How to Write a Cruise Review

| February 20, 2008
Writing a cruise review is a great way to make your opinion known. It also helps your fellow cruisers when they are deciding on a ship for their next voyage. Here's some tips to make the process of writing your next review easy and fun!

CruiseMates loves to receive cruise reviews written by the cruise industry's toughest critics -- you! We know that the people who make the investment in time and money to go on a cruise have definite opinions about the experience.

Writing your own cruise review is great fun, and that's why many of us do it. No one returns from a vacation without having something to say about it. Why not tell the world?

If you are a bit hesitant to write a review about your experience maybe its because you are not sure how to go about it. If that is you, here are a few tips to make writing your review easier.

1. Include a Summary at the Top Often cruisers want to get a quick glimpse of what folks think of a certain ship or cruise line. Maybe we plan to read the full reviews later, but for now just want a bird's eye view. Start your review off with a summary and put it at the top. For example "We loved this ship because the crew catered to our every need. Service was great and we wanted for nothing."

Or -- "We would never sail this ship or cruise line again. The food was a major disappointment in all the dining venues we sampled. The pizza was undercooked and the children's offerings in the dining room were sorely lacking. Our poor daughter went to bed hungry several nights."

Including a summary at the top makes your review particularly useful to readers. It lets them know if there is something in particular that's going to affect their cruising experience. For example, maybe I am a foodie and really love the cruise ship dining experience, or perhaps I plan on bringing a child along on my cruise. Therefore, the fact that you found the food lacking, and the children's offerings limited, is going to affect my experience on that ship. And if you also told me that you hated your cruise because the staff was rude and uncaring, then my ears would really perk up because service is very important to me.

Business executives have been following this strategy for years, because they know a summary paragraph at the top is very useful to their readers. Sometimes a very in-depth paper must be prepared for a manager or management committee that will run several pages and cover lots of information. So they will place an executive summary at the top, summarizing in a couple of sentences the basic direction of the report. They know their intended audience will appreciate this since they can read the summary immediately, and then peruse the full report later, when they have adequate time to do so.

2. Stick to Specific Categories Cruises have certain elements that are pretty common across the board. We are all interested in your experiences with cabin accommodations, food, activities and entertainment, ports, and both embarkation and disembarkation. Being organized enough to include general headings and make appropriate observations under each one helps us remember and reference your information. For example, don't talk about that great comedienne whose show you went to on the first night under the embarkation heading. People might miss your comments because they skipped over Embarkation. Maybe they are really interested in the entertainment offered onboard your ship and skipped right to that heading. The comments about that comedienne would enjoy their greatest audience if you kept them under an "Entertainment and Activities" type of heading.

It's the same sort of thing with the food. Don't necessarily review the embarkation lunch you enjoyed in the Lido under the Embarkation heading. Keep it under "Food." More people will see it and benefit from your experiences that way. Those same people may skip over the Embarkation heading and miss it if it is there.

3. Try to Be Balanced in Your Review Just so you know, I am responsible for reading and posting all of the reader-submitted reviews at CruiseMates. The problem with some cruise reviews I've read is that they are either all negative or all positive. When I begin reading a review where the writer hasn't one good thing to say about the cruise, it makes me wonder if the writer doesn't have some sort of an axe to grind. Maybe someone at the purser's desk was exceptionally rude and that colored his entire cruise experience, and thus review. To make your review more valuable to readers, try to be a bit objective if at all possible.

By all means, let us know what disappointed you. If the food was not good, say so. But surely there must be some redeeming qualities about the trip. If so, make mention of them too. By being fair and balanced, you will keep people reading because they will truly want to hear what you have to say. If all they are getting is a stream of negatives, or never-ending positives, chances are they will file your review under the "less than reliable" category and it won't have the impact you intended.

