I have been a member here for a couple of years. I am more of a lurker than a poster. Probably not nearly as skilled as some of you and have gotten great assistance here from people all over the world.

I have a website for my Tour Company and had banner advertisements running on cruise critic. There are two tour guides in Acapulco that have teamed up with a master web master. He has such a reach that I can not get close to understanding how he is is able to spoof posts on the Cruise Critic forum. He runs a company called Creativa Studio in Acapulco but seems to also be heavily connected in Canada. Running whois queries on him he has thousands of websites and domains. He is putting me out of business.

I was spending $500 a month on banners and no one was clicking, the moderators of Cruise Critic were deleting all of my clients posts in the Mexican Riviera forum even though I am a paid client. But with impunity they allow two other tour operators to post all the fake garbage they want to and their threads are loaded with one post wonders. Cruise Critic turns a blind eye and a deaf ear.

I need help. And I do not even know what kind of help I need. I know my website could use a fresher look, I like it but it is lacking.

I need someone or some people with the knowledge and ability to help me fight back against this other very well established and apparently well connected webmaster. He is doing some black hat stuff that is beyond my expertise.

I can't pay. He has waged a silent war on me that has devastated my bank account $500 at a pop.

If you can assist me in any way please contact me directly.

[email snipped]

I know this is an odd request but I need experts and this is what Daniweb is - Experts.

If my tour company does not do business soon I am going to go under.


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All 16 Replies

Your problems are due to playing the game by other people's rules. You've emptied your purse to them and now have nothing left in your budget to fight properly?

Seems like it's already "Game Over"!

There's not much you can do about other peoples' websites, whether they plot directly against you or allow others to.

You need two things -

1] An effective website with great aesthetics; great marketing and great seo.
2] An effective web-marketing plan that utilizes existing blogs, forums, newsgroups, legit ppc like AdWords and social marketing sites.

Neither of the above is a "do it and forget it" task. These must be ongoing and done by people with the proper skills.

If you don't have these skills and you have no money left to hire them, then it is "game over".

- Hank Castello, CompuSolver.com & Web-Professor.com

No I am not out of the game yet. But it takes a lot of selling to account for $500 a month in banner advertising. I am pretty sure their web developer is using Elite Proxies or has his own C-class ip's.

I do have good aesthetics on my site and relevant content. I like the way it looks anyway. I have done a lot of work on it and it has been a work in progress for about 3 years. I have a good payment system, good videos, graphics. All the good stuff is there and it is original. And from a service stand point we have been serving Acapulco tourists for about 3 years and have had many happy clients. Bus Loads.

Times are tough all over the globe. I am not a rich man. You are right I could use some SEO help and if there is anyone that can volunteer some time and expertise to help me get on track that would be very cool.

I am also using Google ad words as you suggest and analytics. Through my protests Cruise Critic has locked down the board and are moderating posts. That will help.

I really enjoy working on my site and would love to have other enthusiasts involved in it's evolution. There are many open source projects on the Internet - Why can't a website be one as well?

I could really use help with the SMF forum on my site for someone who is really familiar with it.

Load times for pages on my site can be a little slow - I am using PNG and transparencies. Good look but larger files.

It is not game over - that is why I am here. But I have more on my plate than I can accomplish in good time by myself.

I really enjoy working on my site and would love to have other enthusiasts involved in it's evolution. There are many open source projects on the Internet - Why can't a website be one as well?

I think it's quite unrealistic to expect unpaid volunteers to assist in a commercial (i.e.: for profit) website.

However, if you do find a way to make that happen, if you could bottle it, you'd have a more profitable business than a travel company! :D

I think it's quite unrealistic to expect unpaid volunteers to assist in a commercial (i.e.: for profit) website.

However, if you do find a way to make that happen, if you could bottle it, you'd have a more profitable business than a travel company! :D

I have had people from all over the world involved in the site in the beginning and they were from Daniweb. Not everyone expects compensation for helping others in a time of need. And through this site I have made friends from Greece, Portugal, Germany and India.

So my site is for profit, but that does not negate the fact that we are a very small operation in a poor country. I can't afford a team of developers.

Hi Kevin - thanks for posting and keep on staying positive. There is always room for competition and seeing as you already have a foot hole in the industry, it sounds like you can still turn things around.

Have you thought about submitting your local business info to various business directories like yelp, yellowpages, local.yahoo.com, google maps - or mexican specific business directories with similar offerings? You can setup some basic business profile pages in most of these directories for free. There are also some cost effective, paid listing options where you get a link to your site and some other good features that will help promotion your biz. Either way (free or paid) - creating these profile pages allows for more exposure and "inroads" to your business. It will get your phone # and address out there - which will help drive more referrals.

