Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Been reading all about Citizen Marketers, Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing - and I've been wondering: what brand/product/company am I so passionate about that I go out of my way to promote? I looked over a previous post in which I listed a bunch of brands in my life and see only one that's turned me into a blathering WOMM -bat.

As in Atlantis Events.

Some background. For years, friends would go to Provincetown and return with suitcases full of good things to say about the destination at the end of Cape Cod, almost likening it to a gay Disneyland. Friendly people, tons of guys, a whole different world, lots of fun. And so, a couple of years ago, I went there. It was quaint. I bought some clothes. The beach was huge. The Boatslip made these awesome Planter's Punches with 151 poured down the straw - you got blitzed just holding the cup. I ran into a board member from work. Somewhat inebriated, I chatted with John Waters. And I had... just an ok time. We had two days of cold rain. All the bars had cover charges. They closed at 2am. The people? Just kind of friendly.

Last year, I went on my first Atlantis cruise. The Eastern Caribbean, in January. Two nights out, I start throwing up. I collapse. My cabin mate somehow gets me to the infirmary. The doctor sticks IVs in my arms. I'm yelling because I'm in so much pain. Drugs drip in, along with saline. It hurts. I spend the night down there, on deck one, drifting in and out of lucidity. Blanketed, shivering, I pass out into very strange dreams. And it didn't stop there - diagnosed with a stomach virus and severe dehydration, I'm quarantined for three days. I wasn't until the day quarantine lifted that I started feeling better.

I flew home afterward and immediately signed up for the same cruise, scheduled to depart a year later. Then I signed up for another Atlantis cruise, to the Mediterranean.


Part of me was thinking "I'm getting it right this time." But I also responded to what I was able to enjoy on that unfortunate maiden voyage. Incredible weather. Ports sailing past my balcony. Room service - for free. Even if it was soup and crackers for a couple of days. Tons of friendly guys. And two sets of committed staff (Atlantis and Royal Caribbean) determined to make me feel welcome and eager for me to have fun. Oh, and the infirmary staff was awesome too. One of the nurses was so excited when I was able to get off the boat in Labadee.

Now I've been on three, with the second light years beyond the first and the third even better. But I not only signed up for more cruises - I talked friends into going.

I'll admit to feeling a bit ridiculous, marketing Atlantis cruises like an unpaid ambassador. And here I go, doing it again. Of course, the whole experience isn't all THAT perfect. Meeting a ton of people, one is sure to meet some absolute jerks. But I've only really met one, and I can't blame the companies on that. And while there are all ages and kinds of guys on the boat, the high percentage of stunning hunks can make one feel somewhat inadequate. But Atlantis takes care to address some of these issues on their Web site, and sends out a top ten list of ways to get the most out of the experience. My favorite: "Smile. Say hi to everyone. Be friendly. Go ahead, talk to that cutie who you think would never give you the time of day. You may be pleasantly surprised!"

Maybe it's unfair to compare two radically different vacations. On one, the accomodations stay still, on the other, they move. Or maybe not, considering that neither was a monetary bargain. Sure, there was a ton of acceptance in P-Town - how could there not be, with Commercial Street crawling with us? But on the cruise, I felt as if the world were gay. I've talked up the awesome times I've had with just about anyone who would listen, and I'm wondering how the hell am I going to cope with only one sailing in 2007.

There is one problem, though, that the Atlantis Web site doesn't do a great job of addressing: at the end of the cruise, you have to go home.

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