With a little encouragement from friends smarter than me, I've decided to pour some time into CruiseSheet and try to make it into an awesome cruising resource and a real business.
I think that cruises are the best value in travel, bar none, and are seriously underutilized by many people who could easily afford them, backpackers and independent workers especially. Right now all cruise sites are hard to navigate, hard to search, and geared only towards older people. I want to make something that's easy to use, makes it simple to find amazing cruise deals, and appeals to all ages.
If you haven't seen CruiseSheet in a while, a lot has changed. The biggest new feature is an amazing customized newsletter. Put your email and home port in, and you'll get a weekly update on the best deals in your city, your region, and all over the world. (Popup box for the newsletter shows up after 30 seconds)
I get a lot of newsletters, most of which I didn't intend to sign up for, and most of them are an imposition. If you're interested in cruising, this is going to be a newsletter that you look forward to receiving every week. So far we've sent out about 5000, and the response has been very positive.
You may also notice that there's a lot more information available on CruiseSheet. You can see the star rating of each ship as well as every port it visits on the cruise. If you click the ship name, line name, or the to or from port, you can filter results by the item you clicked.
There's a lot more coming up, too. I've worked really hard on cleaning up the data (you'd be surprised how many different ways different cruise lines spell "Barcelona"), so soon I'll be able to do some really neat things.
I'm also including taxes in price listings now. As far as I can tell, CruiseSheet is the only site to do that. I was really shocked at how much this shuffled the order of best deals. Some of the cheapest cruises had really high taxes, bringing slightly more expensive cruises with low taxes to the top.
There's also a contest coming up to win any cruise you want for two, up to $5000. If you win, you could easily travel for over a month on a 4.5 star cruise with a friend. I'll probably announce it here, but if you want to make sure you get it, you should sign up for the newsletter.
On my last cruise I met a reader and his girlfriend. They said that since they heard about cruises from my blog, they've been on eight! Just a testament to how awesome cruises are. Maybe I'll see you out there on the high seas someday, too.
Photo is looking over the edge of the last ship I was on, the Holland America Ryndam.
I'm also starting a CruiseSheet twitter. Not much there now, but I'm setting up a bunch of cool stuff for it.
I like cruses but they do little good for the single traveler. I was between jobs last year and there was a great 17 day Panama Canal cruise that was cheap. Everyone else was working so nobody could go . The cruise ship would not arrange a share and I didn't want to pay double because then it was no longer cheap. If you can match single travelers up, I think you have a good business. Who do you do all your cruises with? Maybe a Forum on blog with a section on travel where like minded people could meet would be a great option.
Warning! Starting a new business on a whim because of "friends smarter than me" portends a business with a similar fate to SETT. Where is the marketplace validation? Are you solving a problem people want solved? What is the pain point for customers right now? Have you talked to any potential customers to validate your assumptions? What evidence do you have that this is a problem worth solving? How are your potential clients getting by now without your product in existence? You should stop what you're doing right now and read Eric Ries "Lean Startup" book and/or Steve Blank's "The Startup Owner's Manual."
Luckily Tynan isn't trapped into a world where making money is the sole goal. It's a byproduct. If this is something he enjoys, and benefits himself and others, great.
Do I think he'll be able to monetize it? Absolutely. Does that need to be his #1 concern, the way it would for many people? Nope. He's designed his life to not have to think of money as his number one priority, something more people should strive for.
(That being said, those are good book recommendations, and he should consider all your questions. But it shouldn't necessarily drive his decision making.)
He need not have making money be his sole goal. Perhaps he just wants thrilled customers? If so, doing marketplace validation and identifying a problem solution fit would be beneficial. I see him diving in to a new project headfirst based on untested assumptions.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Time is a scarce, finite result that has alternate uses. Is this the highest and best use of his time? Will this leverage him to get him where he wants to go? He spent years on SETT when he could've spent a few months testing his assumptions to find out that the pain of switching blog platforms made clients unwilling to even consider SETT. See his blog post where he says how SETT failed: http://tynan.com/settfailed
It is easy to believe fully that he'll be able to monetize this new product when you have zero "skin in the game". Neither your money nor your time is on the line. What have you got to lose if he spins his wheels for years creating a product in a vacuum and unveils it to the world and everybody yawns and shrugs?
I think of this as "lonely inventor syndrome"... like how inventors tinker endlessly in a garage devising solutions to problems that may or may not exist... Tynan is feverishly working-- pounding a keyboard to create this new site. At least doing a little homework up front could stack the odds of success in his favor.
Again, I have no skin in the game either... but I'm far more skeptical because he seems to be following the same pattern as before. The Y-Combinator guys rejected him for SETT and they're quite successful and he never used that feedback to evaluate his assumptions on whether to continue or to pivot.
