It's not secret that the Internet is a great source of information for travelers, and cruise passengers consistently turn to Cruise Critic, an informative and extensive site dedicated solely to cruising. Since its initial launch as part of America Online in 1995, Cruise Critic has become one of the Internet's foremost sources of cruise reviews, industry news, ship information, destination profiles, and interactive passenger feedback. With more than 160,000 registered members, prospective passengers are sure to find someone to correspond with about their cruising experience, whether they're a first-time passenger, a cruise veteran, or interested in a unique port or themed cruise.
LoveToKnow Cruises was privileged to speak with Carolyn Spencer Brown, the site's editor. Carolyn has been with Cruise Critic for six years, having first been their original news columnist before being promoted to editor, and she's provided superb insight into what makes the site such a phenomenal success and a great resource for the cruising community.
Cruise Critic as Online Resource
LoveToKnow Cruises asked Carolyn about the history of Cruise Critic, why it is a valuable resource for passengers, and what may be coming up in the site's future.
LoveToKnow (LTK): What is Cruise Critic's ultimate purpose?
Cruise Critic (CC): It's to provide a community for travelers in which to stay informed on cruise topics, research trips, and share insights and experiences.
LTK: Why should cruise passengers interact online?
CC: It's so important! First, cruising is such a unique type of travel. People really become engaged with the ships they love, the lines they love. And they want to share what they know. Ultimately what's most important is that cruisers become better informed, make better vacation choices and have fun in the process.
LTK: How many visitors does the site have each month?
CC: Figures are jumping off the roof at this point! We average about 23 million page views per month. We have grown steadily since Kathleen Tucker launched the site but 2005/2006 has been a watershed where we've jumped something like 70 percent.
Popular Cruise Critic Features
LTK: What is the most frequently visited part of the website?
CC: Definitely our boards, where readers can interact with each other. Also popular are our ship reviews and our news column. We also have a lot on the site that appeals to family and gay travelers, along with first-time cruisers.
LTK: What features does Cruise Critic offer visitors?
CC: Beyond the aforementioned, there are feature stories - written by experienced travel journalists - on just about any topic you could imagine, from gambling to spas and from restaurants to eco-cruising. We are definitely expanding cover for "styles of cruising" - whether you're a senior, a solo traveler, romance, holiday, world cruising - it's a big undertaking to provide the basics (ship reviews and such) and then reach out to individual styles of cruising and provide more specifics.
LTK: Are there plans for expansion in the near future?
CC: We're always growing and changing - keep an eye on our home page. For the first time in five years it's undergoing a major redesign and will be unveiled in January. It's going to fabulous. We're constantly changing but we've definitely become more interactive - via polls and reader-inspired features. We'll continue to head in that direction.
LTK: What do you think is the most valuable service the site provides?
CC: Information. Ultimately, we've done a good job if we've provided enough information - whether through our stories and reviews or interaction within our community - to give readers the "tools" they need to pick the right cruise vacation for them. There are so many ships and so many styles - and vacation time is such a premium - we want folks to make the right choice and have the best times of their lives.
LTK: How many cruises have you taken, and which line has been your favorite?
CC: I think I lost count at 100. I have different favorites - based on different parameters. In the big ship category, I've loved Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas (my first Baltic cruise, great tablemates), and its Jewel of the Seas (just a beautiful ship and lovely service). I just returned from an Eastern Caribbean / Bermuda voyage on Crown Princess and loved it - the ship is beautiful, dining and service were outstanding.
Probably the two most fun cruises I've done were with my husband (so more romantic); we loved SeaDream - just an awesome, high end but low key cruise, with outstanding food, service and a gorgeous small ship. And we sailed on the German Europa - considered the highest rated ship in the world - around the Middle East and it was an unforgettable experience.
Thank You Cruise Critic!
LoveToKnow Cruises would like to thank Carolyn Spencer Brown for her time and insight about Cruise Critic and its superb resources. For more information, visit www.cruisecritic.com.
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