Let The Buyer Beware. Yes, the Romans got that one right.
We did some research because of an anonymous comment, probably automated, to our earlier post about the Cruise Critic gathering on the Regatta cruise.
It seems RCCL marketing contacted Cruise Critic, obtained from them the contacts of "enthusiastic" RCCL cruisers" and offered some of them "pre-inaugural cruises" "so that they can provide their independent opinions in the online spaces they are participating in..." This story was brought to light by a columnist for MSNBC earlier in March.
We frequently consult CC and recommend it to others. At the least, it's a reminder to always consider the source, as this CC thread comment from the RCCL associate vice-president of marketing reveals:
We engaged a company called Nielsen Buzz Metrics to go out and, using a general profile (with criteria that, as already noted, included being passionate about cruising in general), but that also included experienced Royal Caribbean travelers, and, in general, people who were helpful in sharing online their experiences, insights and advice with fellow passengers. Nielsen Buzz Metrics came back with a list. The list was not limited to Cruise Critic by any stretch; it included folks who post frequently in other communities and who write blogs. We didn’t pick Cruise Critic -- the data showed us where to go. Other sites included TripAdvisor and various Usenet boards.
What we did then with the various communities was, in respect for peoples’ privacy, ask community managers if they’d mind asking the posters and bloggers that were discovered by Nielsen Buzz Metrics if we could contact them.
In summary, if you read to the end of the heated and now-locked thread, RCCL's statement reads in part:
Royal Champions are a small group of passionate travel enthusiasts and prolific individuals, who were identified by an independent third party on behalf of Royal Caribbean International, as frequently engaging in online discussions and sharing information about cruising on the internet. With the proliferation of online social networks, blogs and discussion boards on the internet – many of which serve as forums where vacationers visit consistently in search for travel information and advice – Royal Caribbean decided to engage these enthusiasts knowing that they would be a valuable source of information for our current and prospective customers. Thus in early 2007, in keeping with our legacy of innovation, we initiated a program in which the Royal Champions were invited to learn more about our brand, our ships and our amenities.
We have provided the Royal Champions with the opportunity to experience our product during pre-inaugural sailings so that they can provide their independent opinions in the online spaces they are participating in.
The Cruise Critic official statement reads, in part:
At this time, we have decided that it is not in Cruise Critic’s best interest going forward to contact members on behalf of Royal Caribbean or any other cruise line.
Maybe CC has learned their lesson here. In the meantime, it's still Caveat Emptor! N.B. As Fredd, we've posted this also in the FlyerTalk Cruise Forum as a public service.