NPF: FLOATING PRISON

Sometimes I withhold criticism from things that I know a lot of people enjoy because I get tired of hearing about what a mean old crank I am. So it's very convenient for me when someone more well-know, in this case John Cole at Balloon Juice, takes care of the "Old man yelling at cloud" part for me. Here is John's take on cruises. As in cruise ships. And I must admit that I concur in full with his sentiments. I do not get it. I do not get it at all.

Obviously it's not fair to broad-brush cruise ships as pestilent shit-barges teeming with disease – while cruise ship outbreaks garner huge amounts of media attention, they represent only a small percentage of the hundreds (thousands?) of cruise ships floating around every day. That said, the specter of catching some heavyweight Lower GI bunker-buster is just one of the many unappealing aspects of getting on a cruise ship. As John says, you're essentially imprisoned on a boat and temporarily disgorged on various islands (usually impoverished communities) to be robbed both legally, by the various franchise retailers hawking jewelry and other "luxury" purchases, and extralegally by the locals whose desire to rob dipshit American tourists is, if not noble, certainly understandable.

The appeal of cruises appears to be, in my estimation as a non-cruiser, limited to two demographics. One is people with children who want to go on a vacation during which they can ignore their children but remain reasonably confident that they are being supervised and entertained with organized activities elsewhere in an enclosed space. Drop Billy off at the water slide or the bungee pit or the climbing wall or the medieval yarn-dyeing workshop and then head down to the lido deck for two or six daiquiris. The second demographic seems to be people who want to go on vacation but either don't know how or they will go to almost any length and expense to avoid having to make decisions for themselves.

I know a lot of people who have gone on cruises – I'm a Midwesterner, for chrissakes – and from their reports I've gathered that the primary activities on a cruise ship are, in order: eating, getting shitfaced, eating, and eating more. I always ask the same question – is the food any good? I imagine that it's rather like a casino buffet, in that it is not particularly good but boy howdy there sure is a lot of it and it's always available. With few exceptions, this has been confirmed. The food is described as "decent" or "just OK" or "not bad" right before the individual explains how they gained 10 pounds in 5 days on the Carnival Lard Barge. That doesn't sound terribly appealing, especially given the price one pays to climb aboard.

To recap, we have a confined space full of the worst America has to offer (the elderly, screaming children, and Southern/Midwestern cow people), loads of mediocre buffet food, expensive alcohol (although some offer "all you can drink" kamikaze packages), and the guarantee that you will see nothing real about the countries and places you "visit." More power to you if this is the vacation you enjoy; to me it sounds, with remarkable precision, like my idea of hell. It's difficult to imagine the experience being improved now that cruises are rapidly becoming a late-career cashout for musicians and other entertainers on the downside of their career. If anything can make the experience I've described here worse, it would be having to listen to 90 year-old Bob Dylan in international waters with no prospects for escape other than suicide.

(Fun Fact: the world's largest actual "floating prison" is anchored off Riker's Island in New York.)

Be Sociable, Share!

58 Responses to “NPF: FLOATING PRISON”

  1. Pat Says:

    Internet Hipster Protocol #519 requires me to make a comment indicating I have read David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

  2. Graham Says:

    The problem in the Carribbean, I have been told, is the number of ships on the circuit.

    Drinking water on the ships is desalinated sea-water inhaled along the way and, since they follow each other so closely, each ship is actually inhaling the effluent of the last 50 ships to pass that way.

    Sounds appetising, dunnit?

  3. US in the UK Says:

    Pat: I was gonna say that same thing. Although, even a broken clock (read: hipster) is right twice a day. It is pretty freakin' good.

    I will second Ed's comments. It would be difficult to add to that Hell's register.

  4. Middle Seaman Says:

    Someone has described sex as a lot of effort for a short joy. We have been to cruises without over eating. It's up to you. You can feed yourself silly or you can stick to you regular eating habits.

    We cruised with friends and liked it. We met at dinner and sometimes at breakfast. On land we split. We did the same on non cruise trips with other friends and also had a good time.

    By the way drinking is very expensive and you better drink at home and save a lot of money. Large ships offer lectures, dances, music of all kinds and even an art gallery. For many people it's a real change.

    As a frequent traveler, cruise ships offer me a choice of rest, no duties and no constant preparations. On the other extreme we have trips to a foreign place, apartment rental, grocery shopping, cooking and local trips.

    I reserve my right to be a bum.

