Friday, 4 November 2011

British Travel Awards? Baseless Travel Awards, More Like

The British Travel Awards were announced this week, with the usual cruise section being among the many categories to be honoured.

Great, I thought, another chance for the cruise industry to spread its message and for some worthy winners to be acknowledged. And, sure enough, there were FOUR wins for P&O Cruises, one for Cunard (as Cruise Line of the Year), and one each for Voyages of Discovery, Viking River Cruises and Thomson Cruises (the latter for Best Cruise Holiday Retailer; but, er, Thomson Cruises only sell Thomson Cruises).

Having started off fairly enthusiastic about the whole idea, I started to look a bit closer. And then the whole premise totally fell apart. The British Travel Awards? The Baseless Travel Awards would be a better title.

Irrespective of the fact that all the winners were mostly just the BIGGEST operator in their category (while Voyages of Discovery, as good as they are as a 'niche' Cruise Line, were actually one of the sponsors of the awards. Like, they weren't going to get an award?).

You can almost make out an argument for Cunard as Cruise Line of the Year; after all, they have all of three ships, so they just about constitute a fleet. They also sail to large parts of the world. Almost 50% of their passengers are British, so they just about qualify there, too. But when the likes of Disney, Seabourn, Oceania, Carnival, Costa and Celebrity have all debuted brand new ships (whole new designs for Disney and Oceania in particular), and Celebrity have been universally lauded for the continued development of their Solstice-class vessels, you have to think Cunard might struggle realistically to figure in the top three. Heck, I doubt if they would be in the top 10 for most cruise aficianados.

I could almost be happy with P&O as Mainstream Cruise Line of the Year, if the likes of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and NCL hadn't offered newer and more innovative ships and onboard features this year. Oh wait; Royal Caribbean did actually place second in this category. But then Thomson Cruises (another mass-market operator) came in third. Ahead of NCL and Celebrity; and Holland America, Costa, MSC Cruises, Princess, Oceania and Fred Olsen, too, all of whom would have a greater claim here.

P&O also claimed Best Family Line, which is a worthy award as they do provide great kids' facilities and activity programmes. But Disney are pretty darn spectacular, as are NCL, Carnival, Celebrity and Princess, but none of them even merited a mention (although Thomson - again - did get third place. Thomson - for a family cruise line? Give me a break. Oh, hang on - they were another one of the sponsors, too).

But it was P&O as 'Best Luxury Cruise Line' that really set me off. Luxury cruise line? What, better than Seabourn or Silversea; or Regent or Crystal? Better than Oceania or SeaDream, Azamara or Windstar? I would consider all of Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, NCL, Cunard AND Star Clippers in in any debate about 'luxury line.' Hell's teeth, P&O might struggle to make the top 20!

Does anyone at the British Travel Awards even know what 'luxury' actually means? But then when Titan Travel gets third place in the Best River Cruise Line, you know these awards truly are utterly pointless, an exercise only in acknowledging the big players (and, presumably, getting a lot of money out of them for attending and promotion).

Memo to British Travel Awards: Titan Travel, while they are an excellent tour operator, are not a 'line' of any kind. They have zero ships and only a small river-cruise portfolio (compared to any one of 20 genuine river-cruise lines). It really boggles the mind that anyone swallows this preposterous tosh.

And, if I can debunk the Cruise awards this easily, what credibility do ANY of the BTA's highly-touted honours have? They have 11 different sections and multiple winners in most of them.

So, if anyone actually points out these awards to you and says "They must be good, they are Best Small Niche Tour Operator Mainstream Cruise Line Provider Of The year," you can yawn and say, "Yes, and I'm up for a Nobel Peace prize, too."