Analysis: Cruise sites show major usability flaws

whatusersdo logoTravolution asked whatusersdo to record users’ sessions on three major cruise sites. Here’s what the consultancy found

User experience service whatusersdo asked potential cruisers to look at three cruise booking websites –, and – and captured the results on video.

Below, whatusersdo consultant Kathryn McDonnell analyses the rather alarming findings.

First Impressions

Users found the homepage cluttered and somewhat unprofessional.




The destination drop-down is randomly ordered, making choosing a location a challenge. As menus are not dynamically linked there are many potential combinations that would result in a zero result set.

Repeated searches generate an astounding error message: “ You have looked at cruise prices 5 times in the past 14 days. To access ALL prices, enter your email address and we will send you a verification email”.

As understandable as it is to try and prevent automated searches spoiling your site, it is not the best idea to make it the customer’s problem.

Booking is the only one of the three reviewed sites that enables users to book online – though only on certain offers, with others requiring a phone call.

First impressions

 While first impressions are more positive than those made by, they are not overwhelmingly positive.



Users appreciated the destination map, but other elements proved difficult to use.  Price filters and more granular destination options on results pages would be useful. Large areas of navigation at the top of the list take the user to other deals and away from the search in hand.

Itinerary pages didn’t carry enough detail for some users, and cabin and price information was also lacking. The explanation of ‘Rockstar Service’ was also confusing. 


Booking leads users to believe that they can book, but the cruise search in this test led to a telephone number.

First impressions

The site was described as clean and clear.


Searches were easy to perform, but there was no destination map or other suggestion mechanism, which led one use to think that the site was “aimed at people who know what they’re after”. Multiple departure ports and cruise line options would improve search filters.

This site also suffers from a severe lack of product information, such as itinerary details, cabin occupancy and food options.


One user said, “I wouldn’t spend £5000 not knowing where I was going….that’s just a non-starter.”

Honest ship descriptions – some were described as being “dated” in terms of décor – made users trust the site more. Although the site included explanations of cabin types, users complained that the accompanying images were poor.


Like, the site leads users to believe they can book online. That is not the case. It would be better to set users’ expectations at the beginning of the journey.


These sites could be doing much more to attract and retain custom.  They don’t support good research – particularly problematic for first-time cruisers – and in most cases don’t allow users to book online. There is also a lack of product detail and overuse of cruise lingo.

Fortunately these basic problems are easily fixed, and doing so would pay for itself many times over.

About whatusersdo

whatusersdo is a revolutionary user experience service that remotely records real people using websites in their natural surroundings. The service can test almost any aspect of a website, application or online marketing and find out how to improve the user experience, increase conversion rates and achieve better results.

Kathryn McDonnell works as a consultant for whatusersdo, providing expert usability reviews for clients, usability testing consultancy and contributes to their site review blogs.

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