Regent the latest to join cruise blogosphere

By Tom Stieghorst

Luxury Goes Exploring BlogRegent Seven Seas Cruises in January debuted its newest marketing tool, a blog called "Luxury Goes Exploring," designed to show readers what Regent's destinations are all about.

"We were looking for a way to create additional touch points, to get a deeper connection with our partners and guests," said Randall Soy, Regent's vice president for marketing.

The blog will work alongside Regent's efforts on Twitter and Facebook but provide some dimensions social media can't.

Regent is one of the last cruise lines to adopt a blog, which has become the industry's new-age communications vehicle on par with a brochure or newsletter that used to arrive by snail mail.

But lines use blogs for different purposes and engineer them in different ways. Some are a direct link to a top cruise executive. Others look to foster interaction with guests. Several cruise lines use blogs to chronicle the introduction of a new ship.

The common thread is that blogs tend to add authenticity to whatever message they convey.

John Heald Blog"People do not trust businesses or marketing. They trust people," said Rich Tucker, a social media strategist at Travel Leaders Leisure Group. "If done well, blogging allows companies to put their people out in front of the brand."

A prime example is the blog written by Carnival Cruise Lines' senior cruise director John Heald, which brims with Heald's irreverent personality. It has attracted more than 15 million page views since its debut in 2007.

Last month, Heald attracted 575 fans to an annual blogging cruise on the Carnival Breeze.

"His blog became so popular that it positioned John as a spokesman for the brand," Tucker said.

Linked By The Sea BlogPrincess Cruises takes a different tack. Every year its blog takes on a new theme. This year's is "Linked by the Sea," which explores personal relationships begun or rekindled at sea. The blog will feature one story a week told by either passengers or a crew member. Past themes have included "50 Essential Experiences" and "Inspired to Cruise."

"We purposely designed our current blog, and the previous two, to be unlike any other in the cruise or travel industry," said Jan Swartz, executive vice president of marketing at Princess. "The aim of the blog is to convey the emotional aspects of how cruising with Princess leads to incredible life experiences and lifelong memories, which are the most cherished things our passengers can take away from their vacation."

Norwegian Breakaway BlogShips can be the focus of a blog, as is the case at Norwegian Cruise Line, which is devoting its blog to the debut of the Norwegian Breakaway in June.

"They tell the stories about their new ships the way they would like the media to do it," Tucker said, noting that Norwegian's blog entries get reused on its Facebook page, which has 400,000 fans.

A recent post at buildingbreakaway.ncl.com displayed the Peter Max hull art for the Breakaway being applied to the ship.

Other blogs try to do more than one thing. In addition to exploring destinations, Regent's "Luxury Goes Exploring" is a vehicle for former Bon Appetit editor Mara Papatheodorou, who will write about the food and dining in popular ports in a feature called "Sip, Savor and Sail."

Royal Caribbean BlogAnother thread, called "Insider," will offer behind-the-scenes views of staff, crew and executives.

"Many of our clients relish and appreciate insider exclusivity," Soy said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s blogs take readers straight to the top. CEO Richard Fain blogged about the introduction of the Oasis of the Seas in his "Chairman's Blog." And Adam Goldstein, the CEO of Royal Caribbean International, continues to write in his "Sea Views" blog.

A few cruise lines don't have a blog, including Disney Cruise Line, where cruise staffers post to the company's Disney Parks site. To fill the gap, Scott Sanders last year created DisneyCruiseLineBlog, an unofficial fan blog that now gets about 30,000 visits a month.

The site includes port guides, photos and a five-day weather forecast for each Disney ship.

Sanders, who has an IT day job in Tampa, runs it as a labor of love with help from his wife and 6-year-old daughter.

"We want to share our experiences with those looking to plan a cruise or are just like us — sitting at home counting down the days until our next cruise."

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 

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