  5. Nunya Says:

    I've been to several tropical ports both before and after cruise ships started visiting. All I can say is that while there may be more jobs for the locals, their quality of life surrers almost indescribably. I will never take a cruise for that reason alone.

  6. Ben Cisco Says:

    I'll readily admit to not grokking the appeal of a cruise.

    Surprisingly, this post hasn't changed my outlook much.

  7. Anonymouse Says:

    I agree with Ed and Ben. I don't see the appeal of being crammed into a microscopic cabin and constantly assaulted by the incessant drunken screaming of the adults and high-pitched screaming of the children. I don't enjoy the "Golden Corral"-level slop on offer all day. I'm not enthralled at the idea of buying massively-overpriced cheap crap as souvenirs. As far as I'm conerned, those monster cruises are like floating ghettos filled with the worst of humanity, and now with added fun intestinal diseases!

  8. Arslan Says:

    Anyone know the prospects for piracy in the Caribbean these days? I mean the Royal Navy certainly got a handle on it circa 1727 or so, but after all these years and the focus on the Gulf of Aden surely the region must offer new opportunities to our nation's many jobless youth.

    On second thought forget it. Thanks to Hollywood they'd probably all run out and by tricorn hats and musketeer boots rather than serious pirate gear. Thanks a lot, Johnny Depp!

  9. Anonymouse Says:

    Piracy in the Caribbean? There's a lot of theft, physical and sexual assault, and murder being committed by the cruise passengers against the cruise passengers.

  10. Arslan Says:

    "There's a lot of theft, physical and sexual assault, and murder being committed by the cruise passengers against the cruise passengers."

    Making them excellent target for pirates. Time to start drawing up some articles. Yar!

  11. Major Kong Says:

    I forget who originally said this about the Royal Navy but I think it fits:

    "Like prison with the additional chance of drowning"

  12. Hobbes Says:

    Ed had a post a while back about places like the Wisconsin Dells – lots of prefabricated, chain "attractions" like Ripley's Believe It or Not, a poorly-done wax museum of Boomer-era celebrities, a haunted house or two, (some water parks in the Dells' case,) and a bunch of shops selling the same crap with the name of that particular tourist town screen-printed on post hoc. People go because they're told this is what people do for fun, convince themselves they're having fun, and the cycle perpetuates. This seems a lot like what cruises are.

    That being said, my parents did a cruise through National Geographic where they went to the Galapagos on a research ship (so no washed-up performers or other standard cruise shit). I feel like this would be a horrible experience for the researchers, but it sounded like it was actually an interesting use of time for the tourists.

  13. Jude Says:

    I spent six years in the Navy and went to sea all the time. While the prospect of actually seeing the sky and water would be a novel change, I'd rather not go on a cruise. I'd get bored silly and wander down to the engine room where I'd offer to pick up a few shifts.

  14. Leslee Beldotti Says:

    I've been on a cruise ship 3 different times in my life. The first was in 1988 for a honeymoon. It was a day cruise going round trip from Florida to the Bahamas. Everyone (including my husband) on the ship, except for me and the crew, became violently sea sick. As a result, all activities were cancelled and I spent the day wandering around a surreal ghost ship, observing people strewn about the lobbies, hallways and stairs, either passed out or throwing up.

    My second cruise was a week-long trip out of Florida on a Royal Caribbean boat in 1999. It was rather high-end. My fellow passengers were primarily Western Europeans, and the activities included skeet-shooting, horseback riding and snorkeling. The food was quite good. There were very few children.

    My third cruise was a shitty Carnival boat out of Texas in 2006. The food was terrible. The activities were a joke (towel folding classes?), and my fellow passengers were fat Americans who spent all their time drunk in the casino or attempting to smuggle drugs back into the US upon their return.

    It really depends upon which cruise line you select, but I still wouldn't recommend it.

  15. RosiesDad Says:

    I've been on one cruise–a Carnival western Caribbean tour–in the summer of 2001. My step dad was turning 80 and he wanted a big family vacation so he and my mom ponied up who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars to take 30 of us away for the week. Our kids were young, refused to go to the childcare and were basically a weight around our necks for much of it. That said, I did do a SCUBA excursion in Cozumel that motivated me to get certified when I got home (and as an experienced diver, I look back and appreciate how concerned the Mexican dive masters are with safety), snorkeled with stingrays in Grand Cayman and got to climb Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica.

    Did it turn us into "cruise" people? No, clearly not because we've never been on another one. We much prefer to go places where we can see things over a period of days (ie. sightseeing) or, if it's a eat and chill vacation, I'd rather be someplace where I like the beach and where I can get out on my bike for a couple of hours every day.

