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  #1 (permalink)  
Old January 22nd, 2006, 02:28 PM
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Default A bit about the Origin of CruiseMates - from my perspective

Anne Campbell was the original creator of Cruise Critic on AOL (and at the time it was only available on AOL), and as that site was growing and expanding, I began "working" for Anne, hosting live online chats.

The time came when Anne wanted to go to the world wide web, rather than just be on AOL, with more of a "cruise magazine/guide" format and the partners at Cruise Critic weren't interested. So, together with Paul they started CruiseMates.

Anne asked if I would come "work" at CruiseMates, and write cruise articles. Of course, I said I'm a "bartender", not a writer. But she insisted it would work out. Anne also said she asked me because she wanted to build a site for cruise people, and that's what got me "hooked".

I agreed to come to CruiseMates, and give it my ALL, if I could start a CruiseMates Group Cruise program, because I felt that was an important part of building a community spirit... and a nice way to offer a "perc" to the "almost volunteer" staff.
To their credit Anne and Paul never did, and never have asked that the site make ANY money from the Group Cruise Program.

For the first several groups, there were no guaranteed free cabins to anyone.... and the first several groups we did, I paid for the cruise and went and hosted whoever booked them.

Over the years the basics of the "program" evolved because we came across problems with expectations and miscommunications which didn't allow the "program" to work smoothly and affectively. As explained in the "split message thread", several years ago we simplified the program to a system I think works best..

Competing agents bid, guarantee the host (cruisemates staffer) a cabin (whether the cruise sells one cabin or 10 cabins), and they make their profit from the tour conductor berths sold, and the extra business the cruisemates cruises drive to them for people looking of other cruises.

The simplicity works, because the agents are happy, the cruisers get excellent value packages, and unlike other cruise sites doing group cruises, CruiseMates doesn't view it, and treat it as a profit center!!

CruiseMates sticks to the "cruise guide" business!

As a result, besides me, Mike, Jim, Donna, MaryLou, Trip, Tweety and Mike Lari have hosted one or several CruiseMates group cruises (sailed without paying their cruise fare, because nothing is free).... which hasn't been a bad perc, for all the efforts they've put into the CruiseMates Web site.

Even though I do occassionally go on ships, and could likely request more trips... for "writing assignments", or to do ships reviews, I keep doing the CM groups because I love them, and because of the people they're fun. Even though they are more work than writing assignments or reviews, I stick with them because of the people.

And CruiseMates continues to support them, even though they don't get anything financial from them!

Of course, they hope they do well. The best thing for the site is that the cruises sell well, and the cruisers have a great time. The cruisers come back happy. The agents are happy, and they buy advertising from the site, and CruiseMates is happy.

So.. the fact that this program exists at all under these circumstances clearly displays that CruiseMates cares about the people, even though their primary goal is still to be the best Cruise Guide on the Internet.

Understand that all of this is a view of CruiseMates from my perspective. I'm not privy to the "behind the scenes" decision making, nor am I consulted before business decisions are made. I'm simply a worker bee.. who occassionally tries to offer ideas for new features to the bosses, if they pop into my mind.

There are many cruise related web sites on the internet; and quite a few which were started because some people at the site weren't happy with the way the site was being directed.
Some of those still exist, and have done OK. Some exist by asking for donations from their small core of regulars to pay the bills, and some are gone.
There's lots of free web based message formats, where people can relatively easily start up a "board". But the costs building it can be considerable, and many arent prepared for that.

CruiseMates is still around and healthy because it had a business plan which would help it grow, and make sure it was able to pay its bills. It has reinvested in new and improved software and servers to make the site fast and user friendly.

So, I don't think anyone can honestly say that the site isn't about the people who visit here... but it wouldn't be about the people, or anything else, without enough income to pay the bills.
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Old January 22nd, 2006, 09:20 PM
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So Kuki you go on so many cruises because you don't pay for them!!!!!

