people to the point of going elsewhere...unless they r obsessed with the norwegian epic and don't want to read much about any other vessels. objective journalism requires CRITICAL REVIEWING, warts and all. go and spend a few dollars and pick up a copy of Consumer Reports and learn what i'm referring to if all of this is a puzzle to you.further, reporting entails something called a by-line. this means the authors name [or screen-name] appears b4 or after the article...bob.
Great questions! As you know Paul I was once actually paid as the original GUIDE on The Mining Company cruise page. Gee that evokes some memories :) I actually gave that up because I was not happy with what it started to evolve into. An advertising page with some cruise information thrown in to look good. I will take credit for, to the best of my knowledge, for the first Cruise News, and Meet On Board concept pages. Although I do not write for a check I still most times post an after cruise passenger review and always here on cruisemates but also on other sites. I disagree agree with Kuki's defining theses as reports versus review. In fact I would reverse his definitions to the professional writer is issuing a cruise report and the amateur passenger is writing a true review.
Al that said every report and review must be taken with a grain of salt as not only do each of our personal preferences and perspectives differ but also cruise can differ on a weekly basis. A cruise week with a 1000 kids or a week of rain is not going to make for as many great reviews as a flat sea and perfect temperature cruise.
I held a spot on the Veendam August 29th sailing to Bermuda. A throw in cruise before our Oct 6th sailing on the Carnival Miracle. ( yes life is good :) FIRST thing I did after holding space, run to passenger reviews on cruise critic of latest sailing July 10th. Where there instead of here? Simply they have numerous recent reviews and last one here for Veendam by a reader was Feb and one paragraph.
After reading passenger reviews and getting a decent feel for the ship through others in depth perspectives I then, and only then, read a professional review ( report ). I read that to get real information on stats of ship, number of verandah cabins, changes made and such, just the facts.
Then how did I wind up here? Well I certainly subscribe to the Cruisemates Newsletter as it provides a quick email snapshot for me to see if an article of interest is noted. I ignore most of the newsletter honestly because it simply strikes my eye as an ad. Once I see that many ads dispersed on a page, worse in the meat of the authors text I dismiss the whole thing as simply someone obviously with an agenda of sales far greater than information. So I really have to then treat the information part as sales fluff.
I have always had great personal admiration for your offerings and your honest perspectives throughout the years but cruisemates itself has become more a fluff site I am sorry to say. It has lost what the cruiseaholic truly desires, just reading about how a cruise ship and itinerary was for Joe and Mary public. There are hundreds of fluff article venues from travel sites to travel sections of print papers. The true value of a good cruise site is simply providing a forum to navigate past passengers reviews and BB boards seeking answers and comments and providing same. Not to say that such a site cannot profit from some advertising or creating some group cruising but such should not be the focus. I don't care how the freight is paid, I realize the site costs must be paid. What I do care is how much the tradeoff bears on the content. The very thing that makes a site great initially is often the first thing to go upon achieving some modicum of success.
So my answer to the primary question " Is Cruise Reporting to Fluffy, " my answer is usually yes. Is it because the writers cruise was comped? I think not, more that they have lost the perspective being sought by the reader. I don't care what the professional " thinks " about a cruise anyway I want to know what Harry and Theresa from Philly thought of it. I want to know if runny eggs ruined it for them or if having a dance floor and real orchestra made the entire cruise for them. I don;t want to know how many suites are on board initially, I want to know if the " suites " are really closets renamed. I want to know if the crew seemed ticked off and were taking it out on service rendered.
Now if we al decide to take a special cruisemates cruise to hang and meet up with people of similar love of cruising that is great! But really stop throwing up boxes with huge $599 and $699 cruise prices that no one in the world can find all over the place. That is not what I came for even if it does pay the bills. It all has to be more subtle for me to feel I am participating in a cruise community and getting real cruise information.
Another reason I had to stop writing for a check, I get wound up and go on and on :) sorry. Then darn Editors also started expecting me to actually proofread and pay attention to the english language, neither my strong point.
George in NY for what it is worth.
I find that cruise reporting on many sites is fluffy and amounts to cheer leading for cruise lines.
The good thing about knowing some of the cruise reporters is that I know "their" personal preferences. No one cannot write about, report or review a cruise without using their personal preferences and frame of reference to communicate their observations.
In Paul's virtual cruise aboard the Norwegian Epic he did not care for the decor and called the public area decor more like "His parents house". ship.". This told me that I would probably like it since I do not like the more modern styles and decor of cruise ships. This is personal preference. I actually liked the decor of Renaissance but it was hilarious that the decor was "exactly" the same on every ship. Right down to the same painting of a schooner in each of the casino bars.
I remember the days of Rec.travel.cruises and other non-revenue sites, newsgroups and blogs and while there was some good information posted it was basically "he posts the most is the expert" and "he who causes the most disruption is the most read". This gave a very one sided and skewed view of cruising.
