Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Fair and Balanced" - You Better Be Careful Where You Get Your Cruise Information!

This is supposed to be the slow season in the cruise business because everyone is supposedly on vacation.  While I am finding business to actually be quite brisk, what I am also finding is that those in the cruise message board business seem to have also put their common sense and credibility on holiday.

I preface the following for what has become, unfortunately, a growing problem with more people using the internet and therefore being exposed to “fringe” players who falsely present themselves as “experts”.  The result is a world of misinformation that stays out there and unnecessarily hurts the cruise business and, therefore, its current and potential customers. 

When someone who postures himself through a website marketed as the place to get information (here:  CruiseMates.com), it is inexcusable because clearly that person’s desire to “make a buck” at any cost compromises your money and vacation because, as John Belushi said in Animal House, “You screwed up.  You trusted us.  That said…

Last week, Paul Motter, the editor of CruiseMates posted some pretty outrageous things on his message boards.  During what I perceived as a “meltdown” (but as you will read I think I know the pressure he was feeling), he asserted that people that go on luxury cruises are “gluttons”.  That’s right Mr. Motter asserts that the people that shell out the most money do it primarily so that they can stuff their faces.  He then went on a diatribe about how Seabourn is not actually a luxury cruise line (not that he likes luxury cruise lines) because there wasn’t enough for him to do onboard.

If you think I am making this up, this is a direct quote from him (and this after he went back and sanitized his rants):

I find small ships to be boring - especially when the primary attraction is food and wine. I don't find gluttony to be that appealing, and that seems to be the main reason why people tout Seabourn the most. I find their itineraries to be the least appealing of all the "luxury" ships BY FAR because they have the most days at sea, and to me the only difference between a day at sea on a tiny ship and a prison is the food is better.

You can read the whole thread here:  Seabourn's Move to Seattle - Was It A Good Move?  

What makes Mr. Motter’s comments not only silly, but undercutting whatever credibility he might have had, is that he has never been on a Seabourn cruise.  In fact, he hasn’t been on one because none of the cruises offered to him for free were to his liking (and he insists that his airfare be paid by Seabourn as well as the cruise…which isn’t happening).

What brought this on was, apparently, Mr. Motter’s taking offense that Seabourn’s president, Rick Meadows, or its Public Relations Department did not return his telephone call about Newt Gingrich’s vacation on the Seabourn Odyssey that made the headlines and helped derail his presidential campaign.  Why?  Read on!

Aside from the fact that Mr. Motter has just confirmed that Seabourn’s clients engage in gluttony, Seabourn is not a luxury cruise line, Seabourn has no itineraries that he likes and he felt his being shunned was a personal affront worthy of going public with, one must pause and observe: 

Seabourn is never going to comment on any of its guests’ cruises.  Seabourn hosts such important people (not Motter-defined “gluttons”) as political dignitaries, movie stars, famous singers, titans of business and, of course, You. 

Does Mr. Motter believe that he has some sort of special dispensation to invade a Seabourn guest’s private life?  Does he feel that Seabourn should stop what it is doing for his prurient interests; interests that will eventually find its way into some sort of publication intended only to line Mr. Motter’s pockets?

Well, Mr. Motter and CruiseMates have shown its colors:  Mr. Motter – somehow and not because of his knowledge of the cruise industry (since he regularly provides misinformation) – writes a column for FoxBusiness.com.  You know, the “Fair and Balanced” folks that run Fox News as part of the Republican political machine.  (Note:  I am not judging Fox News or its focus.  I am just stating the obvious.)  And, as we know, Newt Gingrich is a darling of Fox News.  Soooo:

Mr. Motter has just written an article posted on CruiseMates (and sure to be on FoxBusiness.com shortly) entitled:  On Seabourn with Newt Gingrich”.  Now, we have established that Mr. Motter would not be caught dead on Seabourn so he wasn’t onboard with him.  We have established that Seabourn didn’t give him any information.  Instead Mr. Motter allegedly found someone who was onboard the same cruise the Gingrichs were on (but not “with” them). I say “allegedly” because this person is not identified (Privacy anyone?  That’s right, the source is entitled to privacy; not Mr. Gingrich.) and Mr. Motter enjoys multiple personalities on CruiseMates’ message boards so that it can seem like there is more activity on those message boards than there really is (so does this person actually exist?).  Also, getting two sources before publishing something as true is normally the practice.  Obviously not for Motter’s articles. Just being “Fair and Balanced”.

But the thing that really gets me about the article which is truly a political statement wrapped around a cruise article is that Mr. Motter not only is two-faced about Seabourn while kissing Mr. Gingrich’s (ring), he cannot even begin to get his facts right; facts that you (the cruise customer) are supposed to rely upon. 

