Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Hate Stupid Comparisons - Seabourn Odyssey vs. Silversea Spirit

Ralph Grizzle has obviously made quite a play, with his "review" of the Silversea Spirit sea trial being repackaged and represented on a number of different websites. Bless him for the marketing, but seriously, it is enough with pushing out blatant marketing material, week after week, month after month, as allegedly objective cruise reviews.  It is, at least to me, downright offensive and a blight on those of us trying to be objective.  In a way, it is similar to the "cheearleaders" that post false information on message boards because of some sordid belief they must support their favorite line...at all costs.

Now the substance:

When I read a review that gives one ship higher marks because its standard suites are allegedly 11 square feet larger I think, "How Stupid!" That amounts to less than 6 inches in length or a foot in width. Objectively, heaven forbid, I would challenge one to be able to actually feel any difference no less live in the suite better.  Yes, a couple of inches here or there - dependent on whether the admittedly absent furnishings are placed - may make a difference, but as a "it is better" makes no sense.  What if, as it seems may be the case, the bed conflicts with the bathroom door?  Still and edge with "all" that extra space???

Compare his comments about the televisions: Silver Spirit has two 26" TVs (one behind mirror) and Seabourn Odyssey has one. Fair enough. But would I ever use that criteria for "giving the edge" to one ship over another? Never. Seriously, how many luxury cruisers truly care about the televisions? How many actually never turn them on? I legitimate point (and important to a few), but in the world of comparing entire ships...nothing more than a footnote. In fact, as a foot note, to me it is no different than Silversea having a pillow menu ala Celebrity Concierge Class cabins. (Not so special now, is it?!)  It is a nice touch, but really not so special...and anyone with experience in this industry knows this.
Then there is the comment that Silver Spirit gets an edge because it is larger than the Seabourn Odyssey? Huh? In the luxury cruise world, larger passenger counts have never been seen as better...ever. So with 540 guests vs. 450 guests (20% more) on a ship that has yet to explain what public spaces are truly unique (style of restaurants aside) or function better I am sort of baffled by the alleged "benefit". Maybe there is one...but tell me what it is!

My favorite is the comments, "With its reception area, Spirit has matched Seabourn Square (Odyssey’s library/internet cafĂ©/coffee shop/purser’s desk/shore excursions and attractive public room), by integrating a bar and dining area for light snacks." Huh??? Aside from the fact that the Seabourn Square has more going for it than stated (such as a full bar, something a bit more upscale than a "coffee shop", a complete concierge service and multiple public spaces indoors and outside) to say the addition of a bar and dining area for light snacks (now, why didn't he call it a "snack bar"?????) takes a purser's counter and transforms it into an area which has drawn consistent raves from Seabourn guests, is just dishonest.

As Mr. Grizzle finally admits, Silversea is going to have to deliver service.  The best hardware in the world is not going to to do much for guests if the service...and cuisine...is not up to standards.  He admits he had no service during the sea trial, but writes as if that is cool.  While I cannot imagine any cruise line wanting journalists (or marketeers) on a sea trial, what I do know is that if Seabourn was to do it, it would have provided some service...because Seabourn is all about service.  I expect, as a guest, at least some acknowledgment.  Possibly a bottle of wine, some nice sandwiches, nothing big...but some service.

I would think that before anyone makes comparisons they would (A) actually see the completed ship; and (B) experience the ship in its completed state.  But maybe that is because I am not looking to be paid...or even shall I say "brown nose"...Integrity has some place in a cruise review...doesn't it?

To be sure, I am hoping the Silver Spirit is delivered as a fine ship.  I have been told all those finishes that were were missing when Mr. Grizzle was onboard are not up to standards.  But, alas, I have not seen them...so how could I comment?!  (Get the point?)  But if the Silver Spirit is all that it is supposed to be, it may well be the answer to Silversea's lagging sales and somewhat lackluster experiences of late. 

Remember, just as much as I believe in the Seabourn product I believe in competition and options.  No cruise line is for everyone and I don't work for the cruise lines. 

I work for my clients...the cruise guests.