    At the end of the day, there are better ways to spend your valuable vacation time and money.

  16. carrstone Says:

    Ah, Ed, running true to form again. Like your blogs on capitalism, you are criticizing matters here of which you have no knowledge: never been on a cruise, never met a payroll.

    As for your being "a mean old crank", you're not old, surely!

  17. Chautauqua Says:

    Got all my cruising in at a youthful age courtesy of the USCG and the International Ice Patrol. All expenses paid but the bar was understandably meager.

  18. beergoggles Says:

    Yeah those impoverish natives in Greece and Italy on my Mediterranean cruise just did not leave me alone. Constantly hawking their delicious lamb kebabs at me. The Maritimes and Britsh Isles cruises were even worse when no one could understand what the hell the natives were saying.

    So far the only cruises I have not enjoyed were the Caribbean ones because it's the only place where everything u generalized about cruises in your post ends up being true.

  19. Rich Says:

    CDC winds up doing outbreak investigations rather regularly on cruises which get written up in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC's internally peer-reviewed science publications, which mostly has short reports). CDC also periodically reports the frequency and number of people affected by outbreaks reported to them. It turns out that there are enough that it adds to my general lack of interest in cruises, but then I also don't like most forms of package/group tourism anyway. there always are annoying people you can't avoid (even on a big boat, perhaps more so) and at a certain point you satiate on what they do well (the pool, the one menu item that's really good, the one cheap drink they do well) and the contrived nature of the land stops becomes tiresome (tourist trap craft shops, overpriced excursions).

  20. Anubis Bard Says:

    I suppose getting on a cruise is like going to a restaurant. In this country, people voluntarily walk into a TGI Fridays or Applebees for a meal out. The only "cruises" I've ever been on were riding the Hurtigruten off the coast of Norway 30 years ago and then a trip around the Galapagos when my father gave us tickets after he broke his leg and couldn't go. Neither was anything like TGI Fridays.

  21. c u n d gulag Says:

    The only place I might consider taking a cruise to, is Alaska.
    A friend of mine's parents went, and they loved it.
    I'd like to see what's left of the Arctic, before it all melts.

  22. el mago Says:

    carrstone says: Ah, Ed, running true to form again. Like your blogs on capitalism, you are criticizing matters here of which you have no knowledge: never been on a cruise, never met a payroll.

    Yeah, well, you don't have to eat shit to know it stinks.

  23. Evan Says:

    One should note that the primary reason why cruise ship outbreaks get so much press is due to border entry restrictions imposed by the US: If a certain, relatively low percentage of passengers report gastrointestinal distress, then the ship is required by law to report it to the CDC else it will be denied access to dock at US ports. These exact same types of viruses affect land-based "all inclusive" resorts all the time, but those resorts have no such reporting requirements. With that said, I agree that the majority of cruises are undesirable for many other reasons.

  24. lfv Says:

    Cruises are the mid level casual dining experience of vacations.

  25. geoff Says:

    Ooh!! Ooh!! Pick me!! Pick me!! I see your Royal Caribbean and raise you…

    ROCK LEGENDS CRUISE III: http://rocklegendscruise.com/
    The Doobie Brothers!! .38 Special!! The Marshall Tucker Band!! Misc. Allmans!!

    PROGRESSIVE NATION AT SEA: http://www.progressivenationatsea.com/
    Jon Anderson (of Yes)!! King's X!! Spock's Beard!!

    And the winner…

    CRUISE TO THE EDGE: http://cruisetotheedge.com/
    Yes!! Marillion!! Tangerine Dream!! Saga!! Three Friends (former Gentle Giant)!!

    I guess I saw an ad for one of these in the back of a Brit rock mag and thought, wow, now I know what's worse than a cruise– a cruise where you CAN'T ESCAPE THE SHITTY 70'S PROG ROCK!!

    (With apologies to you Marillion fans out there. My daughter told me recently I should not judge people for their taste in music. I agreed with her but thought to myself, if you can't judge people for having bad taste in music, then what's the goddamn point of anything??)

  26. Skipper Says:

    A lot depends on the cruise line. The high-end cruise lines are expensive, but well worth it. However, most people cram themselves into the low-cost lines — basically floating WalMarts. If you're doing seven days on a ship for $350, it's going to be like spending a week in the mall. I was once suckered into doing a bargain-basement cruise and was ready to swim home half-way through — sharks be damned. But I've also done higher-end cruises and had a great time. Basically, as with anything else, you get what you pay for. It's really stupid to paint all cruises with the same brush. That's like characterizing all restaurants by your visit to the food court at the mall.

