Reader Q&A
by Christopher Elliott
Click here for unvarnished ship ratings
December 4, 2001
Dear Chris,

Do you know if there are any sites where travelers can post opinions on their experiences on cruise ships regarding accommodations, food, stops, and other items?

- Mitch Sackson

Dear Mitch,

Like most other travel sites, the cruise pages strongly prefer to give you their opinion instead of asking for yours. There are two major reasons behind that: first, publishing unedited traveler opinions may offend the cruise lines who advertise on these sites; and second, the folks who run these dot-coms are often not that interested in what you have to say.

But there are exceptions. For example:

  • Cruise411 operates a message board that pulls no punches. Here's a case-in-point from a recent posting: "Last week we returned from our honeymoon aboard Celebrity's newest ship, the Infinity. The ship was beautiful, our stateroom was extremely nice, but the food was horrible and the service wasn't much better." Any lesser website would edit those comments away, and Cruise411 is to be commended for leaving them there even though Celebrity is probably less than pleased. This site also won Forbes' prestigious "Best of the Web" designation (disclaimer: I review sites for Forbes, although I didn't rate this category).

  • CruiseMates.com not only offers message boards, but also member "reviews," which are cruise ship ratings penned by website readers. Here's one write-up of a Holland America ship from readers Trudy and Sid Kleiner (I'm not making this up, by the way): "We'd read about the stench that greets newcomers when first traversing the hallways. You eventually get used to the septic system-like odor, but it does get things underway on a negative track. There should be some way of deodorizing these areas." Ugh. How's that for an unvarnished review?

  • CruisingViews.com has more of a grassroots look and feel than any of the two previous websites. Some of the cruise ship reviews are written by the staff, but many others are penned by actual travelers. I noted that a majority of the write-ups were very positive, suggesting that the site attracts more rabid cruising fans than discriminating vacationers. But after perusing a number of reviews, I found this gem of a quote from reader Richard Davis, who recently took a Celebrity cruise: "The midnight buffets were not worth staying up for at all. It seemed to be leftover food from dinner." Navigating CruisingViews.com isn't entirely intuitive (you often aren't sure where on the site you've ended up) but all in all, it's worth a look.

  • If you aren't stuck on the Web, I'd surf over to the newsgroup rec.travel.cruises, which is one of the most active online discussion groups in its category. Newsgroups are the ultimate freeform Internet—uncensored and largely unaffected by the advertising clout of the major cruise lines. If I ever have a question about a travel-related product and want instant feedback (or, conversely, if I have an opinion and want to sound off) then I click on the newsgroups first. I'd highly recommend a quick scan of the newsgroups before heading to the Web.
One last recommendation: if you've had a less-than-pleasant cruising experience, and you're trying to find a place online to air your grievance, then please don't forget to tell the travel agent who booked your cruise. Yes, travel agents pocket a considerable commission when they sell a vacation at sea. No, they won't be thrilled that you didn't like your cruise. But a good agent will also take your feedback seriously and think twice before recommending the same cruise line to another customer.
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send them to me at ff@smarterliving.com.
© 2001-2002 Smarter Living, Inc.
Other Columns by This Author
Given a once-over on Southwest Airlines
>> posted 2002-05-21
Don't assume when you're on vacation
>> posted 2002-05-14
Patience pays for flight gripes
>> posted 2002-05-07
Same flight, different price
>> posted 2002-04-30
Cabin linens may not be so clean
>> posted 2002-04-23
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