The main takeaway here is that products shouldn't be developed in isolation. They should be developed with direct feedback from the target market.
Tynan reminds me of a chef who will have customers walk into his restaurant and he races into the kitchen to start preparing a meal that he KNOWS "each one of them will love". He cooks the meal and works his ass off to make it as delicious as possible. Then he serves it to his customers and they start gagging and spitting it out and walk out of the restaurant unhappy. Tynan is puzzled because he worked so hard to create what he thought was the perfect meal. The problem is that Tynan isn't always his own customer.
What would be a smarter approach if Tynan were a chef? How about going to the table to ask people what they want cooked? Ask them perhaps how they want it cooked. Find out what kind of price they're willing to pay for the meal. And then if it makes business sense to Tynan and the clients, Tynan goes back into the kitchen with the exact blueprint to please his clients. He cooks for them and brings out splendid dishes that they rave about, keep coming back for, and tell others. His restaurant becomes a smashing success because he actually bothered targeting to the target market and figuring out what they want. What a concept!
Again, Tynan seems like a decent dude. I've followed him since the Life Nomadic days. I wish him the best of luck.
Looking forward to see how cruise sheet grows.
One small annoyance I just noticed. On my mobile phone, I was not able to close the email popup so I was not able to get back to the site. Haven't checked this on desktop.
Great news that you're working on improving CruiseSheet.
We have got to start a community of like-minded younger people that want to cruise together and explore...I offer my assistance if I can help in any way. Cruises are too awesome to miss due to single supplements or lack of travel companions. I've done 4, including Alaska and a transatlantic based on your posts, and a great way to hop continents.
Tynan, I would love to sign up for the Newsletter, however, I have 3 ports that are equidistant to my location, not to be a n00b but any chance you might consider adding a feature that would allow us to choose from more than just one port for newsletter updates instead of having to sign up for the newsletter 3 times and receiving 3 separate emails?
good job and good plan!
I hope you're going to have in mind us europeans when you build it!
Front page should let me choose home port as well as region - copenhagen to barcelona is a stretch for most.
The line copenhagen-oslo is almost always empty and they are quite progressive in their marketing. You could try and see if you can do something with them
Hey! How did you get CruiseSheet to work so FAST on my iPad mini? CruiseSheet is instantaneous, many other things are glacial.
BTW, the pop-up for email signup works on my Mac, but not on my iPad.
On a related note, does this mean that support for Sett will stop completely? I've been having a couple of minor issues with my 2 paid accounts but can't seem to get a response on the normal support email I've used in the past.
If that is the case, then that is entirely fine (it's your project and you decide what to do), but I seem to remember you mentioning that bug fixes will still be looked at.
Yeah, it's like you're trying to hide the signup form for the newsletter, can't find it anywhere #uxproblems
I love San Francisco so much that every time I return here from a trip, I resolve to stay for a while and enjoy the city. That never happens. Next week I'm going to Tahoe, then Vegas the following weekend, and then to Austin for SXSW the week after that. Cabo or Hawaii follows in early March, but in late April comes the most exciting upcoming trip: a sixteen day cruise to Rome.
Cruises are full of old people. As best I can tell, that's because young people haven't figured out how awesome and cheap they can be. In fact, I can easily say that of all the travel I've done, cruises probably represent the best bang for the buck.
Before I tell you how to get them cheap, let me tell you why cruises, especially long duration one-way cruises are amazing.
One of my favorite aspects of cruises is that they can take you to places you may not otherwise visit. For example, the cruise my friends and I are taking stops in the Azores, Seville (Spain), Valencia (Spain), Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Rome. Without cruising, I probably would never make it to the Azores, and those southern Spanish cities are unlikely as well. They're just too remote and too expensive to come up at the top of my list when choosing a trip.
Edit: I gave up on financial goals in late 2011 after some huge financial and artistic wins... money shouldn't be taken too seriously. For the record, they were all basically on track, some were being massively exceeded, others were a bit behind schedule, but were all happening.
I set my next 10 years of financial goals on June 28th. That was exactly a month ago.
1 year - Critical Thinking [my first book] out. Blog income trickling. Some info products. Some freelancing. Something else, some X-Factor thing bringing in cash. Net monthly income positive. Health insurance. $50,000 in the bank. Expenses = income per month minimum.
3 years - 3 to 5 books out, many products out, blog income robust, some working on big exciting deals. $10,000 per month total, $5000 passive at least. First property owned. $300,000 in the bank.
5 years - 7-10 books out, many many products out, many passive income internet properties, working on big exciting things, $50,000 per month total, $40,000 passive at least. $1,000,000 in the bank.