  27. CB Says:

    I was a skeptic who was immediately converted after going on a cruise with the GF and family. Im sure the experience is directly impacted by the quality of cruise line you choose, but in my case, the (higher end) Celebrity line was just amazing. I got a nice week in a floating hotel, ate like a king (quality was surprisingly good), and saw some beaches I wouldnt normally see, as someone who hates flying. Definitely not the worst vacation Ive ever been on.

  28. CB Says:

    And needless to say, if someone offers you a trip on a Carnival boat, just poke yourself in the eyes with a rusty nail. More or less the same experience.

  29. Sarah Says:

    The main selling point for cruises, as far as I can tell, is the ease of taking your hotel room with you while you travel. So, instead of you going to, say, Italy, and having to book a bunch of hotel rooms while trying to figure out how much time you want to spend in each city and what you can see while you're there (not to mention the packing, unpacking, and repacking), you go from one city to another with your hotel room, get off the boat and spend the time exploring, then get back on the boat and go to the next one. Then you get back to your home port, pack your stuff and go home. The big drawback is that you're limited to port cities.

    Having said that, I told my sister (who along with her husband is a cruise enthusiast) that I thought it would be a good idea if I never get on to a Carnival boat (and they have a port here, so that is a big deal). She said that Carnival is actually a budget cruise, and because of that if you sail with them you're going to be with a whole lot of other people who will also be searching for budget cruises. Like college kids who are on spring break. (Forget about getting any sleep if you happen to be with that crowd.) Princess and Royal Caribbean (yeah, I know) are her favorites.

    And while we're dumping on cruise ships as unsanitary and unkempt, with the insinuation that this is unique to the hospitality industry, I'd like to offer this video as a counterpoint regarding a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. (Warning for racism, gay jokes and foul language.)

  30. beergoggles Says:

    @CB, yup, Carnival is the trailer park of the seas…

  31. Hank Says:

    I went on a cruise once when I was a kid. The navy stationed my dad overseas for two years and the government (in an effort to keep the last US-flagged cruise ships from going out of business) paid for our passage across the Pacific on the ship. It was fun and when we were done we got off the ship in a different place than we we got on board. Looking back, I'm not sure how much fun the adults had, but as you said, my parents could kick us t of the room in the morning knowing we'd be supervised and entertained all day.

    I think, though, that the ultimate in cruise-hell has to be the National Review cruises that my now ex-Navy dad goes on and won't stop telling me about. Locked on a ship with every RWNJ you could ever imagine. For those of you who read the article about the post election cruise that was written up somewhere, that's my dad making the threats about shooting people. Yes, it's embarrassing.

  32. J. Dryden Says:

    Oh, dear. We're running the risk of rehashing the dreaded "Vegas: Awful or Supremely Awful" controversy with this post. Still, let's forge ahead.

    My ex-wife was a performer on several cruise-lines, so I had the opportunity to visit her for extended (and free!) periods aboard ship. I should clarify immediately that her cruises were of the South Pacific and Caribbean variety, so I can't speak to, say, Mediterranean cruises, which I'll admit sound like they'd be convenient ways of going to places I'd really enjoy seeing. However, even in those instances, the cruise strikes me as an awful way to do a very cool thing–focus on the thing, it's very cool, focus on the way, it's awful. Anyway–

    I'm going to offend people here who have been on a cruise and legitimately enjoyed it, and I want to stress that you are in no way *wrong* to have enjoyed it–I hope you did, since you went to expense and trouble and you deserve what enjoyment you got out of it. So there's that.

    But Ed kind of blips over the real reason why he and I and those of us with a Menckenian view of humanity really would/do hate cruises: the people.

    Because the things that are offered on cruises for "fun"–the ways in which cruises are sold to their customers, and therefore presumably what those customers want–are a confirmation of every misanthropic impulse in my (our) bones.

    Because there's no way to watch fat people (oh my GOD so many fat people) line up at a buffet of starches and sweets and fats and load up their plates and gorge and then go back again and again and not think that maybe the species as a whole has severe problems, if *this* is what the planet's most comfortably secure choose to do with their time and bodies. Copy these same remarks for these same people getting shit-faced on fruity drinks in plastic cups every night, only to loll about like hairless walruses around the pools the next day.

