Thursday, October 28, 2010

Travel Reviews: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By the title, you probably are assuming I am going to list some hotels, cruises or some of my other travels as my good, bad or ugly experiences.  But I am not.  This article is strictly for the purpose of addressing reviews themselves....again.

The more popular travel forums and review sites become, the more critical it is for readers to take them with a grain of salt.  Here is why I say that.  Below is an example of how the same cruise experience can be shared on some of these forums by 2 different travelers:

Traveler 1--”This cruise was the absolute worst I have ever been on.  The service was something near what you would get at K-Mart the day after Christmas.  The staff were all ogres.  The food was rancid and sent 95% of the passengers to the infirmary to have their stomachs pumped.  Our stateroom smelled of musty gym socks mixed with a hint of septic system.  The shows were at the pre-school talent level. NEVER take this cruise.  RUN RUN!!”

Traveler 2--”We just got back from our cruise aboard XYZ ship and we had the best time of our lives.  The service was 5 star.  The food was something we would expect to get while visiting the Queen of England.  Our stateroom was superb and even had the faint scent of lilac which added to the ambiance. The entertainment was straight off of Broadway.  Can’t wait to get back on this ship again.”

Now think about those 2 reviews for a moment.  How is it possible for the same ship to get 2 different reviews at such extreme opposite ends of the spectrum?  Well...the truth of how the cruise actually was and actually will be is probably somewhere near the middle as most are.  All trips, hotels, cruises etc have their good and not so good points or maybe I should call them “areas of improvement.”  But what bothers me about reviews is that so many of them are extremes and some take them as the gospel truth and make decisions based on them. 

I recently was reading on a travel forum and someone had posted some negative news and I was shocked to see how many believing that one post and acting as if it were enough for them to make a decision.  NOOO!!  Don’t do that.  Those that write VERY negative reviews are most likely in one of the following categories:

1) An extreme fan of a competing cruise line or company
2) A spoiled traveler who has a very unrealistic view of reality
3) A very unhappy person in general and nothing will make them happy
4) Someone who had a very unfortunate experience that was not typical and resolution was not to their satisfaction

Even if the negative review came from the someone who had a very unfortunate experience, other travelers should give more weight to the overall rating and not base a decision on one person’s skewed perspective.  And trust me...if you see someone who says, ”the food was hideous” on their cruise, they are not someone grounded in reality.  If someone says, “the food was always cold,”  maybe they were eating only on the fruit buffet or maybe they were coming to breakfast at a time when the buffet was about to be changed from breakfast to lunch.  Those are the details that most negative reviewers leave out of their synopsis.

So in reviews with a grain of salt if you read them at all.  Understand that every traveler has their own viewpoint of the level of service they receive and they may not be giving ALL of the story.  The "Good" reviews, in my opinion, are those who offer more than just the good side or the bad side; they will usually give detail about the good and also about why they may view something as not so good.  They are balanced and you can tell that the writer was trying to be objective.  Look for those if you want to get a true picture of how a place or a cruise might be.