You can also consider advertising in places other than Cruise Critic. There has to be other places to effectively market and brand your business. At the very least, look for more ways to maximize Google AdWords. Only bid on highly targeted keyword phrases. Another good tip is to bid on common misspellings of "Acapulco." Misspelled keywords are comparatively Much cheaper to bid on. Also think about Geo-targeting your ads to a specific audience. For example, if you know that you typically only get visitors from a certain region of the world - perhaps you would only want to market to that area or surrounding area.

In looking for more user generated content - perhaps you can engage your previous customers via email newsletter... bring them up to speed on any discount offerings or the current topic of discussion in a forum of choice. Just be sure to give them an opt-out option.

That's all i got for now but please feel free to dig in, poke holes in my suggestions, and bring up any other questions or concerns. Im happy to help!

This is the dilemma I am faced with.

Until recently Cruise Critic was a free for all spam board for the Mexican Riviera. While my banner was running at $500 a month they were allowing local guides to spam every thread on the Mexican Riviera Forum that pertained to Acapulco. Actually 2 other guides. But it was almost every post made.

I sent an Email to the Acapulco Port Manager and he said it is their Webmaster posting the fake advertisements.

Now the Cruise Critic board is locked down and the messages are screened. But the moderators make sure 1 post a day is allowed to be posted for one tour guide to keep her on the first page.

I believe the Cruise Critic moderators and the webmaster for my competition are in league with each other. It sure appears that way.

Take a look at this thread and tell me what you think :

Like the post made today which is the last post. Why would a person ask a question like this and not ask the tour guide instead?

My opinion is this: It is just a way to keep her on the first page.

If people are discussing your competitors, then you are advertising in the right place, no?? I mean - you want to get in front of your target audience, right? What better place than where your competitors are being discussed? Right there; front and center is YOUR BUSINESS - the alternative for what is being discussed. You're telling me you were not successful in running those banner ads? If not, perhaps a change to the ad message or call to action is in need, because that sounds like prime real estate.

Ultimately, keep in mind that Anyone can post Anything in a discussion forum. As an Advertiser, you can't control what is being discussed. Only the Moderators can (like you said). But the Moderators of Cruise Critic are not going to stop people from discussing your competitors, just because you are advertising with them. That destroys the overall concept of "open discussion" and "community." For example, if DaniWeb were to ban all discussion of Apple just because Microsoft is an advertiser, the Apple lovers would feel neglected and eventually abandon DaniWeb. This would bring down the overall traffic and value of DaniWeb. More people would leave, prompting the advertisers to leave and all of a sudden DaniWeb is kaput.

I believe the Cruise Critic moderators and the webmaster for my competition are in league with each other. It sure appears that way.

Take a look at this thread and tell me what you think :

Like the post made today which is the last post. Why would a person ask a question like this and not ask the tour guide instead?

I don't know.. sounds a little paranoid to me (and i know a lot about 420 paranoia). :) Seriously though.. the person who wrote that has more than 1,000 posts under her belt and is probably genuinely looking for an answer. Either way - you can't control this.. and if the moderators at this site are in cahoots with the webmaster of your competitor - then there is really nothing you can do but take your forum contributions and advertising dollars elsewhere.

- OR -

As a user and participant of the forums, have you thought about implementing similar tactics. Not paying off the Moderators (although that might be what's going on), but attempting to seed genuine discussions about *your business? If you have the time and dedication, you *can* on occasion steer forum discussions in your favor. Get people talking about your product or service without blatantly spamming the forums.

My opinion is this: It is just a way to keep her on the first page.

I assume by 'first page' you mean bumped to the top of the 'Mexican Riviera' sub-forum?? If so - then yes - a new post will bump the thread back up to the top (or first page). But again, Whether this is done purposely or not is beyond your control. Besides with a little tact and timing, you should be able to do the same for your business.

I know I sound paranoid in this topic. I considered that. That is why I wrote the port manager. His reply to me:

Regarding your question, it’s very simple, to insure a steady flow of cruise guests you need a face, Rudy and Rosie are people with a great PR Their web master has arranged many accounts at CC asking for recommendations and suddenly someone out of nowhere recommends them (same guy), but at the same time, there are others that have already taken tours with them.


The above is his email to me. And my clients have made comments and CC deleted them!!!

So something is not right. And yes I have been in IT for many years. I have considered my options. But I do not want to play by their fake post rules. I want to keep it real.

CC is the great barrier. If you are not with CC you are not doing the Cruise Business and in Acapulco Cruise Clients are everything.

1000 posts means nothing. If a webmaster has been doing this game for several years then 1000 posts is just what it is.

Thanks for putting it into perspective and sorry to hear you are having a rough go at it. Based on your accounts, it *does sound like CC is playing favorites. Meanwhile you were one of their advertisers! You would think they would show a little professional courtesy!

It could very well be that the owner or moderator is in business with Bonnie and Clyde.. errr.. Rudy and Rosie.. or perhaps Rudy and Rosie are bribing the forum moderators to keep their stuff heavily talked about and their competitors buried. Either way you are obviously in a tough spot. You can try complaining to the person above the port manager (if you haven't done so already) but if you do, go in armed with some evidence. Take screenshots of genuine posts by your clients that were deleted and present them to a manager or exec over at CC.

