Misinformation, Myths and Magic

| August 29, 2008

Kuki ruminates on cruise research, rumors and romance.

Today's speed-of-light information highway is certainly a boon to people researching vacation plans. With internet searches, one can quickly find detailed information, pictures and opinions on ships and ports of call. It's remarkable how detailed the information and recommendations can be for remote and isolated independent tour operators, or even specific cabin numbers on a particular ship.

Misinformation The challenge is evaluating the quality of the information. That same information highway can put speed bumps in your path, sometimes without warning. It's important to look at some of those obstacles to finding accurate information.

With hundreds of ships sailing the world's waterways, even the knowledgeable and well traveled writing staff at Cruisemates can't be current about every detail on every ship. We often rely upon the help and advice of the members of our online community in sharing accurate information.

However, there are no qualifications required: Anyone can post opinions and information. Mostly that's a positive, because we get real people sharing real observations. Yet one must be aware that on occasion misinformation could be mixed in with valid observations. Opinion is almost always valid, because it is just that, opinion -- one person's subjective take on their own experiences, which naturally can be affected by their expectations and interests.

This leads me to one aspect of misinformation that occurs most often: I find myself in wide-eyed bewilderment when I see posts on our message boards by people returning from cruises who complain about various onboard departments, systems, and even shore-side employees regarding things they could have easily known about in advance of their travel. This is not to say such complaints are always invalid. But some seem to turn to CruiseMates simply as a venue to vent after the fact. Maybe they would have been better equipped to deal with their issues and resolve problems if they had taken the time to do some research on CruiseMates before they sailed.

Many people simply use the cruise lines as their source for advance information. Certainly there is plenty of valid and helpful information on the cruise lines' web sites. But in my experience, the line's land-based customer service agents are often not knowledgeable in all areas. So future guests looking for information may end up receiving misinformation or confusing responses to their questions.

The cruise lines need to direct more attention to training their customer service agents, enabling them to better fulfill those job descriptions. Sadly, at the moment I view them as perhaps the number one source of misinformation.

Myths For many years, the biggest myth about cruising was that it was only for rich, elite snobs. We often used to hear that "cruising is for the newly wed and nearly dead." We still hear it today, but only from people who haven't cruised in the last 10 years. Since the early days of cruising, the industry has changed dramatically. Along the way, some of the myths evolved as well.

As the industry expanded with Carnival's "Fun Ships" taking cruises to the masses, it actually took that old myth and reversed it; instead of cruising only being for the rich, Carnival gave it the reputation of being for the young college crowd and the hard-partying beer keg crowd. For a short while, and certainly when colleges were out on breaks, that was pretty accurate. But Carnival quickly understood that to remain competitive they had change the definition of a "Fun Ship" cruise to something that would appeal to a broader audience.

To that end, Carnival was one of the first lines to set minimum age restrictions for passengers unaccompanied by older guardians. Most of the industry quickly followed suit, because they didn't want that demographic and accompanying reputation to move to them.

Strangely, I still hear people refer to the "frat party atmosphere" on Carnival. In most cases, those references are from people who haven't sailed on Carnival since the '80s. The fact is, today's average Carnival passengers are in their 40s. The line's ships still supply a lively atmosphere with their décor, design, and delivery of the on-board product, but the focus is on family-oriented fun, as appealing to grown-ups and kids as to the party crowd. This is especially true on seven-day cruises or longer, and on the newer ships, which tend to attract older, cruise-savvy passengers. On shorter sailings, with passengers trying to cram seven days of fun and action into three to five days, the partying can be a bit overwhelming. But that's somewhat true of all lines doing short cruises.

Next Page: More Cruising Myths

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