Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Triumph for Alabama Cruise Terminal at Mobile: A Cruise Hoax

It's no secret that many people in and around Mobile, Alabama would like to see their cruise business grow. Since 2004, when Carnival Cruise Lines based the 1,452-passenger Holiday there, authorities have been scouting the cruise lines for a second ship, or at least a larger and newer one from Carnival.

So, it comes as no surprise that a press release announcing the homeporting of Carnival's 2,758-passenger Triumph in Mobile was enough to cause a stir in that genteel southern city. The only problem was, it was a hoax perpetrated by a Cruise Critic message board post, and a rather believeable one at that. After all, didn't Carnival recently announce a significant increase in capacity for Jacksonville's cruise operations? Therefore, a similar move would not be unheard of for Mobile.

Word about the press release quickly spread and when an alert reporter from the Mobile Press-Register investigated, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told her, "We do see erroneous reports and rumors on message boards ... But this is not anything that I've ever seen before. This is the first time I can remember somebody doing this positioned as a press release." The Press-Register also reported that when the faux release appeared, bearing the date Aug. 24, Guilliksen said calls came quickly into Carnival headquarters. He checked out the web site, and then he called Cruise Critic to request that it be removed.

Why would the cruise line have to take such action? And how could this happen? Apparently, even Cruise Critic staff members didn't initially question the "press release" authenticity, if they even noticed it. Like other Internet sites, Cruise Critic operates message boards moderated by volunteers, who are enthusiastic, but with little insight into the cruise industry. However, management appears to recognize that misinformation, disguised as pranks, spreads like wildfire through their message boards. As stated by the editor of Cruise Critic, "There are people who like to make mischief."

Sadly, it's more than mischief when unsuspecting readers are duped. As I said in the Aug. 4th blog, "you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper (unless it's in the comics section)." That also applies to message boards online, even one that boasts to be on "the most influential cruise site on the Web." Word to the wise: use them for fun, but don't depend on them for accuracy.

No comments: