January 14, 2012

"I have always been scared of those boats, but my girlfriend kept on saying that it was romantic, and I gave in."

"There were not enough lifeboats. The pilots were not sailors but waiters who had no idea how to maneuver and kept on having us turning in circles. It was the first and certainly the last cruise of my life."

Have you ever given in and — against your better instincts — gotten on a cruise ship? I haven't. But I have read "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" — PDF — perhaps the most amusing essay I've ever read. Apparently, it's all quite awful even when it's not some "Titanic"/"Poseidon Adventure" experience.

82 comments:

Chuck66 said...

They are so big, you'd think they couldn't sink. But perhaps that is the issue. Non-maritime People putting resorts onto ships, with hundreds and hundreds of crew and passengers on board.

wild chicken said...

I never was interested in that. I want to get where I'm going.

Some friends of mine went to Hawaii on one, and said they basically ate their way to Honolulu.

Chip S. said...

If you do go, you may want to leave the kids at home.

lohwoman said...

We did our first cruise -- Alaska -- last summer and it was a perfect vacation. I can't say enough good things about it.

Kit said...

These have never held any appeal to me. I can't think of anything more boring.

mesquito said...

I'm from a family of seaman so the idea of being aboard a ship does nothing for me. I would not be worried about safety at all. The people who operate ships are highly-highly vetted pros. It's just the idea of being cheek by jowel with so many thousands, and being herded on and off at each grungy port.

Now, you can book passage on a container ship across the Pacific. Utterly routine for the crew. A tiny handful of passengers. No frills at all. Just watching the Pacific go by for ten days. That would be cool.

Maguro said...

I blame the Koch brothers.

Rose said...

Having been on one, with kids, the idea of trying to find them and get them to safety in the event of a disaster like this - it's hard for me to look at those pics.

Being on the cruise was interesting. Not really what I expected, which was all tied up in all kinds of imaginings. You have to look at it not as an event itself, but as a means of travel. For some, better than driving long hours, or long airplane flights, it is a leisurely way to get to your destination, and if you're with a group of family or friends, visit along the way.

My strongest memory though, is that you pull into port, and there may be 3 or 4 other ships in port - and thousands of people pour off into the town. In the town, EVERYONE is working. Women have booths from which they launch their fleet of tour buses, young women man their own food booths, making crepes, sandwiches, coffee; all the crazy jewelry stores lining the pier,; zip lines, walking tours, fishing tours, cooking tours - full employment! Entrepreneurs, happy healthy working spirit.

A little kid, a John Lennon look-alike, with a violin and an open case, filled with dollars, finishes up, walks around the corner to meet up with his little brother who has also raked in the cash, and their Mom, with a stroller and a baby. They bought lunch for themselves, very pleased with their day...

Quite a contrast to the area I am from where unemployment is a goal, and that entrepreneurial spirit is sorely lacking.

Yes, the cruise was memorable.

And seeing those pictures - really terrifying in a Poseidon adventure kind of way.

Hagar said...

I am old-fashioned, so I pretty much consider the Royal Caribbean to be a national embarrassment. As for sailing on one, look at the superstructure on those things and visualize a good southwester in the North Sea, never mind a hurricane in American waters!

campy said...

We do a couple of cruises per year. Next one starts 2 weeks from tomorrow. We're not a bit worried.

EMD said...

Disney cruise with the kids in April.

Have been on one other one, two Januarys ago. Average temperature in the Caymans and Cozumel was 66 degrees. Still had fun, despite the cold weather.

Rose said...

The kids remind me - they LOVED our waiters, Benjamin and John!

The Drill SGT said...

Chuck66 said...
They are so big, you'd think they couldn't sink. But perhaps that is the issue.


It didn't sink so much as roll over.

What you don't see in that photo is that they are at the mouth of a small harbor. Apparently they beached on a sand bar or other obstacle. I suspect the tide went out and those tubs have too much superstructure. When beached, it rolled over and then of course the tide came back in.

as for Lifeboats. They must carry enough boats OR rafts for all the souls on board, but if the ship rolled, it doesnt mean that the half that were on the upside were launchable.

On the other hand they were 300 yards from a port.

pst314 said...

What happened to the watertight bulkheads? What about pumping water from the starboard to port trim tanks?