    Also, and I want to be absolutely forceful about this: people who go on cruises consistently and thoroughly treat the staff like shit. Like slaves. Like trained animals. And because most of the staff are non-white (the cruise lines hire their workers almost exclusively from 3rd-world shitholes), you will hear incredibly racist comments as soon as their backs are turned. "These fuckin' [epithet]s don't know what service is," is a constant refrain. So get used to hearing a lot of racist abuse of helplessly overworked people, because that will be the background noise of the voyage.

    I feel no need to discuss how female staff are treated by male passengers, as I suspect your imagination can paint a picture. Just know this: it's worse than that picture.

    Conversationally, expect the spoken equivalent of the anti-Obama e-mails you're forwarded by relatives you avoid at Thanksgiving. We're talking Brian Kilmeade-level of intelligent expression of conservative views. (If that's your cup of tea, I can see how you'd enjoy the confirmation bias. For me, it's hell.)

    And what cruise passengers do for fun–hula lessons! comedians who couldn't get a gig at off-license strip clubs! limbo!–is so howlingly bland that all I can think as I watch them is "If this is your stimulation and enthusiasm, what must your *life* be like?" And the answer to that sends me back to the cabin to think about all the mistakes I've made in my own life and how I can avoid turning into someone who thinks that lining up for hours for a Midnight Chocolate Buffet is, yes, something I want to do.

    I don't want to tell these people they're wrong to enjoy this stuff. I don't want to take it away from them. But cruises, like Vegas, are what "fun" looks like when it's engineered for George Babbitt. And that's who comes. And who you're stuck with for all that time.

    Live and let live. Let them go. I'll stay on shore, thanks, where if I'm confronted with aggressively, defensively conservative middle-brows, I can walk away and escape.

  33. Alan C Says:

    I've been on three cruises–two to SE Alaska, one to Mexico–all on Holland America. My father-in-law paid for all three cruises and took the whole clan on the Alaska ones, which was extremely generous, and I had a pretty good time. The food ranged from OK to excellent, and spending a week with my in-laws in a confined space was mitigated by the fact that there were places I could be alone if needed.

    That being said, cruising is not my preferred way to travel. I'd rather go to a destination and get to know it more in-depth than be on a floating hotel that stops at several ports for a few hours of exploration or shopping.

    BTW, the first cruise I was on, the ship had just had an outbreak of Norwalk virus on its previous voyage. They were spritzing seemingly everyone and everything with Purell.

  34. J.D. Says:

    I've never been with cruises, but I have interacted with cruise ship passengers on several vacations. The two most recent experiences were in Croatia and in Norway. In both places, seaside towns were extraordinarily pleasant and friendly until about 10 AM. That's the magic hour when the cruise ships, having traveled to the port overnight, vomit up their obese contents onto the shore, and it's like flipping a switch. Suddenly the waterfront is teeming with folks jostling each other, talking loudly, swarming over each other buy souvenirs, and swarming over each other to take pictures of inane crap (look, they have different models of cars here! look, here's a flag of this country we're in!). It's like flipping a switch.

    That, more than anything, is why I'll never take a cruise. It might take you to a bunch of cool places, but the mere fact that a cruise ship has arrived turns those cool places into basically annoying DisneyWorlds the entire time you're there.

  35. Anonymouse Says:

    @JDryden; you just described my first (and only) cruise, which was a mandated Family!Fun!Time with the whole clan. As someone else upstream pointed out, it was like being locked inside a WalMart for a week. Unlike a crappy hotel, a boat is something you can't leave. You're stuck until it gets where it's going.

    Hmmm, come to think of it, I was bored by Vegas when I wasn't appalled…just like cruising.

  36. Jerry Vinokurov Says:

    I'm opposed to cruises on the general principles that leisure should not be work; nothing I have read in this thread has persuaded me that I'm wrong about that.

  37. Jeffrey Says:

    I would like to sail between NYC and England on a cruise liner for the same reason I like old hotels – for lack of a better word they have a class that is lacking in most modern hotels and the floating resorts that ply the Caribbean. Otherwise, I'd just soon fly to some island and spend a week getting to know it rather than being stuck on a ship with 4,000 people I don't know moving from place-to-place with a few hours stop over that gives you just enough time to see the thoroughly touristified port area.

  38. Mo Says:

    Living in an Alaska town that's become dependent upon cruise ship tourism for a sizeable chunk of its economy, ditto what everyone has said above.