Reader reviews are good to get different perspectives but reviews that are just: "This was wonderful. That was fantastic. The food was phenomenal" are as worthless as" "This sucked. That was terrible. It was all worthless.". You have to read a lot of them to look for a recurring issue or positive remarks.
I do have to say that Paul and Kuki's reports are some of the most balanced on any site. They both have "improved" over the years and they are much more objective in their reporting and tell it like they see it without throwing cruise line "fluff" into their reports. The best example I can site is Paul's reporting on Oasis of the seas. He was so excited about it that I thought we were going to get nothing but a "love fest" from him. While he did like it, he pointed out the good and the not so good about the ship. I was very pleased with that.
So: Cruise reporting has a lot of fluff to it but I think sites like Cruisemates give you more information and less "fluff" than most other places.
When Anne and Paul first started CruiseMates, and hired me, my job (and still is) was to write "fluff". Fluff, combined with information". In other words to look at cruising with a smile and share cruise information, and my opinions and views on cruising, with a humourous take.
That changed a bit when I was also asked to write some of the CruiseMates Reviews which were more straight ahead reviews.
Along the way I struggled a bit keeping a sense of ha ha, after writing some more serious, straight ahead reporting. I think I've found my way back to my sense of humour, so while some of what I write is "fluff"; I think my assignment is to share real cruise information, without losing entertainment value in the articles and blogs.
Thanks for your comments, George. I know you have been around for a long time. I did not know you were at Mining Company, though. That preceded "About.com" which then had Linda Coffman and now has Linda Garrison as cruise editors.
George - there will never be anything we can do about our advertising unless I want to retire, but I am too young and don't have enough savings to do that.
People will read what they want to read. Every site has to cater to their audience. If Wilbur feels Stern's fits him better than Frommers or Berlitz then that is what he should read.
George likes reading reader reviews. I agree they are the most honest. but they also tend to be mostly all negative or all positive, with the exception of some people like you, George. Everytime you send us a review it actually brightens my day because I know you are not only honest but that you have a keen eye for detail - often including things I did not think of.
Funny, I just wrote an article about one cruise line's bargains compared to another's on a similar ship and itinerary, and I actually got a note from the more expensive cruise line calling MY article "fluff" in what I said about the less expensive cruise line.
Great! If I can write an article that actually ticks off a cruise line I know I can hold my head up and say I'm not in the bag for any cruise line just because I'm "friends" with them.
And I think that is the crux of the matter with a lot of reviewers - they become "friends" with these cruise lines and pretty soon they are afraid to say much of anything honest about them. Their critique gets limited to what they can "safely" say without the cruise line getting too mad.
I am referring to the toilets on Epic, the decor on Carnival, charging for ice cream on Princess, etc. All safe topics every reviewer knows they can say.
But when was the last time you ever read an article on a cruise site that really blasts a ship for being bad?
By the way - Berlitz is my favorite guide although I have not read Frommers' or Sterns for awhile. But Berlitz is the one with the most factual detail about ships - as George he uses "professional" reviews for.
I met a fellow passenger on Epic who asli said Stern's was his favorite guide.
I know Steven Stern (I won't say "well" but we do chat when we see each other). My guess is that he is like Arthur Frommer in taste - I know he prefers old-school cruising like Arthur does.
I think what people want from any kind of reporting is just plain honesty!! I don't want your opinions, your politics or your religious views, I just want the story and give it to me straight.
If all reporting was like that, it would be a better world.
Mike, You really struck a memory key for me when you mentioned rec. travel.cruises which was a fantastic forum originally. Sadly it was eventually overwhelmed by a few people with sales agendas or ego problems, whatever. I miss the hours spent there asking and answering cruise questions. The was the forum many of the original PRODIGY ( now that will strike some memory keys ) Bull board members wound up on when PRODIGY in it's infinite wisdom discontinued BB's and basically ended it's own dominance of that space.
Just passed by rec.travel.cruises and I see little has changed, trolls, forged posts claims, foul and disturbing claims and language, sad really. You really have to have a monitored forum now a days but monitoring is so time consuming. Member board areas like this one are, for my thinking, the backbone of a site like cruisemates.
And Prodigy had Harry and Shirley Basch as the cruise editors - way back when. They also told me they were compensated pretty well to do that. They also wrote for the LA Times and did Fielding's Guide after Anne Campbell gave it up in 1995. Harry and Shirley were the first reviewers, in the LA Times, to say their article and reviews were based on free trips starting before year 2000.
Then we had Ken Stutt's Wheelhouse and another site called cruise2.com.
Cruise Critic did come around in 1995, but it was only on AOL until 2000. We started CruiseMates in 1999.
Sadly, our boards are doing OK, but are getting knocked just because there are too many boards out there, and becues of Cruise Critc, which honestly very rarely never go to.
When I go to CC (just to read) I am impressed by the number of posters, but I find it hard to find what I am looking for because there is too much "noise" from people making off-topic comments, or just saying "me, too" or "I agree" types of comments.
But if you ever have a very obscure question "what color are the hairdryers the room steward gives on Carnival Fantasy" that is the place to go.
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