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A personal take on cruise and travel industry awards

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the cruise and travel industry’s “best” rewards touted by various organizations have become pretty worthless. There are so many of these erstwhile plaudits floating around, frequently praising different operators for the same “bests,” that it is virtually impossible for the average traveler to figure out which companies really excel in one category or another.  

Why? First, all such awards are highly subjective, simply depending upon who is doing the voting, so those with different standards or objectives are sure to arrive at different conclusions than we would have. There are also distinct possibilities that ever-present but “under the radar” considerations of a political nature or of advertising revenues have paid a role in selecting ‘winners,’ or the ballot box has simply been ‘stuffed’ by those standing to gain in one way or another from anointing their favorites as the ‘best.’

I still remember when TWA received a nationally-promoted award for ‘best service,’ when virtually everyone in my home city of St. Louis, where TWA was the primary air carrier, knew that their service was just this side of awful. My guess was that ‘stuffing’ the ballot box was the last ditch effort of TWA’s employees to keep their jobs.

This summer I am volunteering at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, a unit of our National Park Service that ABC’s “Good Morning America” apparently lauded as the most beautiful place in the country a couple of years ago. Yes, this is indeed a very beautiful park, and well worth a visit, but to call it the most beautiful is absolutely ludicrous.

A couple of months back I received a press release from a river cruise operation that touted itself as “award-winning,” a company with which my personal experiences have been substantially less than satisfactory. When some organization actually insures that the voting for its awards have been conducted in a manner that is statistically significant, I might actually take some stock in the results, but I’m not holding my breath.

Please be assured, however, that I not only believe that there are a lot of good, well-run companies to chose from in the marketplace, but also that some of them like Crystal Cruises and Tauck, to name just two worthy examples, surely do deserve the highest accolades. Nevertheless, there are just too many industry awards out there that are apparently based more on fluff than substance. So be sure and find un-biased reviews of a cruise company before believing everything you read.