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.)

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58 Responses to “NPF: FLOATING PRISON”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Nunya Says:

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

  6. 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.”

  7. 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 describe seems much, much worse.

  8. 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.