Cruising ads: Shading the truth

We got a slick mailer yesterday from Celebrity Cruises. What I say below isn’t an attack on Celebrity Cruises; while their ships carry many more people than we’re used to, we continue to consider trying them out on a San Francisco/Mexico roundtrip (because it’s so convenient)–and they have a good reputation within their general category.

The mailer itself is a little more questionable.

The first inside page has this line in a pseudo-handwriting typeface: “Best Premium Cruise Line”–Conde Nast Travele Readers’ Choice Awards 2004. That’s an interesting combination of fact and interpretation:

Celebrity ranked third among large-ship cruise lines, substantially behind the top two:
1. Crystal 94.6
2. Radisson Seven Seas 94.0
3. Celebrity 85.8
and that 85.8 would rank it seventh in a ranking that ignores ship size (Radisson, uniquely, has both small and large ships, but not for long)

How can they make the claim? Because of that word “Premium”: Crystal and Radisson Seven Seas, two of our very favorite cruise lines, are classifed as “Luxury” lines. “Premium” is a huge step down; Princess and Holland America are other “Premium” lines.

Technically, they’re misquoting Conde Nast Traveler; realistically, to most new cruisers, they’re at best misleading, since most people probably assume “Premium” is top of the line. It’s not.

I’ll buy “Aspiring to offer the finest shipboard dining in the world”…after all, aspirations are good things.

Yes, Celebrity gets high rankings for food within its category, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Celebrity’s food is better than Crystal or Radisson Seven Seas or Seabourn or Silversea (or, for that matter, Windstar). Oceania is actually claiming to serve the best food at sea; we haven’t tried them, so we can’t absolutely deny the claim… (There’s a claim that a Cruise Week magazine survey ranked Celebrity #1 for best cuisine; in fact, Cruise Week is a two-page weekly industry newsletter–at $125 a year, we don’t subscribe!–and that means the “survey” is of travel agents. Most travel agents sell mostly mainstream cruises; of the mainstream cruise lines, I don’t doubt Celebrity’s food is best.)

Then the brochure flat-out lies:
“With one staff member to every two guests, Celebrity has the highest staff-to-guest ratio on the sea.”

That’s just wrong, without the unstated qualifier “among cruise lines that we choose to compare ourselves to.” Crystal runs roughly one staff member to every 1.6 guests. Radisson Silver Seas is about the same. So is Windstar. Silversea and Seabourn are even lower, I believe.

The last statement, unqualified as it is, is simply false advertising. Not that Crystal, RSSC, Windstar, Silversea, or Seabourn is likely to sue: They don’t compete directly with Celebrity. (Well, Windstar and Seabourn both compete indirectly, since both are part of Carnival, which also runs the “premium” lines Holland America and Princess.)

As for me: Well, we’re still considering Celebrity, but misleading and false advertising rarely makes me want to run out and buy a product.

4 Responses to “Cruising ads: Shading the truth”

  1. David says:

    You know, the headline “Cruising ads” makes me think of the back pages of the local free urban weekly.

  2. beatrice says:

    do you have any information of the cruise line silversea, when i did a search this page came up but it doesnt talk about that line?

  3. walt says:

    I’m astonished that doesn’t come up when you do that search; it certainly does for me. Since we’ve never cruised on Silversea, I don’t have any info on them. The official site should.

  4. walt says:

    A note for anyone who might have encountered a comment that was briefly here:

    It was deleted because it was posted as a personal comment, but the web page was that of a travel agency or similar commercial travel operation. (That’s enough to either delete it or report it as spam.)

    Commercial messages are simply not allowed here (well, except as Google ads from which, in three or four years, I might or might not see a little revenue). Period.