Reader Update – Where Do We Go From Here?

It has been over a year since we have actively posted here and we’ve been more than lax in wading through comments and maintaining some of the basics that make this blog function.  That lack of attention also carried through to our cruising website, as well. While we’ve continued to sell books throughout the year, we scrapped our initial plan for a second edition and generally pulled back from actively participating in discussions.

Having come here today to do some basic maintenance, my intention was to write a post announcing our intentions going forward. That grand announcement in my mind included the eventual shutdown of this site, as well as the termination of any future editions of our book (and the hope of any new books).  However, as I began trudging through the hundreds of SPAM comments that accumulate, I came across something shocking (or didnn’t come across something in this case).  Unlike the barrage of hateful comments and attacks that we had received over the course of many months prior (mostly stemming from our Norwegian Jewel review), the comments were all positive, thanking us for having such great detailed information. Heck, even one commenter came to our defense (in a very objective manner) regarding the aforementioned review.  That is the exact reason we started this project!

Let’s face it, unless you are willing to sell out somewhere, blogging, writing, whatever you want to call it isn’t going to make you rich…or even help you to maintain a livable wage.  That reality sent us seeking alternative means of sustainable income, which in turn limited our time to maintain our websites.  Now, some may take issue with our comment regarding “selling out”, but it is the truth.  Those who would deny it, simply placate themselves to justify their actions.

To illustrate this point, let’s take the following example.  I sat at a conference several years ago where the account manager from Royal Caribbean’s ad agency basically said that you’re not going to get anything for free unless they could be sure that your review would be positive.  When pressed by those who were offended, he relented, suggesting that he would want to talk to you first before you published a negative review.  We all knew what he meant.

I had a later opportunity to call on said individual to request the opportunity to visit Oasis of the Seas upon my return from a PAID voyage on Navigator.  At first, the agency staff was cordial, but by the time it came to board, they had totally dropped the ball.  Bottom line is that we have NEVER let our personal likes or dislikes for a particular travel provider influence our objective reporting.  To the contrary, we’ve read countless “professional” reviews that paint a completely different reality – one that is not based in fact.  I am not saying that all bloggers and writers cave to these pressures, but it is more and more common because their livelihood and perks are tied to those same people and companies that they write about.  I’ve undoubtedly offended some journalists, but I call it like I see it based upon direct experience.

For a while now, that direct experience has been quite elusive to most. Let’s be clear that I am directly involved in the travel industry, on the flip-side of the consumer.  I am frequently responsible for making sure that you get what you pay for.  If my judgment is clouded or I am hard to please, then that is good for you, because you’re assured an awesome experience!  I know and understand both sides of the coin.  I walk the walk and talk the talk.  I’ve dealt with hard to please (and unreasonable) passengers, so I make every effort NOT to be one of those when I travel.  However, the commitment to customer service has fallen so flat that sometimes any basic expectation has a fair chance of being left unfulfilled.  Now, once again, I’m sure I’ve offended someone. However, there ARE some amazing people out there – I know, I work with some of them on a regular basis.  At the same time, I see the other half, as well.

I travel well over 100 days a year, so I deal with hotels, airlines, attractions, restaurants and every other aspect of the travel industry that you can imagine.  When I write, I write using that inside knowledge for the benefit of the consumer.  I intend to continue doing that, although I’m not sure in what format or forum.  A second edition of Cruising With Kids is back on the table, although it may not release until late 2013.  Future books are still on hold.

I’d love to hear from you…what should we do?  Please keep the comments objective! :)

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