Otherwise, i guess your stuck playing their game but that might not be so difficult. Maybe i'm just oblivious but you can play the role of having "great public relations." You can do some actual Press Releases on the cheap. Maybe announce that you are giving away a free cruise - or you gave away a free cruise and throw in a quote from one of you friends about how great it was. Stir the pot a little. Make some waves in the industry. Do stuff to help increase public perception (on the web). No reason you can't also setup a bunch of CC accounts like Ruddy and Rosie did and contribute as "other members." If they flag your IP.. you can hide behind a public IP. Sure its unethical but if those are the rules of the game - it's sink or swim.

I'm also intrigued about how you said it's CC or bust. There are no other competitive Cruise forums out there?? What about CruiseReviews? Even if they aren't as competitive, you might still want to set up camp with one of these other guys. But before you do, make sure they are nicely ranked and indexed by the major search engines. If they are, and appear to have some potential... Start contributing to the forums and strive to become a valued/featured poster. Get in good with the mods over there (or work to become a mod yourself). Even if you don't make it to mod or 'featured' just help build up the community for the Mexican Riviera section. In time, this could work out very well for your business and besides, CC shouldn't have a monopoly on the cruise reviews. If they are.. i smell a new business venture. :)

Instead of paying all that money to that site you could have taken that money and created your own review site and hired a writer or two to load it up with fake reviews including awesome reviews for your site and mediocre reviews for your competitors.


Actually I am no Nubie. I know how it all works. That is the reason I chose daniweb to launch my complaint. This site is in heavy syndication with various search engines. I knew it would be noticed.

So I guess your point is to fight fire with fire.

Well I did and am keeping it honest. I have no desire to lie to the public and play the crooked game by Cruise Critic's don't ask don't tell policy.

Almost immediately after my first post that had my Email address I was contacted by a pretty elite group of web professionals that don't like Cruise Critic very much. One other person that contacted me is an attorney and he too has a group looking into my allegations.

Cruise Critic knows they are under scrutiny right now and this is the very reason they have their boards on lock down.

Cruise Critic has a long list of deceptive practices from seeding their Roll Calls with Cruise Line chat people that do not tell you they are with the cruise lines all the way to saying they don't sell Cruises when they clearly do. Subsrcibe and they will spam you to death.

You don't just start a chat board and compete with Cruise Critic, they were bought by Expedia who is now under endictment in NY for slamming people with other bogus services. They hooked up with an advertising company that charges your credit card after you purchace from Expedias website - you don't even give the bogus company your Credit Card number, Expedia does.

These people are Internet Organized Crime.

I tell you right now, the network teams these companies have working for them don't just get fooled by tricky anything. They knew exactly what they were doing when they did it. Not one person on this board will deny that fact. Oops we were all tricked by a several billion dollar internet advertising scheme that we profited from heavily.

But this isn't the first time for Expedia. They love a good trick. And CC is just as corrupt as it's leaders. I even think there is a bible quote about that one.

And even if I have zero credibility in the cyber world I have more than them because I read it in the news.

I would not doubt for a second that moderators on CC are just oozing with PayPal accounts.


More Citation:

And on Cruise Critic:

Moderators on Cruise Critic are chosen because they have been good Cheerleaders with several thousand posts about specific destinations.

Why were they cheerleaders in the first place? Because they have an agenda. Under the cloak and dagger they are arranging Cruise Ship tours and getting heavy Kick Backs from the Tour Operators in the ports. At the same time they are heavily promoting certain Cruise Lines.

Imagine getting 150 people to sign up for a Cruise Line at $300 - $1500 each. The Cruise Line is very happy.

Now you are working with Tour Operators in the Ports of call. You approach the Tour Operator via Email and say I am a group leader for 150 people arriving on a cruise ship to your port. What kind of deal can you give us?

The tour operator naturally offers incentives such as 10 - 15% of the financial take. Do the math. 150 clients at $80 each is $12,000 dollars us. 15% is $1800 US !!!! Now do that with multiple ports of call and you are eating Caviar.

The Host for the Mexican Riviera forum that my very expensive banner ads were running on is selling Cruises for Carnival Cruise lines which just happens to have many ships arriving at my port of call.

Cruzin' With The Crazies is what he calls it.

You may need to create an account on Cruise Critic to view the above search. If you have issues go to the Mexican Riviera forum and select HOSTMACH at the bottom of the forum and list all of his posts. 250 Posts are listed 100% Selling Carnival for the Mexican Riviera.

"100% Biased crap by real and fake cruisers many with a hidden agendas including our moderators"

That should be the Tag line for Cruise Critic.

Thanks for bringing this issue to light. I have also heard other types of complaints about the cruise industry before.

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