If you think you’re the only person in your circle of friends who has not been on a cruise, think again. According to Cruiseline.com founder, Faraz Qureshi, “In North America, 85% of people have never been on a cruise.” Qureshi gets that statistic from the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA).
The fact that only 1 in 5 people in the U.S. and Canada have ever taken a cruise is one of the leading reasons Qureshi created Cruiseline.com in the first place.
Cruising Is Complicated
Qureshi says there are three primary reasons people hesitate to book a cruise. First, he says, it’s a very complicated purchase. “You are buying your hotel, dining and transportation to multiple destinations – all in one package.”
To make matters worse, once you are on board the ship, you’re stuck – even if the experience is not to your liking. It is, after all, a long swim back to shore and barring a medical emergency, helicopter evacuation isn’t likely to happen.
Even when the decision to book a cruise is made, the average person visits 15 to 20 websites. That takes a lot of time and creates even more confusion. Since most people have never been on a cruise, they have no idea what to expect. They don’t know what constitutes good accommodations or a great cruising experience. Before you can properly book a cruise, a lot of education has to happen, according to Qureshi.
How Cruiseline.com Helps
Qureshi says Cruiseline.com is designed to de-mystify the process of finding a cruise. “Whether you’re interested in finding the right cruise line, destination or ship, we will provide you with unbiased opinions from fellow cruisers to help you make your decision,” he says. Moreover, Cruiseline.com provides a social platform for cruisers to ask and to answer questions and even get to know each other before their upcoming cruise.
According to Qureshi, Cruiseline.com was built to be a reviews site for cruises. “We wanted it to be Trip Advisor for cruises,” he says. “We invite people to leave reviews. Currently we have more than 115,000 reviews.” Most reviews (75%) are verified. Cruiseline.com contacts travel agencies to make sure the reviewer actually went on the cruise.
Another way Cruiseline.com helps is by inviting members to post photos of their trip. “We invite people to leave lots of photos of everything,” he said. “Their cabin, the ship, dining areas, destinations and so forth. These are not marketing photos. They’re iPhone photos. Some are blurry but all are real.”
Using The Site
People who use the site tend to follow certain patterns. Many type in the name of a cruise line followed by a ship name. Then, typically, they go to the photos section to see what a typical cruise on that ship looks like. After photos, most people look at reviews. They often start with 5-star reviews and then check out 1-star reviews to see what problems people had.
Qureshi emphasizes the fact that the vast majority of reviews are verified. “We made vetting of reviews the #1 reason for people to come to our website,” he says. In fact, verified reviews appear first along with the most recent ones.
Finally, people use the site for education. “We have lots of articles,” he says, “because education is so important. People want to know, ‘Can I bring beer or wine on my cruise?’ ‘Is this ship really family friendly?’ Questions like that.”
Cruiseline.com Can Save You Money
When you buy an airline ticket and the price changes, you don’t have much recourse. Cruises, Qureshi says, are different. Cruises want you to book early but if the price drops you can usually get credit or a refund. “Rules can be a little murky,” he says, “but you should always ask.” Knowing about the price change is where Cruiseline.com’s price alert comes in. Even if you have already booked your cruise, you will still get the alert and can contact your travel agent or the cruise line to seek a refund.
It’s worth noting that Cruiseline.com is not a travel agent. It’s a combination search engine, reviews and educational site. According to Qureshi, “We tell you where we saw the price, what cruise line, what travel agency and so forth. You contact travel agent or cruise line to book and/or to request a refund or credit.”
All of this costs you nothing. Cruiseline.com is completely free. This includes the entire website, access to price alerts, all photos and reviews and use of the Cruiseline.com app.
About That App
“We have a mobile app called ShipMate,” Qureshi says. “It’s available for Android and for Apple. ShipMate is for people who have already booked a cruise and provides a countdown clock.”
According to Qureshi, ShipMate is also a social app. Many people use the app to meet each other before their cruise. You can see who else is signed up on your cruise, plan scuba charters or plan to get together socially on board the cruise ship.
How Cruiseline.com Started
Qureshi grew up in Miami, ground zero for cruises. Although he often went on cruises while in college, once he got away from Florida he realized most people knew almost nothing about the cruise industry.
While working in financial services and insurance, Qureshi began looking for an opportunity that involved the cruise business. Since he had a tech background his idea was to build a site that married content with technology to create a reviews and search website. “It wasn’t a premeditated plan,” he says, “but so far, so good.”
Moving forward Cruiseline.com wants to continually refine the search process. “We want it to be super-fast and easy to use,” he says. “Like Kayak. We are going to refine it probably 10 times this year.”
Another planned area of improvement involves getting more detailed on reviews. Upcoming features will include the ability for reviewers to post reviews about specific venues on a ship, specific restaurants, theatre, ropes course, spa and so forth.
Whatever happens there are no plans to charge for the service. “I believe this information should be free and available to everybody,” Qureshi says. “If you sign up as a member, you get better access but it does not cost you anything. Membership is free. Period.”