Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run

Cruise lines which are in touch with their market understand the need to be versed with all aspects of Social Media 2.0.  Twitter, FaceBook, Flickr, and YouTube all present an inexpensive and highly effective way to get a company's message out to the public.  This is particularly important in times of crisis management, such when a fire breaks out or a bout of swine flu is running its course on a cruise ship.

Most cruise lines remain clueless.  Royal Caribbean, for example, has a Twitter page @royalcaribbean, but it has not been updated since June 19th.  The only tweet says: "Look for updates here soon!" - that was over three months ago. It resembles an abandoned store front.  

Other cruise lines which are using Twitter or FaceBook are not maximizing the potential offered by social media applications.  Companies like NCL  @NCLFreestyle have pleasant enough websites and utilize Twitter but are mostly just trying to push ticket sales.  Recent tweets by NCL: "hottest new cruise," cruises for "$249," etc.  You get the idea.

The problem with these tweets is that they flaunt the etiquette which has developed on Twitter.  Effective "twitterers" understand that hard sale tactics don't work.  In fact, they turn potential customers off.  But interacting with the public, and providing accurate and relevant information via a conversation, works.  You could imagine how ineffective and counter productive it would be if I took NCL's approach on Twitter - "hottest new lawyer," lawsuits for "$249," etc.  A bad idea.

Princess Cruises - What's Social Media?

When things go wrong at sea, the public deserves to receive accurate information, fast. And Twitter is the best way to do just that. 

When the Princess cruise ship "Royal Princess" caught fire on June 18th, the cruise line didn't release any information to the public.  But a passenger, a Pastor from South Carolina,  @gregsurratt tweeted about the fire from his iphone on the cruise ship.  He indicated that the fire was bigger than expected, that the cruise ship was dark, and that a tug had to tow the ship back to port in Egypt.  Frantic families in the U.S. had to rely on Pastor Surratt for information about their loved ones. He even tweeted photos of the fire, the passengers sprawling out on the deck in the dark, and the tug via "Twitpic" - an application which permits photos to be uploaded onto Twitter. 

When the cruise line finally awoke and posted its typical less-than-forthcoming corporate press statement, no one was paying attention to Princess Cruises.  Everyone was listening to Pastor Surratt tweeting away on the cruise ship in the Mediterranean.  Most troubling was that the press releases finally issued from Princess Cruises' corporate offices in Santa Clarita down-played the incident and provided incomplete and misleading information. 

Princess Cruises not only lost an opportunity to interact with the public via Twitter, but it lost credibility in the process.    

Twitter and YouTube - Effective PR Tools - P & O Cruises Gets An "A" 

Princess Cruises' sister brand P & O Cruises knows what it is doing in the world of social media.  P & O Cruises has had more than its fair share of bad things happen on its cruise ships.  It is best known for the tragic death of Dianne Brimble, who died due to a toxic mix of alcohol and a date rape drug several years ago.  The brand was known for heavy drinking, out of control parties and general debauchery.

But in the last two years, the cruise line has turned its image around.  The PR people at this cruise line rebulit P & O's reputation.  Social media played a big part.

For example, last May when the Pacific Dawn was sailing with passengers and crew infected with H1N1 swine flu, the news media in Australia went nuts. Front page news articles labeled the cruise ship the "swine ship."   

P & O went on the offensive. CEO Ann Sherry began giving short statements on the cruise line's blog.  The cruise line's website contains links to its Twitter and FaceBook pages as well as to "ship blogs" including the Pacific Dawn.  The cruise line knew how to upload videos of cruise activities to its ship blogs as part of its general marketing. It now had the experience to use this media to deal with this crisis. 

Ms. Sherry appeared on the scene, wearing a very smart red dress, and looked directly into the camera. She provided information about sick passengers and what the company was doing to address the issue. The cruise line used its Twitter page @POCruises to provide additional updates and links to the video.  It even uploaded a photo via "Twitpic" of Ms. Sherry, standing in the rain surrounded by reporters, while the beleaguered cruise ship with its sick passengers arrived at port. 

When the flu passed its course, the next ship blog, entitled "Clean Ship," showed photos of the Captain and crew having fun in the disco, smiling and laughing.  The message to the public was quite effective - everything is fine, come on aboard.

In the past several months, P & O Cruises continues to use social media effectively.  Ms, Sherry still appears regularly on YouTube videos, talking about the presence of surveillance cameras on the cruise ships, responsible drinking programs, and "customer care" teams.

it is nice to see a cruise line connecting with the public in this manner.     

 

 

Photo credits  

Photo no. 1 of Ann Sherry - Zimbio - "P & O Cruises Holds Swine Flu Conference" (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Other photographs and video - P & O Cruises

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Ryan - September 30, 2009 10:20 AM

Great post Jim. Couldn't have said it better on my website:)

Janet Huggard - September 30, 2009 11:26 AM

As I remember the P&O fiasco seen as pimping out their female passengers, with the "Seamen Wanted" promotional postcard, depicting a deck full of women wearing bikinis, accompanied by a tagline, "More girls, more sun, more fun. There's nothing else a guy needs to know.", the year after Dianne Brimble died aboard P&O Pacific Sky, MAYBE P&O actually learned something from that major public relations blunder.

Tim - October 2, 2009 6:00 PM

Yes but they totally ignore existing maritime social media powerhouses like Maritime Executive and gCaptain, to focus on their own thing. They really need to widen their focus.

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