Also, keep value for the dollar spent in mind. Sometimes we schedule "last minute" discount cruises. We get a fantastic rate for the sailing, better than we could have ever gotten otherwise. But the "catch" is that we can't select our cabin and have to take what's available in a specific category. Well, in a case like this, you can't fairly say the cabin was the pits. You knew you weren't going to get your preferred cabin when you booked at the last minute. Your price reflected that. So it wouldn't be fair to berate the cruise line because you got that somewhat noisy location close by the aft ship elevators.

As an example of this, I once got a five-day cruise for a dirt cheap price. I snuck in on a friend's group and got their special rates. I think I paid something like $350 for my inside cabin, and that amount included port charges, taxes, prepaid gratuities, AND the single supplement. I also got to attend a group cocktail party. Of course, the cabin would be assigned a few days before sailing. I had no say in its location whatsoever.

Well what do you think happened? You got it. I got what I believe had to be the worst cabin on the ship. I was close to the bow thrusters, so every morning that we were in port I got an early wake-up call as my whole cabin vibrated with the thrusters easing the ship into the dock slip.

The cabin was so tiny that if I lay on my bed I could put my feet on one wall and practically touch the other. But the bottom line is that I got what I paid for -- and more. While the bathroom was, of course, postage stamp sized, it was functional. I really couldn't fairly blast the cruise line for this cabin, not at the rates I paid. Now, if I had paid top dollar, I might have had a reasonable beef. But in this case, I didn't.

So just try to be fair and balanced in your evaluations, taking into account whether you got value for the money you paid.

4. Be Specific If you didn't care for something about the cruise, try to give your readers some specifics. For example, "the food was terrible" isn't a very useful comment. Readers prefer to have more details. Was it because the choices were limited, or it was served in an unappealing way?

Here are some examples of more specific food critiques; "the food in the buffet was left to sit in the serving dishes way too long." Or, "the servers in the Lido buffet didn't clear the tables in a prompt manner. We found ourselves bussing our own table just to have a place to eat lunch." This more descriptive information gives me an idea of why you didn't care for the dining experience in the Lido; not just that you didn't like it.

Same goes for the entertainment. Telling me the "shows sucked" (a real comment) doesn't provide any useful information. Rather, say something like "the comedienne in the Star Dust Lounge told jokes that I thought were offensive, especially when you consider that it was the early show with lots of children present in the audience." This tells me that I'd better steer clear of him if I plan to have my five-year-old with me at the show. It also reminds me that I shouldn't take it for granted that the entertainment will always be age appropriate and I'd better be careful what shows I allow my child to attend.

5. Summarize Good and Bad Points of Your Cruise Experience One technique I've seen some cruisers employ is to eliminate specific headings in their review, and instead use a "plusses and minuses" format for their review. If this works best for you, then by all means use it.

Instead of focusing on individual headings like food or entertainment, just have a section called "The good, the bad, and the downright ugly points of this cruise" and list in bullet style all the pluses and then the minuses of your cruise experience. For example:

The Good:

  • Great cabin location. We got this inside cabin at a rock bottom price, and were pleasantly surprised that it was a good 170 square feet with a bathroom one could even turn around in!
  • Lots of good food and plenty of it. We enjoyed delicious dinners each night in the main dining room. Beef dishes in particular were very well done. We also used the grill at the pool most afternoons and my kids loved the burger station. The specialty restaurant was a disappointment, though, the one night we ate there. For the $30 per person surcharge, I don't think the steaks we had were any better than what was offered in the dining room. Service was also slow. Won't do that again.

The bad:

  • My 6-year-old found the children's program sorely lacking. There was only one counselor for her age group, and the girl was more of a babysitter than anything else. There were no structured activities and the kids just basically entertained themselves with tv and videos.
  • There were relatively few onboard activities run on port days. Doesn't the cruise line realize that not everyone wants to get off the ship at every port? There was no music provided poolside, no games or activities, nothing other than lounging for entertainment. This was very disappointing for me and my family.

