Time for cruise to chart new media waters?

MYLES STEDMAN gives his full and frank opinion of the latest mainstream media efforts to denigrate the cruise sector.

THE welcome return of cruise ships to the oceans has also sadly seen the sector reprising its role as one of the most controversial segments of the tourism industry – supposedly.

I’ve been lucky enough to already board a number of ships – some for a week, and some for a day – and have already been told of stories of the mainstream media ambushing passengers disembarking a vessel, foaming at the mouth for the gory details of what went down on the high seas.

On most occasions these journalists go home with a dictaphone which will repeat only stories of unbridled enthusiasm from passengers who couldn’t wait to cruise again, and on many occasions, have already booked their next voyage.

With a chasm of bad news cruise stories as wide as Sydney Heads, the broadcast media is once again reshowing reels of some of the cruise sector’s worst moments of the past 100 years – “violent crime, pollution, and now a COVID crisis” – as Nine’s Under Investigation sells it.

This week’s episode of the national investigation program – which as I understand it, has been postponed several times – attempts to understand whether or not the industry “has learnt from its past lessons”.

Nine, and some other legacy news outlets in Australia and around the world, have certainly themselves learnt from the past – that hanging out cruise’s dirty laundry will pack the stands with those who have sworn against ever boarding a ship.

Unfortunately, it seems cruise is slightly slower to learn that no matter how many times its hand is bitten by the mainstream media, some networks and their associated publishing assets remain one of the choice avenues to spruik its product.

Granted, I’ve been told from some members of the sector of deep discontentment with this latest round of Nine’s muckraking– dissatisfaction which may hopefully precipitate proper action taken by cruise.

What do I mean by proper action?

Cruise perhaps being circumspect about where it directs those big marketing dollars – so it’s not competing for the travelling public’s attention in the commercial breaks between Nine lifting its hind leg on the sector, discrediting all the hard work it has done over the past 20 years.

Free-to-air television may present an impressive battleground of nightly eyeballs, but my guess is the cut-through is not quite there when the program they’re watching (or the channel’s own promos) is attempting to convince them cruise is systematically violating the Geneva Conventions.

While there are plenty of lines out there marketing their product in exciting and innovative ways, there is still an industrial-sized conveyer belt of cruise’s money funnelling into advertising channels which have proved they are not supportive of the sector. Nobody wants a whitewash, but a bit of balance and fairness from mainstream media would go a long way, rather than the hatchet jobs some segments appear to be undertaking.

Cruise has so many fantastic stories to tell – new ships hitting the water monthly, the sector consistently giving back to the destinations it visits, and innovative technologies precipitating industry-wide decarbonisation.

That is, of course, in addition to shipload after shipload of holidays had and memories made, all thanks to cruise.

Many of those stories are not reaching the public – perhaps because some of the media groups that cruise has consistently relied upon to get the word out, would rather tempt their viewers’ morbid curiosity with events from years past.

It’s time for the cruise sector to take it on itself to make sure its brilliant stories are being heard by travellers, and it appears some sectors of the mainstream media are not going to help do that; not now, and probably not ever.

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