Rusty said...

They are so big, you'd think they couldn't sink.


Eh?

pst314 said...

mesquito "The people who operate ships are highly-highly vetted pros."

But are there enough professionals? Passengers are quoted as saying that many crew seemed to have no idea what to do, and actually made the disaster worse. IIRC, there have been news reports in the past characterizing the typical level of training as abysmal.

Donald Douglas said...

The food'll probably kill you first. Every year there's some big reports of people dying of food poisoning on cruise ships. I doubt I'll go for it, and if I do I'll pray before every bite.

traditionalguy said...

Is this a Stupid Critics Contest... like a Liars Contest

A good cruise line is a well run operation with experienced crew and great destinations with professional shore trips every port.

The good ones are about $10,000 for two for 14 days with airfare included. The bad ones are $2200 for two for that many days. Pick wisely. I recommend Crystal Cruise Line which is Japanese owned.

The activities and the cuisine are great. Many cruises have Phds along that give classes in the history of the areas visited.

They have daily Bridge Classes, Dancing Classes and others. There are special dinners. Enough goes on for you and the spouse to pick different activities during the afternoon and meet later.

After dinner the nightly entertainment is Las Vegas quality.

But if you let fear of the ship sinking control your life, then that is a real tragedy.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

I've worked on several cruise ships. I have spent perhaps a total of two months on six different ships over the past 13 months. If you had any idea of the number of ships that are out there plying the waters, week in and week out-- all of them filled to capacity-- you would know that this represents a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the hours/miles logged by these behemoths. A ship I was on was docked in Cozumel earlier this month and there were no fewer than six boats there simulataneously-- with a total of about 15,000 passengers and thousands more crew and staff. They don't get 165-foot holes ripped in their sides with any regularity whatever. They don't even catch fire with any regularity. They're extremely safe, well maintained and competently piloted. And with modern technology, they don't even rock or pitch all that much. And don't make the mistake of lumping all cruise lines together, as each has a distinct personality/business model and each will have a different demographic sailing it. Cruising in wildly popular and for good reason. I am not sure that I would have spent my money on a cruise had I not worked on a few, but there are millions who do.

bgates said...

I have always been scared of those boats, but my girlfriend kept on saying that it was romantic, and I gave in.

"I am something of a coward, and as I am speaking to an internationally known news organization I would like to communicate to everyone I know that I blame my girlfriend for my recent ordeal."

"(By the way, I get pushed around by my girlfriend.)"

EMD said...

They are so big, you'd think they couldn't sink.


Too big to fail?

Will Cate said...

Indeed. And the late Mr. Wallace is right-on-the-money in that essay (which I recently read in the book of the same name).

We did ours exactly three years ago, Jan, 2009. Although we loved our ports-of-call (San Juan, St. Marteen, St. Thomas), the boat was just a big floating casino hotel, packed from bow to stern with prefabricated fun fun fun activities. Never again.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'd imagine cruise ships are as safe or safer than airplanes as far as crashing is concerned, but I don't know that for a fact.

In any case, the idea of being out on the ocean in a high density resort gives me a strange sensation of both claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time.

But that's probably silly in reality. I've never been on a cruise ship. I'm sure it's fine if you like the traveling part of travel. Like being on a water train.

Cheryl said...

One cruise for us, a couple of years ago, to Alaska. I can't imagine a better way to understand how vast the Alaskan coast is. That said, I really hated being on the boat--trapped with all those strangers. Agoraphobia and claustrophobia, indeed, Freeman.

But bgates gets it on this post! Nice of that guy to blame his girlfriend. That's definitely a relationship that will last.

Jose_K said...

The people who operate ships are highly-highly vetted pros well, tha captain abandoned the ship:
http://www.tgcom24.mediaset.it/

Petunia said...

I love cruises. It's essential to pick a cruise line/ship that suits you.

There are always places on the ship you can go to escape the crowds, like the promenade deck, where you can get a chair in the shade or in the sun, and sit and read. I really enjoy watching the ocean go by.

As for the ports, I'd recommend doing some research ahead of time, and then either exploring on your own or hiring a reliable local tour guide, rather than taking the "official" shore excursions, which are usually overpriced and can miss a lot of the local highlights.