    However, a curious feature of Alaskan cruises is the comparatively high component of non-US visitors – people from Latin America, Asia, Europe – that definitely put a streak of color into the lardy mass of the US "beef cattle in sneakers" [Dave Barry].

    Also fascinating are the interactions of the crew members with the local population – the 6'2" Norwegian captain sedately walking her dachsund, Indonesians heading for the Salvation Army to stock up on sweaters, jackets, and caps because they're freezing their asses off in what passes for summer weather up here, Latin Americans attempting third-world bargaining techniques at Costco and earning themselves detestation by the Costco staff, the constant foreign fashion show (crew and passengers alike) livening up the streets for a local populace for whom the grunge look never goes out of style because even Patagucchi can do only so much with fleece, flannel, and gortex…

    And some of the on-shore travel "experiences" still kill a couple of people a year, so there's that.

  39. eric Says:

    I'm not a cruise person, likely wouldn't ever go on a Caribbean or longer Mexican riviera one, but I recently went on an Alaska cruise and found it enjoyable, and a good way to see a decent portion of the state on limited time/budget (i.e. you could do it cheaper but need more time, or do it bigger in the same time but you'd need way more money). I've also been on three 3-day booze cruises out of LA to Ensenada and they are what they are – Ensenada is depressing as all hell, but having a binge weekend on an all you party boat isn't horrifying, and the people watching is fantastic.

  40. BruceFromOhio Says:

    Mum and Dad just returned from a sail cruise to Costa Rica. You can volunteer for a duty shift hauling sails or working lookout. The passenger complement is much smaller, and generally older and nautically minded, which is right up their alley. They loved it, and their tastes in food, company and location run similar to mine. I could be convinced.

    As for the Caribbean/Carnival/et al lot, what el mago said.

  41. Chicagojon Says:

    I went on a ~3 week "cruise" last winter with the Semester at Sea program http://enrichmentvoyages.org/

    It was awesome and Ed should go on one of these as a teacher and get paid to give conferences while soaking up some sun.

    That is what cruises should be…like backpacking through Europe and having a ship to take you from place to place instead of hitchhiking, but with the focus on living in the moment and experiencing the places you travel. The ship's just a tool to get you there, not a floating fraternity/water partk day care/casino. It's also ~800ppl. I cannot fathom "normal" ships of 3000 let alone the top jumbo ships of 6000.

  42. Robert Says:

    Major Kong, I believe that quote is attributed to Samuel Johnson. He was referring to ships in general. Given the state of hygiene on land at the time, one can imagine the conditions on board a ship that had been at sea more than a week.

    My husband went on a cruise down the west coast of Mexico years ago. He had a good time, but has assured me that if I ever want to go myself, it will be BY myself. He would much rather rent a cottage in Provence.

  43. mothra Says:

    Skipper says it mostly. There is a range of quality on cruise ships and cruises, so one shouldn't lump them all together. The higher end ships have better food and usually a smaller passenger load; I went on a Baltic Sea cruise with my mother on a ship with only 1000 total–passengers AND crew. The food was great. Yes, you can eat all the time, but you don't have to. I spent a good deal of time drinking, yes, but my drinks were mostly free because the Greek bartenders and waiters slid me drinks in hopes that I'd sleep with them. Ahem. I also spent a good deal of time reading on deck and just enjoying the quiet down time while at sea. The ports, being European, weren't sad third-world spots ruined by Western tourists. Shore excursions always offered experiences far from the dock. I had a really great time on that cruise–it was my first trip to Europe and it just made me want to go back and spend more time, which I did.

    I don't think, however, I would have a great time on a Carnival budget, floating cast of thousands cruise, though. Floating trailer parks indeed. Eeewwwww.

    And, for J. Dryden, you should also be aware that the way people treat the staff on the cruise can be directly correlated to the cheapness of the cruise. On the cruise ship I was on, I never saw anyone treat the staff badly or with derision. Of course, there are assholes everywhere all the time and people who derive their self worth by how many people they can demean.

  44. Kevin Says:

    Carnival Caribbean… been there, done that. You couldn't pay me to get back on one of their boats if I was unemployed. And the staff… I've worked an IT help desk. I know how people can be. A small number of the staff were great, and we tipped them handsomely. Many were just doing their job. There were a disturbingly high number of them, however, that I could have easily justified assaulting via self defense.

    Stay the fuck away from Carnival.

  45. Tom M Says:

    You live in the Midwest and you're critical of cruising? That's funny.