Let’s get a little more “Fair and Balanced”:

Mr. Motter states in his article, “Since when is $2500 (per person) a hefty price for a two-week cruise on a top-rated cruise line? Compare that to the Hotel Villa in Costa del Sol, Spain, where our First Lady spent $2500 per room per night for an estimated 60-70 rooms for her entourage, plus a flight for them all that cost an additional $146,000 roundtrip.” 

Now, I do not know what category suite Mr. Gingrich purchased, but even the lowest category suite on that cruise went for far more than $2,500 per person.  In fact, there isn’t a single two week Mediterranean Seabourn cruise selling for that price.  But, of course, with Tiffany’s $500,000 outstanding account in tow, one might think Mr. Gingrich was cruising in say a $20,000+ per person category in say a Wintergarden Suite.  And if we add $15,000 for first class air and throw in $5,000 for incidentals, it looks like Mr. Gingrich could well have been spending $60,000 for his vacation.  How could the travel expert, Paul Motter, get it so wrong? Just being “Fair and Balanced”.

I pause:  Not because of the slap at President Obama’s wife, but because there is no Hotel Villa in Costa del Sol.  (We are talking travel here aren’t we?)  Mrs. Obama took her daughter to the Villa Padierna on the Costa del Sol.  Now that is a nice hotel, but rooms start at 259 Euros a night and the 646 square foot Executive Suite is only 400 Euros a night; hardly over the top.  Now there is one two bedroom villa, but let’s not be stupid about pricing…and I am not even getting into the ridiculousness of his other figures. How can the travel maven, Paul Motter, get is so wrong?  Just being “Fair and Balanced”.

[Ed. Note:  Since originally posting this I have received a number of emails wanting to "correct" Mr. Motter's errors.  So here are a few: 

1.  Anyone can cancel a Seabourn cruise booked through a U.S. travel agent with no penalty up to 91 days prior to sailing.  To claim that it was impossible to cancel a long planned cruise is simply untrue.

2.  There is nothing special about a President's Cruise...other than Seabourn's president is onboard (and usually not for the entire cruise).  Every cruise line has them and not all of the sell out.  On Seabourn jsut about every cruise is treated the same way.

3.  Not all Seabourn guests book their cruises a year out.  Many do, but others book quite close in.  Along the lines of my conjecture about Mr. Gingrich's suite selection, the tops suites do sell out more quickly and they usually are booked far in advance.

4.  Twiggy is not the godmother of the Seabourn Odyssey (the Maiden Voyage guests are).  Twiggy is the godmother of the Seabourn Sojourn (and I am a first hand witness to it...check the plaque in the Seabourn Square). 

Hopefully now those that see all of Mr. Motter's inaccuracies will rest a bit easier.]
Remember, this is not about Newt Gingrich.  Let the guy, whether you like him or not, have his vacation in peace…and privacy.  He is entitled; just like you are.

So what am I on about?  What am I really trying to discuss?  There are a lot of quacks, crazies and dishonest people out there that will say just about anything, no matter how inaccurate, just to get themselves ahead.  Paul Motter is, in my opinion, one of them.  He can spout off all the various places his drivel has allegedly been published, but in the end, his information is knowingly or incompetently false and agenda driven.  And he does this knowing that his garbage is going to be relied upon by you,but it appears clear to me that he doesn't care.

Paul Motter disrespects you and posts whatever he wants to get ahead because its effect on you is irrelevant from what I read.  While in his mind you are a glutton (classless) for cruising on Seabourn – a line that he spurns because they won’t pay his airfare – you are also going to believe him that you can take a two week Seabourn cruise…just like Newt Gingrich…for $2,500 a person…and then might he invade your privacy by allegedly finding someone to tell about your private holiday.

As a final note, and in full disclosure, I was for a short time the moderator of CruiseMates.com luxury cruise message boards.  I quit when it became clear to me that Paul Motter was not interested in the truth or integrity. 

Be careful who you rely upon when you get your cruise information.  Just because there is a big website it doesn't mean that the information is accurate.

I know that by raising this issue my integrity may well be challenged.  That is fine.  I have earned the trust of many, many, travelers on Seabourn and on other cruise lines and vacations.  I want you to question me.  I want you to seek verification.  That is because I want you to have the best vacation you possibly…and realistically…can. And I am concerned with keeping you as a client for life; not for just one cruise.

Champagne at the hot tub on the bow?  A perfectly poached egg?  A casual conversation with a noted politician?  It isn’t gluttony, but of course!  It is a Seabourn cruise.