Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cruise "Journalism" - Cruise Critic and Skift Articles on Seabourn and Fathom Feed Those Seeking Negativism...Not News

Note:  Immediately after originally posting this article, Dennis Schall, Skift News Editor, chose to engage in an infantile Twitter war with his first response being " nattering nabobs of negativism, not us." and then, " I was just quoting you Spiro Agnew..."  Obviously when a publication immediately goes to infantile name-calling, it speaks volumes as to its credibility.  Read on to what caused Skift's reaction! 

Yesterday I read an article pushed to me on Cruise Critic (one of my least favorite websites as it is filled with misinformation...usually pushed by a few self-professed experts on its message boards) -and then today one on Skift, a more or less industry-facing magazine sort of website.

The Cruise Critic article entitled:  Just Back from Seabourn Sojourn: Searching for Thomas KellerThe article started off poorly and inaccurately, claiming that those on the Cruise Critic message boards were "skeptical" and that "Longtime fans of the luxury line prefer things to stay as they are".  More importantly, the scarcastic prig that wrote the article (and I am being kind) was on the Seabourn Sojourn before the Thomas Keller menus were even scheduled to be released.  (If you can stand to read the drivel, he admits that they were only first being installed on the ship and Seabourn/Keller refuse to call the new dishes "Thomas Keller" until they are perfected.)


In short, this "journalist" claims skepticism and an inability to find Thomas Keller's dishes because???? I think it may be because:  Let' just say his head was somewhere it shouldn't have been.

More particularly, if one reads the Cruise Critic Boards (and, as painful as it was I just did), the reality is there are no more than maybe three dozen people that post on the Seabourn board.  That would be - in their entirety - less than 3% of the people that sail on Seabourn at any given time and, since they generally take only one cruise a year (if that) these 36 or so Cruise Critic posters on the Seabourn board represent less than 0.05% of those that sail on Seabourn annually.  Hardly representative of anything.

Even still I read his article and the message board and guess what?  Apparently more people on the Cruise Critic Seabourn board have no idea who Thomas Keller is than do.  And an almost equal number don't know who the former Seabourn celebrity chef, Charley Palmer, is.  (His menus were introduced in the same rolling out fashion back in 2003 and then the association was ended in 2011 when Seabourn management changed and there were claims of his menus - which had been enhanced, changed, etc. - were "tired").

[That reminds me of the so-called "Seabourn loyalists" that objected to the Charley Palmer menus because the liked the old Seabourn menus; then those apparently same loyalists that were tired of the Palmer menus and wanted them changed; then those 'er um, loyalists that liked the changes (and improved quality of ingredients) but not the reduced use of heavy sauces; then those assumedly same loyalists that tired of the present menus.  In short, an author making a wholesale reference to "Seabourn loyalists" as a group - and ignoring the differences in tastes from Americans to Aussies to Brits to whomever (and all the permutations within those culinary cultures) is naive at best.  In short: There are many people that are loyal to Seabourn and are so for many reasons. To tar all of them with the brush of a few is not only inaccurate; it is disrespectful.]

While I struggled through his article, his comments were such that it became clear that he has no qualifications to judge Seabourn's cuisine pre- or post- Thomas Keller.  (I would put his comment as being akin to reading a review on Cruise Critic's sister company site: TripAdvisor - where I just stayed in a rundown, watered down, all-inclusive that TripAdvisor rated as Four Stars)

You will find Thomas Keller's cuisine
when it is actually on the menu!
And then confirming his intentional deception of anyone who reads his article (presumably someone interested in a Seabourn cruise) he buries in the second to last line...and it was a struggle to get there:
We did meet some foodies, on the younger side of Seabourn's demographic, who were excited about the partnership; there's no denying that, among Americans at least, Keller still has a significant cachet that's bound to set the line apart from some of its luxury competitors.
I have had a number of clients that have enjoyed cruises with the Eureka! actually implemented Thomas Keller menus and they loved it.  Simply put the uniform feedback (other than some reservations about the family style dishes in the Colonnade) is:  Seabourn's cuisine was wonderful before, but Thomas Keller's menus bring Seabourn to a whole new level.  

And that brings me to the unfortunate and missed opportunity of an article concerning Fathom Cruises published in Sift:  Fathom Is Still Trying to Explain the Meaning of a Social Impact Cruise.  

Being involved in a Fathom Cruise social impact program
creates lasting memories
This article is especially disturbing to me because it opens with a focus on the line changing from a small "f" to a capital "F" and now calling it a cruise rather than travel.  In other words, if you start to read the article it focuses on minutia rather than "explaining the meaning of a social impact cruise". Is that Fathom's fault, or the author's?

And then there is the author's take right under the title, "Fathom is drumming up good press for the cruise industry, but will enough people really pay a premium to devote their vacation to volunteering? Probably not at first.".

Why would a journalist use that title and open with that sort of negativity?  It isn't to convey anything of relevance, is it?   To be sure, if readers got past the first rounds of negativity (title, minutia, premium and apparently total "devotion" comments) only then would any explanation of the product and social impact be discovered.

Listen, I do not believe Fathom (or fathom) will be an instant hit...mostly, as I was quoted towards the end of her article, because new concepts need to be explained and then embraced:
“I think a lot of people are really interested in it. They think it’s really cool. But they want to know what the heck it is,” he said. Goldring described the experience in detail on his blog and said in an interview that he offered feedback during the trip about brochures, equipment, and other parts of the volunteer activities.
I don’t see this as like it’s a new Royal Caribbean ship everybody wants to go on,” Goldring said. “It’s not that kind of product. Just like with the programs, it’s going to be an education process. I see it more starting slower than they would like but then building.” 
By the way, for the sake of accuracy, you can "devote" as little or as much time on a Fathom cruise on social impact activities.  And the author inaccurately advises at the outset that you are going to pay a "premium".  I say, "What premium?"  A seven day cruise including three voluntourism activities per person in a balcony stateroom for under $1,700 per person is not much different than booking a balcony stateroom on a contemporary cruise line and then paying $500 for three average shore excursions.

The real "premium" question, at least to my mind is, "Aren't you actually paying a premium to go on, say, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship where you are going to pay for everything, wait in line for everything and may well come away with nothing more memorable than a huge bill slid under your door with all the bar, restaurant and shore excursion charges?" Personally, I think the fathom (or Fathom) experience is a bargain and you will come away with something far more memorable than the cost of the cruise:  Memories of a great family vacation where you focused on your heart and helping.

If that is not what you are into, that's fine.  Heck, I don't want to go on an NCL cruise for a lot of reasons and I should not be judged because of that. Similarly if Fathom doesn't float your boat that is fine...

BUT, journalists please highlight WHAT MATTERS, and don't hinder same by focusing on a small "f" being capitalized or seeking to grab interest by writing negatively; especially about things that are either not true or irrelevant.

Looking for accurate and unbiased information about a cruise line?  Give me a call at:
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