I find this very interesting. However just so that people out there know if you book a certain amount of cabins, you too can go free. Check with your travel agent regarding Tour Conductor cabins.

Personally, I have a hard time with Kuki advertising Cruisemates cruises on this site when he has a personal interest in the outcome. The more cabins he sells the more credits he gets.

PS Kuki if you delete this post I will no longer promote your site as an honest and interesting site.

JennC
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Old January 22nd, 2006, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Personally, I have a hard time with Kuki advertising Cruisemates cruises on this site when he has a personal interest in the outcome. The more cabins he sells the more credits he gets.
Jenn..if you read what I actually wrote about the group cruise program above, or a very clear explanation in another thread here, you'd see that it's simply not true the we get more credits for the more cabins sold.

Below is a quote from another thread where I explained the group cruise program.
Quote:
Every CM group is hosted by a CM staff person, and their cabin is paid for the Travel Agent who wins the bid for each group. If the group sells enough cabins to earn “tour conductor berths? from the cruise lines those go to the travel agent.

The travel agents generally will consider that income/expense ratio when submitting their bids to us.

Does that mean the staff person hosting is going free? I DON’T think so! There’s a lot of work involved in organizing a group cruise both before the cruise, with time spent e mailing and organizing chats etc. There’s also a considerable amount of time put into organizing group events onboard, and making certain everyone who wants to be is included.

Besides a lot of time and effort the hosts often spend their own money on gifts, prizes, t shirts, door magnets, phone books etc. That is money out of their pocket, not imaginary money. And if you’ve sailed with our groups, and have witnessed the effort the hosts put in to make the cruise fun for the group, and see that they work the cruise, then you’re not really watching.

The cruise I’m on now I brought along two extra suitcases full of t-shirts and prizes to give away at various events. I spent time putting together Trivia sheets for 5 nights in the dining rooms, and I get them printed daily, and delivered to the dining room. I printed magnetic door signs for everyone in the group. I wrote and organized the hints for the scavenger hunt, and other contests we’re having onboard.

All of this comes at a cost.. both financial and an obligation of my time! And I believe the other staff put in just as much effort on the cruises they host
There's MUCH MORE to whether doing a group cruise is free to the host, then dollars paid to a cruise line!!!!

Sure, anyone can put a group together, and IF they sell enough cabins, the can get the tour conductor berths. We feel we can get agents to do even better on the packages they offer us because they also put a value on the advertising they receive from representing and our group cruises, and also offer us extra amenities. You'd have to put a pretty good sized group together to find the deals we do when we shop.

Other web sites let people put together their own groups and advertise them on their web site, but to allow that they only allow you to use certain "approved agencies" and also the web site keeps ALL the value from all tour conductor berth earned except for 1 cabin.

We don't hide what we do with our program, and the CruiseMates site makes no money on it, other than if agents do well, they want to purchase more advertising on the site.

Quote:
PS Kuki if you delete this post I will no longer promote your site as an honest and interesting site.
As far as the above is concerned... sorry, but it's a silly threat, to think saying something like that has any bearing on any decisions. You have something to say, say it (as long as it doesn't violate the site's User Agreement).

I've said it many times, and it remains TRUE. CruiseMates is the MOST tolerant site on the net, allowing more dissenting opinions to remain on the message boards than ANY cruise site.

Frankly I think people should appreciate that openness more than they display.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 09:53 AM
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Thanks for the post, Kuki. I am in the process of planning a group cruise for a particular group with which I am associated.

Once my cabin is secured (which takes 16 people booking - it's not 8 as some posters claim - it's 8 cabins, but 16 berths), if I get anymore "free" berths, I will use them as a way to cut costs for the rest of the cruisers rather than put someone in them for free.

I suspected that's why the cost of the CM cruises are so low.

CM is my favorite site because of what you said - open, honest discussion is allowed here. This discussion, and some of the nastier ones that have popped up lately would long have been deleted at some other sites.

dorothy
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 10:16 AM
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I don't get it. Who cares if someone gets a free cabin. Not really free when you think of the work that goes into taking a group along on a cruise. Take all the cruises you want Kuki or anyone as far as I'm concerned. Whether you pay or not is none of my business.

