Remember that Carnival cruise ship that earlier this year got stranded on the high seas for five days after a fire burst out in the engine? The ship ironically named “Triumph?”
Total disaster, right? No power. Passengers sleeping on the deck because their rooms were suffocatingly hot and reeked of toilet malfunction. Fights breaking out on the buffet line because some passengers were apparently auditioning for “Hoarders – Cruise Ship Edition.”
While all the aggrieved passengers couldn’t wait to abandon ship, you know who would’ve killed to be on that cruise?
Me, me, me.
As a travel writer, stories like this can make your career.
Think about it: anybody (well, almost anybody) can take a cruise where everything goes swimmingly: the ocean is calm, the entertainers entertaining, the food bountiful, the lecturers stimulating, etc. That all sounds good, but you’re left to come up with yet another angle on a voyage that many are familiar with and where very little is left to chance.
But when things break down? Well, let’s put it this way: you didn’t see CNN hyperventilating with around-the-clock coverage of the previous Triumph cruise, the “good” one. No. It took a major malfunction to galvanize CNN into treating the ship like something straight out of “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner,” doomed to forever sail the seven seas with “buffets, buffets everywhere, but not a toilet to flush.”
That cruise embodied my number-one rule of travel writing: The best stories occur when something goes wrong.
Those are the tales you tell your friends, right? The night your two-star hotel was overrun with roaches, the time your passport was pilfered and you were stranded in a foreign land for three days… The Triumph was literally a whole boatload of those stories, combined into one.
If I’d been on that ship, my first call would’ve been to Wolf Blitzer for a spot on TV. After I finished with Wolf (and slipped in my Twitter and blog info), I would’ve spun tales for everything from People Magazine to Maritime Insurance Monthly (a publication I just invented). I would’ve reported on couples whose honeymoon was ruined and others who “made lemonade” and had a fabulous time. I’d interview the crew on how they’re coping behind the scenes, and write something for PR publications about Carnival’s efforts at placating the distressed passengers (something they fell short on, by most accounts). When it comes to story ideas, a calamity opens the floodgates, if you will.
But even if you weren’t “lucky” enough to be stranded on the Triumph, you might be able to catch a wave. Even though incidents like these are extremely rare (that’s why they’re “news”), they make huge and lasting impressions on the public (which is why we over-estimate the chances of being attacked by a shark by, oh, a billion percent). Carnival (and its competitors) needs to convince folks that cruises are happy and safe places. Travel-writers like you raving about your voyage are better than any TV commercials. I’d venture that bookings are down now, so giving you a trip costs them very little, especially compared to the hoped-for boost you’ll provide. It might be a propitious time to contact their marketing departments. Landing a press trip now could be surprisingly smooth sailing. Bon voyage.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]