Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers

This was a historic week in the world of cruising.  

Congress passed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which will help make cruising safer for U.S. families.  Cruise lines will be required to install peepholes in cabin doors, maintain anti-retroviral medications and rape kits for victims, improve crime evidence handling procedures and - for the first time in the history of the cruise industry - report crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  

Travel Writers - Cruise - EthicsCongress also passed the "SPILL Act" (H.R. 5503) which removes the limitation of liability  for shipping companies, and amends the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit families to recover compensation when they lose a loved one on the high seas - whether it is on a drilling rig or a cruise ship.  In so doing, Congress finally repealed an archaic and wicked law that has inflicted additional pain on cruise victims for the past ninety years.  

These pieces of legislation are the results of the dedication and hard work of families of U.S. citizens killed in international waters, including members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV).  The ICV is a grass roots, non-profit organization comprised entirely of volunteers who have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship or lost a loved one during a cruise.

These two new laws are truly historic. But you would never know it by reading the hundreds of cruise websites and travel-writer blogs.    

There are literally thousands of travel agents and travel writers who I follow daily on Twitter.  But not one blogger mentioned either one of these new bills.

The problem is that many of the travel writers and most of the cruise bloggers are shills for the cruise industry.  They sell cruises or advertise cruise banners on their web sites.  Many cruise lines invite them on all-expense-paid cruises in exchange for favorable cruise reviews.

The exception is Arthur Frommer, of the famous Frommer's Travel Guides, and his daughter Pauline Frommer who covers travel stories in her blog "Daily Briefings."  Ms. Frommer covered the cruise safety law in an article entitled In the Wee Hours This Morning, Cruising Just Got a Heckuva Lot Safer.  Mr. Frommer re-printed his daughter's article, and added a few personal comments, in A Cruise Line Safety Act Has Quietly Passed the House of Representatives.      

The Frommers explain the key provisions of the new law and recognize the remarkable efforts of the ICV over the past five years. 

Mr. Frommer acknowledges that "even the travel trade press has failed to take more than the barest notice of proposed legislation in Congress that would require the cruise lines to tighten up safety . . . "

The new maritime laws were passed only after years of resistance and millions of dollars of lobbying by the cruise industry's trade organization - the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) - which is comprised of 16,000 travel agents.  CLIA has a cozy relationship with many travel writers who choose not to offend the CLIA cruise lines by writing anything negative about the foreign flagged cruise industry.  We have touched upon this subject in Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

CLIA unsuccessfully worked behind the scenes lobbying against the SPILL Act in an effort to deny the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from receiving compensation - a disgusting spectacle we reported on in Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories.

But it is refreshing to see travel writers with integrity and ethics like Mr. Frommer and Ms. Frommer write about the cruise safety law which will protect the cruising public.   

July 7, 200 Update:

TNOOZ (Talking Trave Tech) has an interesting blog about my blog: "Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines?"  A number of travel writers are commenting.

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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Colleen Gillette - July 4, 2010 3:59 PM

I'm not convinced you proved your statement "So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories." Who are "the CLIA cruise bloggers", for example? I read a fair number of blogs and travel industry trade news and have no idea who you are writing about.

Delane - July 6, 2010 9:44 AM

A lot of people who blog and write about cruising have to kowtow to the cruise industry Colleen. They need access, they want free cruises, so they don't cover negative information like this. I know who these bloggers are (most of the cruise specialists). Simply go to their blogs and you'll see that none ever write anything that's less than positive. It's not real journalism, its simply marketing in disguise.

James Crossland - July 12, 2010 6:22 AM

Hi Jim, I've just been introduced to your blog and I'm finding it really interesting. I'll admit upfront that I'm a travel agent, but writing from the UK I'm not really sure what a shill is. From your tone I'm assuming it's not good. I thought you might be interested that I also covered the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, on my own, still fairly new blog, under the assumption that honesty is always the best policy. I'm really enjoying your blog so far, keep up the good work.

JIm Walker - July 12, 2010 8:16 AM

Hi James, thanks for your interest.

Travel agents are the backbone of the cruise industry. I have many friends in the industry. The good travel agents keep their clients educated regarding the risks involved in choosing this particular vacation.

A "shill" is "a person who is paid to help another person or organization to sell goods or services. The shill pretends to have no association with the seller/group and gives onlookers the impression that he or she is an enthusiastic customer. The person or group that hires the shill is using crowd psychology, to encourage other onlookers or audience members (who are unaware of the set-up) to purchase said goods or services . . . The term plant is also used." (Wikipedia)

My story was not necessarily about "shills" as much as what I saw as the indifference of many travel writers and most cruise bloggers about the issue of crime on cruise ships. In the process, several cruise writers were offended - mostly the shills.

For a good example of a cruise shill, consider reading an article in the Consumerist: "Royal Caribbean Caught Infiltrating Review Sites With Viral Marketing Team." http://bit.ly/a6mpyx

Thanks again for your comment.

Jim Walker

Randy Sharman - August 7, 2010 11:50 PM

Dear Jim,

Not all travel writers/bloggers or travel radio show hosts have ignored this issue. I invite you to view the link below. It's a blog I wrote the week I had Ken Carver on the program to talk about this bill.

http://www.am770chqr.com/Blog/InformedTraveller/BlogEntry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10038027

I agree many so called travel writers are more promoters than actual journalists. But not all of us.

Cheers,
Randy Sharman

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