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Old January 23rd, 2006, 11:16 AM
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Boy oh boy! I can certainly relate to this. I tried to put together a group cruise (family reunion) and in fact I did. But I will NEVER do it again. It was horrendous. If you don't think a lot of work goes into it then you need to try it yourself.

Now, when people talk about a group cruise I suggest they pick a ship, a week, and a travel agent. Tell everyone to contact the travel agent.

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Old January 23rd, 2006, 01:50 PM
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I agree with you Phyllbo. What does it matter whether anyone associated with cruisemates cruises for free or not? If they do, its just a perk associated with their job and certainly no one's business but their own and their employers.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Kuki, You work very hard as a tour conductor on a cruise. The free berth is barely token pay for those services. Just the berth is free, the traveler or possibly CruiseMates has to pay for port charges and air fare. I am not sure how CruiseMates handles this aspect. If that is true then the cruise is hardly free. Air and port charges can add up to a hefty sum. Then of course Mrs Kuki's cruise needs to be paid for. That does not sound like a "free" cruise to me.

Laura
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 02:44 PM
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I agree with Phyll and Laura.
I've been quiet so far, and this is all I have to add.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 04:22 PM
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Kuki

I also agree with VT Jen, Phyll and Laura, keep cruising, I love the stories.

I really like your new Avitiar, being a good little Catholic boy, the last one really freaked me out. I know a few nuns who you looked like (shudder).

Have a great day.

John 8) .
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 04:41 PM
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When Kuki organizes CruisesMates group cruises, he's essentially acting as a travel agent. But he doesn't get paid a cent for it, certainly no commission. Anyone can put a group together, get a cabin. Kuki always comes back with at least one feature article for CruiseMates and he is an excellent writer. He's even tougher than I am on the cruise lines, he calls a spade a spade. So, everyone benefits from his trips -- CruiseMates certainly does because there aren't many writers out there with Kuki's sharp eye, witty style of writing and permanently arched eyebrow, lol.

If it were up to me, Kuki and Mrs. Kuki would be on ships 52 weeks a year, never see his lovely hometown of Calgary again. He is a huge asset to this site.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 04:49 PM
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Thanks Anne-----How will we ever be able to live with him now? If only he was the shy retiring guy that CA is.

Phyll
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 05:03 PM
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Anne,

I see your posting problem is fixed. If you keep talking like that about Kuki I'll have to do something to make it come back.

Take care,
Mike (Who likes Kuki and his articles.)
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 07:04 PM
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Anne.. I am blushing

But very appreciative of your kind words!! I have to go convince Mrs. Kuki to add an et to what I am to her.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 07:42 PM
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The Carnival Liberty trans-Atlantic trip was our first Cruisemates cruise. It was a great bargain and a lot of fun. We are looking forward to the Cruisematers Rock The Locks cruise in April, and, I hope, many others.

Kuki, give us more!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 07:58 PM
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Kuki..Kuki...Kuki...Anne give this man a raise
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Old January 24th, 2006, 05:27 PM
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I get so sick and tired of all these people who belly-ache. It's ridiculous. Kuki and the others who host the Cruise Mates cruise do an outstanding job. I was fortunate enough to sail with Mike M and Betty ... even though the group was only 7 (thereby Nancy Bogert lost money on the deal), we had a great time due to the Mastellars and all they did.

So they get a free cruise - they're entitled to it ... and if they upgrade their cabin, they have to pay for the upgrade.

It's none of the posters business what they receive.

Thank you - all you hosts. Keep up the good work!
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Old January 24th, 2006, 11:30 PM
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The fact is that every job has its perks. For people working on this site, cruising free happens to be a perk. Oh yea, I am a little jealous. But more power to you. We all have little perks in life. They are just in different areas of life. I think that I might have to try on of these cm cruises myself.
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