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August 13, 2008

When Blogging & Reviewing Can Get You Banned from a Cruise Line

By Li Evans

Biggest WhinerHave you ever been on a cruise where someone complains about every little thing?  Maybe the ice cubes aren't cold enough?  They didn't like the free gift they got each night, or maybe those towels weren't properly folded into a perfect swan?  Maybe the captain's bow tie wasn't tied right at dinner?

In search, we all know the power of the written word.  As bloggers we know the value and the impact a review can have.  Just look at how tech companies bow at Michael Arrington's feet to have him review their products, services or websites for TechCrunch, as an example.  TechCrunch's opinion can make or break a website or service.

But what about those customers who never seem happy, never easy to please, and always seem to complain just to get the next freebie, percentage off or deep discounted vacation?  What about those customers who always use the written review as a "weapon"?  Do business have the right to fight back?  Can they?  How in the world do you fight back from a customer who seems like a "troll", who's word jeopardizes your business?

Understand I'm not talking about legitimate complaints, like your installer throwing a cement brick on your car, while trying to hook a cable to the roof of your house, or a maybe a caterer ruined your special event.  I'm talking about the constant complainer, who time and time again goes back on cruise after cruise and lodges complaint after complaint, just to get freebies and special deals.

ComplainingWhether right or wrong, a company can do something about it. Especially when the complainer leaves a trail a mile wide of destruction, posting on sites like Cruise Critic.  When other cruisers see these types of complaints, or even start to talk in forums like... "anybody remember that whiner XXX"... and then links to their reviews, the business owner can see a pattern and can make a decision such as Royal Caribbean did.

After years of catering to Cleveland couple, Brenda and Gerald Moran, and seemingly bowing to their every complaint (some were legitimate like the smell of raw sewage on their Alaskan cruise) as well as trying to keep them as "happy" Diamond Club cruisers, it seem Royal Caribbean has had enough.  Seeing scathing review after scathing review about their cruise line made by Brenda on CruiseCritic.com, doesn't seem to be the only thing that got their attention.  Apparently Brenda has complained a lot about not just Royal Caribbean but Princess, and Carnival cruise lines, too.

So what did Royal Caribbean do?

Royal Caribbean banned the couple from setting foot on any of their ships or their subsidiaries' ships (Celebrity and Azamara) ever again.  Did Royal Caribbean do the right thing?  I guess it's a matter of opinion.  ExpertCruiser gives you the impression that they didn't, but taking a look across different forums who were chattering about this, it looks like they did.  After seeing complaints from Brenda online, people were contacting RC complaining about RC catering to her and her husband, who they felt were just trying to "bilk" the system so to speak.

This is what RC had to say (emphasis mine):

"On all but one of those sailings the Morans felt there were a variety of service failures they experienced," Michael Sheehan, a VP at Royal Caribbean, tells the Associated Press. "In a small number of cases we agreed and compensated them appropriately. In most cases, however, we disagreed. Having concluded that we are unable to meet the expectations of the Morans, we have told them that they would be best served by sailing with another company."

Notice here, he doesn't say they complained too much, as ExpertCruiser implies.  Mr. Sheehan says "we are unable to meet their expectations". People in social communities are smart, too.  Just take a look around and you can see, the community itself sensed the "troll" like actions, and went to RC themselves.

One of the most important things to remember about social media - it's a community effort.  Lone, always complaining voices, tend to be outed for trolls.  Sometimes even the community will stand up for a brand, company or service.  Social media is about being social - its not just about "me" or "I".

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On all but one of those sailings the Morans felt there were a variety of service failures they experienced," Michael Sheehan, a VP at Royal Caribbean, tells the Associated Press. "In a small number of cases we agreed and compensated them appropriately. In most cases, however, we disagreed.

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