If there's one thing the cruise industry has worked hard to overcome in recent years, it is the perception in some corners that hitting the high seas is largely the purview of old folks. Look at the ads produced by any of the major lines, and you'll see pretty young people -- nary a wrinkle in sight -- dancing the night away after a long day of racing down zip lines and being served cocktails made by robots. Like every other industry on the planet, they're looking to hook customers while they're young instead of waiting for them to "age into" cruising.
Attracting Younger Cruisers
So when Tech Crunch reported that a site called Cruise.Me was not only aimed at attracting the computer-savvy younger traveler but developing a website that would be easy to navigate, we knew we had to check it out. In order to do so, we picked a specific ship and port with which we were pretty familiar and attempted to book a sailing. For our experiment, we went with a Norwegian cruise out of New York City.
So how did the site do?
The very first screen one comes upon at Cruise.me is a blue map encouraging one to "explore your world," with various locations highlighted and prices quoted. Our first instinct was to assume that, for example, you clicked on the Caribbean if that was where you wanted to go. However, it turns out that the location you pick actually represents the port out of which you'll be sailing. So after clicking United States and then New York City, we used the filters to narrow our search to a cruise lasting "about 7 days" on Norwegian Cruise Line.
Having an upcoming trip booked on NCL's Breakaway, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out if perhaps there had been a price drop. And this was where we first encountered what would prove to be a recurring problem: missing or downright inaccurate information. In this case, the site indicated that the only NCL ship sailing out of New York City was the Gem.
Despite making several adjustments to the filtering system, we never were able to get the site to provide information on the Breakaway, so we opted to try and book passage on the Gem. It's here that we noticed the next oddity, and that is in the way the cruises are listed. Rather than saying, for example, that a sailing is "7 Days, New England, Round Trip" (as indicated on the cruise line's site), Cruise.me lists it as "7 Nights New York To Newport," which would seem to indicate that Newport is the ship's final destination. Only lower on the listing does it indicate that the disembarkation port is, in fact, New York.
The site also had a fair amount of misinformation about the Gem herself. For example, under "Bars and Clubs," it lists Star Bar as a popular venue... despite the fact that it no longer exists aboard the Gem. This would not be quite so troubling were it not for the fact that Cruise.me only just launched and therefore should, one would assume, have up-to-date information. But the biggest concern we had came when we went to book a cabin and were left to ask...
Where are the special offers?
When booking a room on Norwegian's site, after selecting a cabin, one is presented with the currently available special offers. (Free drinks? Yes, please!) This option is not, however, presented on Cruise.Me at any point during the booking process. The cabin selection process isn't particularly streamlined either, as one is asked to select a deck and then a cabin... only to find out said cabin is already booked. Sometimes, the site would then list what cabins were available on the selected deck, but not always.