Jose_K said...

More on the coward , inept captain:
http://www.abc.es/20120114/internacional/abci-detenido-comandante-crucero-italia-201201142144.html
who are you calling liars?

Leland said...

My family went on our first cruise this past August. In fact, it was the Carnival Conquest, which the Concordia was based on. So the picture of the ship looked very familiar.

We are planning on our next cruise this summer. It was the best vacation I ever had, and I can't wait to do it again.

paminwi said...

Many cruises - last one was started in Rome, onto Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Israel and back to Italy with a final stop in Capri. Two weeks after Egypt - Arab spring!

Was really glad to be home!

MadisonMan said...

The next time I go to Europe, I want to do a crossing on a liner, rather than flying. Dad did it in WWII (Aquitania over, Queen Mary back). His Dad coming back from a meeting in Europe witnessed the sinking of the City of Flint.

Deekaman said...

Made one (civilian) cruise. Before we even left port, there was an all hands drill. All passengers were required and we waited until all showed up. It was well managed and instructional. I had no concerns.

The cruise was lots of fun. the only downside was the bananas foster. Not so great.

jimbino said...

I crossed the Atlantic in ten days on a Norwegian cargo vessel in 1971 for $135, came back in a 10-day crossing from Lisbon on a Yugoslavian cargo vessel to NYC in 1975 for $250.

I never had so much fun. All meals, drinks and dancing were included, along with fresh bread.

Too bad those days are over.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I would survive. I would have survived the Titanic. I have never been able to figure out why, with all the resources on that ship, anybody at all had to die. As for waiters driving lifeboats, well, I would do better at that, too. A ship like the Costa would have many, many, life rafts on board, launchable by rolling a barrel overboard.

What I don't get is why the accident happened in the first place. GPS would give their position within a couple of meters. I'm sure they have software that would alert them when they got too close to any hazard to navigation, in fact I would think it a rare occasion when a helmsman would even touch the wheel.

wv: poings-- the sound a steel hull makes scraping on the rocks

Tyrone Slothrop said...

The Drill Sgt said...

Apparently they beached on a sand bar or other obstacle. I suspect the tide went out and those tubs have too much superstructure.


The report I read said the hull was holed and filled. In any event, the Mediterranean has almost no tides.

Bender said...

A boat cruise might be interesting, but these are not really cruise ships. They are moveable 8-10-story hotels on water. I can't think of anything more boring that being stuck in a hotel for a week or two, even if there is the ocean outside the window.

My parents took a river boat cruise in Austria and Germany and really liked it.

Bender said...

I should clarify -- very top-heavy 8-10-story hotels on water. It is no wonder that it should list to one side so much if it were to take on water.

edutcher said...

The Blonde and I have cruised quite a few times and the only problem we had on board was when a waitress handed her a diet Coke by mistake (she's allergic to artificial sweetener).

The cruise line is a big part of it, I think. We always go Royal Caribbean and they are very professional.

OTOH, we wouldn't go near a booze cruise outfit like Carnival.

Ann Althouse said...

Have you ever given in and — against your better instincts — gotten on a cruise ship? I haven't.

Oh, but you should. It's a beautiful vacation to someplace you've never been and you get treated like royalty.

We even took her nephews one time.

(of course, Meade does that every day...)

Mark O said...

Despite my best efforts, I have been on a cruise ship three times, each time with 8 in-laws. The experience was so horrid that I can't even laugh at the essay. It's not really humorous; it's factual, dismal and ominous.

Despair.

Petunia said...

MadisonMan, I've done four transatlantic crossings on the QE2, which is sadly no longer in service. But the QM2 and the Queen Victoria, her successors, have taken over the route.

I'd highly recommend it, with a westbound crossing preferred over eastbound. Westbound, the clocks fall back an hour each night, so even though the crossing time is the same, it seems longer because the evenings are longer.

And the approach into New York harbor is spectacular.

David said...

Chuck66 said...
They are so big, you'd think they couldn't sink.

To big to fail, eh?

bagoh20 said...

