The importance of community in cruising: Cruise Critic meet-up on Nieuw Amsterdam
MrGrumps, MouseJive and StoryGirl were still to arrive. I had seen MissDoug, Panda56 and I was sure that I recognised Dave9087 from his online avatar across the room. As the noise level was starting to get fierce a small group of people huddled ever closer to RoadKing71 to try and hear what he was saying about their planned trip to Naples above the chatter.
A horse voiced Chelly, who is Carol from New Mexico, kept trying to be heard above the excited babble. Finally she broke through and a blanket of quiet descended across the room. “Welcome to the Cruise Critic meet-up, and thanks for coming” she announced. Applause cascaded around the busy room.
Carol is much smaller than I had imagined her from her interactions on the Cruise Critic boards. For some reason her online energy made me think she would be really tall. In person she is small, feisty, energetic and exudes positive enthusiasm. It was thanks to her that around one hundred passengers on board Holland America’s Niew Amsterdam are meeting up after months of chatting online about our shared adventure in the Mediterranean. She was the person that had set up the “Roll Call” for this cruise and been instrumental in building a list of the names of people interested in meeting up and co-ordinating us getting together. She even had prepared name badges with our Cruise Critic community board names, real names and where we were from.
By the time we set sail the “Roll Call” she had set up had consisted of over 45 pages of interactions, discussions, and advice about cruising on Holland America, how to get the best flight deals to Barcelona, getting to the ship and tours.
Carol is a solo traveller who started cruising on 2000 after using Cruise Critic to give her the confidence to try out cruising. She was encouraged by the friendly support and encouragement she got from the community. While Cruise Critic has plenty of advice and tips about cruising as well as reviews from passengers about ships, the most powerful aspect of the site are the community boards. They are what I first used back in 2004 when I started cruising. The community has incredible knowledge and are eager to share and help anyone on any aspect of the cruising. They also provide a way to ensure there are people you can connect with and meet on the ship.
She found that the community gave her the support and confidence to set on a ship for the first time. Through the contacts she now makes before a cruise she meets people to link up with on board. Many have become long standing friends.
An increasing number of cruise lines including Holland America actively embrace the Cruise Critic community and set-up a location with refreshments for the informal get togethers. They provide a chance early in the cruise to meet in person people with shared interests that you got to know online in the run up to your sailing.
At this event I managed to ask Sam (RoadKing71) about the tours I had heard him talking to the other passengers about. He told me that he has been on over 26 cruises, mostly on Celebrity and Holland America, and he uses the community “Roll Call” to help people to join together to take private tours in some of the ports like Rome and Naples. With his insights and experiences of visiting many of the ports multiple times he is able to help scope out what they should do and places to visit.
The Cruise Critic “Roll Calls” and meet and greet meet-ups are a valuable way to find out invaluable advice and tips from seasoned cruisers and also help connect passengers with similar interests. They also mean you have a friendly face to chat with and join for drinks, dinner or tours.
Declaration: I travelled as a guest of Holland America on the Nieuw Amsterdam on a 7-night “Mediterranean Adventure”. All opinions expressed are my own. For more on my experiences visit Tips for Travellers on Holland America.