Identifying Cruising's Latest Trends

What makes Cruise Critic the go-to source for more than 6 million people looking to research and plan their next cruise?

As one of the first travel websites, Cruise Critic has been helping travelers plan incredible cruises since 1995. What’s truly special about the site is that it was formed as a forum for passionate cruise travelers to connect with one another – it wasn’t until years later that the editorial arm of the site was introduced. And the community voices are still an incredibly important part of the site. The success of the site is in the symbiotic relationship between the real voices of the six million travelers who come to Cruise Critic each month, paired with the real voices of our editorial team who cover the industry inside and out. We provide an enormous breadth of information, helping newbies understand cruising and feel prepared for their first cruises; and veterans can find the latest news from their favorite lines – and help others plan their cruises. The site’s been a trusted voice for the cruise community for the past 23 years, and it’s exciting to see the evolution of Cruise Critic and its audience as the cruise industry continues to grow and evolve.

Here at Seatrade Cruise Global we understand how important community is in the cruising industry. Cruise Critic has been able to create a forum for people to post questions, share insights with other cruisers, and share their love of cruising. How did you build this community and what makes cruisers continue to come back to it?

Community is incredibly important to the industry, and we’re very proud that our site helps to propel those voices. Cruise Critic’s history is interesting, in that the site was created as a spin-off of a different site. Its sister-site, IndependentTraveler.com, started as the ‘Travel Channel’ on AOL – back when AOL channels existed – and served as a place for travelers to interact with other like-minded explorers. The site’s creator, Kathleen Tucker, quickly recognized the passion of cruisers and saw a need for a dedicated place for that group to connect with one another. It was then that Cruise Critic was born.

Our community team works tirelessly to ensure our Cruise Critic forums remain a trusted place for cruisers to come and chat, and also a place to visit and tap into the immense wealth of knowledge that our members hold. Ask any question on the boards, and there’s a great chance that it will be answered quickly (and by many). There are members on our boards who have been with the site since its inception – we’ve seen marriages and life-long friendships come from time spent on Cruise Critic. Some of the stories really are incredible. I’m one of those lucky members who have made fantastic friendships and met travel buddies for life on the forums (prior to working for the site!). For so many of our members, Cruise Critic isn’t just a place to come to plan a cruise, but it’s family.

How does Cruise Critic identify the hottest trends - both today and in the future?

Cruise Critic has a team of in-house cruise writers and editors who cover the industry comprehensively day in and day out – big announcements or small, we’re always on the case. So part of our trend identification comes from the expertise we’ve gained through our editorial coverage and first-hand travels over the years.

But a lot of our trends are also flagged from what we hear from members – opinions that they share on our forums, experiences that they rate and general interest in topics across the website as a whole.

It’s important for cruise lines to be in touch with what their passengers want. What sort of insights can cruise professional gain from Cruise Critic given that your brand is consumer facing?

If you’re looking for a pulse on cruise travelers, Cruise Critic is certainly a great place to start. We have a community of very passionate cruisers who don’t hesitate to share their opinions and experiences. We’ve had news stories actually break on our forums, because our members are so in-tune with the industry.

 It’s easy to read the reviews and opinions of our members and spot trends – places where cruise lines excel and areas where some improvement might be needed. We regularly hear from cruise line executives that they use the site as a place to find real, unfiltered feedback from guests. Some lines have even made policy changes as a result of what Cruise Critic members shared – which, when you think about it, is really incredible. And it’s why the industry is so revered for its exceptional service. Lines truly care what its guests have to say. Enough so, that they’re keeping a close eye on discussions being held on Cruise Critic, and making business decisions based on their learnings.

What are some of the innovations and trends that are making you most excited to cruise?

It’s exciting to see the continued advances in technology in the cruise industry. Cruise lines are really paying attention to the pain points passengers identify – long embarkation processes or inability to stay in touch with home, for example – and looking for creative ways via technology to solve for them. Internet is faster and cheaper than ever; facial recognition and wearable RFID technology is a reality; and cruise ship apps are improving the onboard experience.  

We’re also loving the dedication cruise lines are showing to the ports they visit. Cruise ships are staying in port longer, overnighting in big cities and visiting ports at the time of day they’re jamming. There’s a renewed effort to create interesting and unusual shore excursion offerings – especially those that cater to smaller groups. Cruise passengers have a chance to connect to locals in a meaningful way, and it’s exciting to see this evolution.

With the ever-evolving experiences onboard and offshore, what do you think some the future of cruising is going to look like?

The possibilities really are endless. If you were to ask this question to me a decade ago, I can tell you I wouldn’t have answered that the future would hold robot bartenders and a roving deck that travels along the exterior of a ship. But that’s what’s so exciting about covering cruise – we’re part of one of the most innovative travel industries out there. The unknown is really what makes me most excited – there’s no telling what cruise lines come up with next.

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