I've been on one cruise - 10 days in Alaska. It was exceptional. Everyday a new port and a new excursion. We did excursions inland out of town every day to some new adventure: Zip line through the trees, bicycle trip through the woods and right up to glaciers and huge waterfalls, hiking to see wildlife, kayaking deep into fiords, canoeing around lakes, sight seeing tours through some incredibly impressive country. Close up and personal with the environment and wildlife. It was very convenient compared to doing these things on your own, since everything you needed was there, you just rented it an left it behind without having to bring anything or take anything back. it was surpsingly quiet and private despite the thousands of people on the boat with you. Only a few did these excursions, and we were pretty much free to wander at our own pace and get alone for a lot of the time. On the boat, there's really only eating, drinking, sleeping, and reading, with some entertainment and hands on learning stuff. On an Alaska cruise it's nonstop great views on all sides. So getting from point to point is just a wonderful relaxing experience where you coast by beautiful scenery while you sip wine, read, and talk, or even take a nap.

Overall, the excursions were the real meat of the cruise to me. Two or three days on the boat is all you need of that, unless you are real good at sitting. I'm not.

mesquito said...

My ma immigrated on an ocean liner. She was one of the last, I imagine.

David said...

"It didn't sink so much as roll over."

It sank in very shallow water, which caused the roll over.

Sink is the opposite of float, and that sucker could not float.

It's really amazing how incompetent the captain and crew were.

Ann Althouse said...

"...you sip wine, read, and talk, or even take a nap."

This is what I love about home!

Ann Althouse said...

Note that my avoidance of cruises isn't based on fear... at least not of dangerous things happening. I am afraid of not liking being stuck on the boat, trapped and confined.

Chip S. said...

It sank in very shallow water, which caused the roll over.

So, not too big to fall.

David said...

Back in the day, the student boats to Europe were pretty much a 10 day party with people you figured you would never see again.

The food was mediocre. Evertyhing else was delicious.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Note that my avoidance of cruises isn't based on fear... at least not of dangerous things happening. I am afraid of not liking being stuck on the boat, trapped and confined.

You're not stuck. There's plenty to do on board and most cruises make a port of call each day, so you can go on one of the excursions or just explore on your own.

TWM said...

I went on my first cruise during this Christmas. I kept joking with my family about these things sinking and everyone said they couldn't, but look who was right.

Our boat, the Voyager of the Seas, is bigger than this one, but basically the same in design - top heavy and way overpacked with passengers and crew. We had a drill at the beginning of the cruise, but it was obvious that it was bullshit. Maybe if a ship is leaking slowly and not listing here and there, it might work, but as you can see, once is starts tilting over all hell breaks lose.

And I agree that most of the crew is probably under-trained to handle it, being more hotel, restaurant and entertainment workers than actual sailors.

Maybe the people here are right and I'm wrong about this. Maybe cruise ships are extremely safe. Maybe the crew is trained and ready (although reports from this incident indicate otherwise). Obviously they have a good track record.

Until, you know, they fricken hit a reef that causes a 165 foot gash and they flip over.

LYNNDH said...

MadisonMan, re Petunia, yes westbound from England to US is great way to do it. We were on the UE2, nice ship. Yes they are big but you can easily find space to be alone if you want. Do the early seating and the late show. We plan on Holland American line next yr to NZ and Aust. Good line. River cruises in Europe are also great. See lots and relaxing. No driving.

TWM said...

I should say that I enjoyed the cruise though. Seven days of not worrying about anything - food, drink, things to do - was pretty damn nice. The excursions are not all they say they are for the most part but if you go to Cozumel do that "Salsa, Salsa, Margarita" excursion. That was a blast.

Ours was a Royal Caribbean ship and we liked it very much. I understand they are a step-up from Princess and Carnival ships but not quite as good as Celebrity.

Final word . . . if you are gonna go, go big and get a good ship and cabin. Having a balcony looking out of the sea is worth the money.

Darleen said...

my parents-in-law have a blackbelt in traveling. They then reached an age when cruising became their thing.

January 2, 2000, they had the time of their life doing a 'round the world cruise that lasted 4 months.

bagoh20 said...

"This is what I love about home!"

In a way it's like being home after a long day of fun, except out your window, beautiful mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls drift by and whales bounce by below your window. All the time you are moving effortlessly to your next adventure. You go to sleep and wake up far from where you were the night before, and when you step off the boat you're in a new town with new stories and history, and everything you need has been arranged to go flawlessly.