    I spent 4 years in the Navy (well before cruise ships vomited people onto local populace, we did it fat, obnoxious and drunk before it was fashionable) and have been on 10 cruises. The Mediterranean, the Baltic, the British Isles, North Atlantic and others. Your depiction of cruises could be typical of some Caribbean ships but not our experience.
    We seldom went with the ship packages and hired local guides for day trips. We got to meet local people, ate at local spots and had a great time. If your research yielded this post, you didn't do enough research. But hey, you live in the Midwest, so there's that.

  46. Jeff Says:

    "the worst America has to offer (the elderly, . . ." Being elderly doesn't make you the worst America has to offer. Or are American elderly worse than those in all other places on earth? I'm a fan of your blog, but this is a stupid thing to say.

  47. terraformer Says:

    I don't know about this. We started going on cruises in the early '80s when the industry was largely in its infancy. Then we went on 8 cruises between then and the late 80s. All were wonderful, but maybe that's because I was a tween. But I've been on a couple since, and while they aren't as I remember them (quite a bit older now), they're still pretty good.

    I didn't see the experience as akin to being locked up inside this can with a bunch of obnoxious people. For me, I enjoyed walking the ship, being impressed with the construction, interiors, and artistry, and finding places that many other passengers don't like to go. There are lots of places like that, and when you find one, for example, you tend to go there for great moments, such as a sunset along the water from a comfortable chair. But that kind of thing and the other stuff – the food, the entertainment (such as it is, tastes differ), the experience of being at sea – it's not half bad. Sure, there's the crowds and the like, but if you go into it with realistic expectations you can usually arrange to not be in situations like that often enough to ruin the trip. But I just enjoyed it, it's a different way to do things, and sometimes the best way to see some parts of the world. Seeing new things and new places is what it's all about, and this is not a bad way to do it.

    Being able to see new places and always return to (somewhat) familiar quarters each night is a plus. I would not recommend any cruise shorter than 7 days, and would suggest at least 10. You are just learning your way around and then have to leave on a 7 day (not even that with less days), but with a longer cruise you are more relaxed. Cruise line matters; there definitely are those painted in the OPs post that are loud, crowded, and generally uncomfortable – and you need to do rudimentary homework to see what to avoid. It's a pretty good bargain, too, and crazy good deals can be found. One way to look at it is that for about $100 a day you have room, board, and are going someplace different (or not, you may have been there before!). It's all the stories these days about cruises that probably make people think badly of them. And I agree! If that's all I saw I wouldn't want to do it. Probably a situation of too many players trying to cash in on the cruise boom and massively cutting corners to save costs, like anything else.

  48. postcaroline Says:

    I am reminded of the oldie but goodie "Ms Magazine Takes a Shit in the Ocean," a short film now preserved for posterity in the Internet Archive:

    https://archive.org/details/Ms._Magazine_takes_a_shit_in_the_ocean

    'As Ms. Magazine, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and their esteemed guests set sail on their second cruise, PMS Media will be streaming this short highlighting the social and environmental degradation inherent in Cruises. All the footage was captured onboard the first Ms. Magazine Post Election Getaway Cruise in November 2004 a “guilt free vacation” according to Eleanor Smeal, Publisher of Ms. Magazine and President of the Feminist Majority foundation and Alicia Daily, Assistant Publisher of Ms. Magazine

    This short highlights the social and environmental degradation inherent in Cruises. All the footage was captured onboard (or during) the first Ms. Magazine Post Election Getaway Cruise in November 2004 by PMS MEDIA reporters.'

  49. Monty Says:

    I went on a Carnival cruise back in 1998.
    Yes, the buffet is accurately described as being both "mediocre" and "eternal."
    Yes, the onboard entertainment is a joke.
    Yes, the port calls are all about raping tourists.
    Overpriced booze? Check.

    But I also got to see Chichen Itza and walk up those steps
    (then again, I had to walk down them).

    Plus I got in some deep snorkeling in beautiful water.
    And I got laid. Twice. And blown once.
    And a hideous sunburn.

    Aside from that, actually finished reading two Henry James novels and, hilariously, Benchley's "The Island."

    I wouldn't go on a cruise again, but I'm glad I did.

  50. E* Says:

    To summarize all of the comments so far, it seems that smaller boutique cruises are alright, whereas the large, cheap Carnival-type cruises are hell on earth, a point that is driven home best by the statement that they are the Walmarts of the high seas.

