I have read the statements from the cruise line and Cruise Critic, and read the interview with Royal Caribbean's Bill Hayden.
In short, Royal Caribbean is accused of contacting active, online-cruise reviewers, getting their contact information from Cruise Critic, and then wooing them and seeking to manipulate their writing in ways subtle and not-so-subtle.
What is blatantly missing in all of this in the aftermath of the disclosures is any admission of wrongdoing on anyone's part, other than Cruise Critic saying that "at this time, we have decided that it is not in Cruise Critic’s best interest going forward to contact members on behalf of Royal Caribbean or any other cruise line."
From my days in dealing in crisis communications as an editor-in-chief of a corporate responsibility magazine, I can tell you that the best approach in these types of situations is to let it all hang out, admit where you screwed up and let us know how you plan to reform your ways in the future.
Has Cruise Critic done such favors for advertisers and major travel companies in the past? Was it pressured to do so by anyone? Was there any internal debate about it? Were any privacy policies violated?
And, will Royal Caribbean end any involvement with the Royal Champions? Does it admit that it was wrong to try to manipulate the social-media airwaves in such a manner?
I say to both companies: We'd respect you a lot more if you if you conduct some internal reviews of your behaviors, publish the results openly, and let us know what steps you are taking to ensure that this kind of thing won't happen again.