The downright ugly:

  • The staff at the purser's desk clearly left their brains portside. They certainly gave no evidence of them onboard ship. Asking a question could get a different answer depending upon who and when you asked it. For example, I asked if it would be necessary for my family to attend another muster drill since we got on the ship and mustered in Seattle, but others were getting on in San Diego. We were told no by one person, but then yes by another when my husband asked later that night. On the day of the San Diego muster, when we didn't attend, we were chastised by one of the stairway monitors when they saw us going back to our cabin sans life jackets. Better training is needed for the purser's staff."

Most Importantly, Have Fun with Your Review Writing a review on your cruise should be a fun experience. Feel free to interject your own style and even humor in your review. Don't worry about how you sound or what you write. Instead, just write from your heart.

If you want to include a day-by-day cruise report, telling us what you did each day, that is fine if it gives the readers a sense of what is available to do onboard the ship. Say something like "we went to trivia every day and our family really enjoyed it. We formed a team with my husband, parents and our two children, ages 6 and 10. The cruise director kept the game upbeat with his humor and our children especially looked forward to the games each day. The fact that they won some neat trinkets added to the experience for them." This sort of detail tells me that trivia can be a really nice family activity. Maybe I never looked at it that way before. Now you've given me something to think about for my upcoming cruise.

If you used a specific vendor in a port for a tour, tell us about the experience. Again, it doesn't have to be a super-detailed review, but give us an overall sense of what your experience was like. By the way, we sometimes get tour guides pretending to be writing real reviews, and we do not print these, so please do NOT write something like "I really recommend Joe's Tours in Turkey, you can reach him at Tell him Joe sent you." Chances are we will not print this.

If you were disappointed in a tour please tell us why. If you had a wonderful time, tell us about that too. For example, to say something like "We used Joe's Tours in Turkey and had the worst time of our lives" doesn't help me much. Why did you have a lousy time? Did he fail to deliver what was promised or did he just deliver it in a poor way?

Details are much more helpful: "We used Joe's Tours for a three-hour tour of Aruba. We were promised several photo stops and a tour of the beach area for $15 each for our group of four. What we got was a quick drive-through of these areas, with little opportunity to stop and take photographs. The driver claimed that traffic was exceptionally heavy and the tour was taking longer than expected, so he couldn't afford the time to stop. As the icing on the cake, when we arrived back at the ship, the driver tried to tell us that there was also a $5 each "service charge" for the tour that was not included in the originally quoted $15 per person. This left a bad taste in my mouth and I would never use this vendor again." Now I've got something to work with. I know Joe's Tours is not a reliable or honest operator, and I know the reason why. I can now take advantage of your unfortunate experience to make sure I don't have one of my own. You've done me a great service here and I appreciate it.

You do not have to worry about writing perfection. This is not a school term paper and no one is grading you. Just tell us about your experiences. Sometimes we try to fix major spelling or grammatical errors for you before posting the review. But we also think the style in which you wrote the review is far more important as it tells readers something about you as a person and that helps them discern how they should process your opinion.

This is why we ask you to add detail. The specific things you say not only tell us more about the cruise, but they tell us, the readers, who you are, and that also means something when it comes to reading what you wrote.

Summing Up Assuming you used the reviews of your fellow cruisers when planning your own cruise, the best way to give back a good turn is to write a review of your own cruise experience when you return. We all spend a lot of money on our cruises and we like to feel we are getting good value for that hard-earned dollar. Reading other people's cruise reviews lets us benefit from their experience and add to the enjoyment of our own.

Cruise reviews can take many forms, so use the one that works best for you. As long as it is organized in a reasonably easy-to-read format, broken down in sections as discussed above, your fellow cruisers will benefit from what you have to say. Even if you had a terrible cruise, your review could save someone else from a similar experience and that's exactly why you should write one. Besides, we all like to hear what you have to say because, after all, at least here on CruiseMates, your opinion counts.

To write a reader review, simply go to and follow the simple instructions. You'll also find more tips and hints for preparing your review on the page. The form for your actual review comments is located at the bottom of the page.

Have fun and we'll all look forward to hearing from you!

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