    It makes sense. What best characterizes right wingers who are barely clinging to the middle class by their fingernails? Fear. Fear of government, fear of the unknown, fear of the heathens, fear of the socialists, fear of any other type of worldview. So it makes sense that they would load up ships that promise a nice comfortable American experience with plenty of mediocre food, where they can sample a nice comfortable touristy vision of "local" cultures for a few hours at a time and buy some cheap chotskies then go back to their nice comfortable American hotel and buffet ship.

    The fact that this occasionally results in a disastrous, diarrhea-plagued nightmare at see is kind of… perfect.

  51. infinitefreetime Says:

    Man, you fuckers really hate fat people, don't you? I'll try and stay inside from now on so that none of your precious little eyes have to be sullied by the sight of me. I'm also– God forbid– from Indiana, so I'm automatically twice as awful.

    Death by cock-choking to the lot of you.

  52. BProf Says:

    Can we have a general category for Ed of "I hate the lower middle class".

    Are you really surprised what cruises are like? People who can afford the best get nice cruises. Everyone else gets what they get.

    Sure, why go on a cruise when you can "rent a cottage in Provence?" You can't imagine how daunting that idea would be for most people. Chances are that the people taking those low-budget cruises are more adventurous and willing to see new things than most of their neighbors.

    Given that you hate these people so much, how can you be surprised when they hate you.

  53. Nate Says:

    I have no interest in caribbean cruises. I did take a nice day cruise up and down the Rhine in Germany like a decade and a half ago with my dad. Good German food and my dad and I got to sing the Lorelei song twice with a bunch of happy Germans. I also met former IU football coach Bill Mallory and his wife on vacation on the ship. That was fun.

  54. Xynzee Says:

    While it's easy for us to point and laugh, it's far easier to miss the real issue at hand.

    Why cruises? Why cruises at all as a form of holiday choice?

    I believe Middle captured it best:
    "As a frequent traveler, cruise ships offer me a choice of rest, no duties and no constant preparations. On the other extreme we have trips to a foreign place, apartment rental, grocery shopping, cooking and local trips.

    I reserve my right to be a bum."

    Put this in context against a back drop of the average American if *lucky* gets one week of paid vacation time a year. Think about that.

    Now consider all of the planning, driving, travelling to the next location, dealing with all the vagaries of a foreign country in 7-10 days.

    So here's an opportunity to just sit and get loaded on the lido deck with the kids and other hassles off-loaded on to someone else.

    Also how many actually take that week off? How many are concerned that if they take their holiday time won't have their "loyalty" to the company questioned the next annual review or when the next round of redundancies come through.

    That said, unless I was travelling with someone like Cunard, I'd give a cruise a miss.

  55. Nunya Says:

    Zynzee has the final word. I withdraw my previous judgement.

  56. Death Panel Truck Says:

    Hank: Would this be your dad? From New York mag, December 23, 2012:

    As (Cal) Thomas downed the rest of his drink, Duane said the only way out of the current quagmire is a “revolution,” citing the famous Thomas Jefferson line about watering the tree of liberty with blood from “time to time.”

    What kind of revolution did he have in mind?

    Duane’s eyes crinkled into a big smile. “You ever heard of guns?”

    His wife sat up: “How do you like the veal?”

    “It’s awful,” Duane growled, poking at it. “I can’t hardly chew it.”

  57. eau Says:

    Maybe a regional/cultural variation, or just the 'type' of cruise taken, but most of the stories I have heard about cruises (told almost exclusively by Aussies, Kiwis or South Africans, fwiw…) revolve around not eating, but fucking. Fucking everyone. All the people on the ship that you're actually attracted to, followed by everyone else on the ship. Friends, strangers, staff… Basically anyone willing. Booze, obviously. Then fucking. Eating? As necessary, but that's not what you're on the boat for. Drink, screw, recover, repeat. Buy some trinkets when you hit an island. Demolish the duty free on the way out. That's about it.

    I have never been all that attracted to cruising as I have described it here. The version ed, dryden et.al. describe seems much, much worse.

  58. Kevskos Says:

    I was a travel agent for 17 years. Never went on a large cruise ship cruise myself, I never thought it would be a fun vacation. To much regimentation.

    I did go on an Alaska cruise on a ship that did not have staterooms. We stayed in hotels on shore each night. Because the ship was small we could get in real close to shore unlike a big ship.

    Left the travel business right before 911 because I was an international ticket specialists and saw the use of my skills losing value. I was also tired of selling cruises and Disney that I either thought were boring vacations and/or a waste of money.

Leave a Reply