The ports are not my thing at all, being very touristy affairs designed to strip you of cash as quickly as possible, so get out of towns when you stop.

A cruise is an excellent venue for reading, or writing. The one I did was a perfect mix of playing hard all day and relaxing blissfully in between. I did Norwegian Cruise Lines which is one of the few that let you eat whenever and wherever you want on the ship. That's the way to go.

bagoh20 said...

Another thing is that these ships are so large that you don't feel confined or trapped at all. It's a floating city, huge outdoor decks and lots of them to explore. each with different bars, restaurants and lounges. You really have no sense of being on a vessel at all. It seems much bigger and more open than a large hotel or casino.

D. B. Light said...

Never took a long ocean cruise, and probably never will, but we took a Yangtse river cruise a few years ago and a coastal cruise in Norway last year. Both were quite enjoyable. It's like taking your [admittedly primitive] hotel room with you as you visit several interesting locations. If you read up on places ahead of time, you can program your own shore experiences. There's no sense of being confined on the ship. And the best part of the cruises is the people you meet.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Awful? I can see how you could read the essay and figure "that's not really my sort of thing"-- but once you divide through by the existential misery of being David Foster Wallace, he seems to have had what is objectively a pretty good experience.

David said...

From the article:

"Cristiano de Musso, a cruise company spokesman, said the ship had not deviated from the course it follows '52 times a year.'"

Well, maybe they deviated a tiny little bit.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Ah, so it was the rock that moved. Good to know.

Bill White said...

DFW was the sort of writer who makes me want to rush outside to the street with a pile of printed copies of his essays and flag down passing cars and shove them through the window to the startled drivers and shout You Have To Read This! as I run to the next car. It helps that we live on a corner with a stop sign.

Leland said...

This is what I love about home!

Not a good comparison, unless you are telling us you prefer to stay at home and never venture out; and we know that's not true. A cruise should be compared to other vacations.

For example, I usually prefer to stay home for long periods than take a "vacation", because there always seems to be a need to "do something" during a "vacation" rather than relax. The beauty of a cruise is you are forced to relax.

KLDAVIS said...

I sought out "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." after you'd mentioned it previously. My wife and I enjoyed the essay so much that we decided to take a cruise just to see how well Wallace had captured the experience. Needless to say, he nailed it. Never again.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

I tried slogging through the DFW essay, but found it so riddled with cliches, that I got bored.

Chip Ahoy said...

Riddled with clichés.

There I was, minding my own business reading Henry David Thoreau, something about a little hut near a lake, and I get to this part that goes,

"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away. "

Rip Off! COME ON, can you be more cliché? And then I go, "Oh."

Rose said...

I took the Alaska trip - and the views are spectacular. It is COLD out there, though, especially the mornings.

If i were to do it over again. I would fly in to Juneau, rent a cabin, and go out on all the excursions from that base. Get to see the place after the ships go for the night, meet some locals, eat in the real cafes, and not just the touristy stuff... stay for a week-10 days...

You're right about it being a moving hotel - and it is like a casino in the sense that they design it to seem bigger - and more private than it may be - you lose track of space in there. Tricks, optics, partitions, etc, it all works pretty well.

Erik Robert Nelson said...

Cruises are great. My wife and I went on one back in 2006. Got on the boat in Athens. Relaxed for a few days, woke up in Alexandria, Egypt. Relaxed a day, woke up in Santorini. You get to see different places and not have to worry about travel or accommodations.

There are shows, gambling, classes, a spa, exercising, sitting out on deck in the sun (depending, I guess, on where you're going). It's no different than any other resort. I'd recommend it to just about anyone. And they've always seemed to be run by competent people who provide decent service. I've never been to a resort that treated me as well as the cruise line did. (FYI, we've taken cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line.)

Bartender Cabbie said...

When there is trouble the crew will leave you stranded. I have seen this first hand as a Coast Guard veteran. I would not go to sea on one.

HT said...

My mother came over on a ship, to New Orleans. I have a hat box of hers she brought with her and the ticket stub or claim check with the company logo. This was pretty much back when you had to arrive on a ship. I think it took longer than a week. That was romantic ship travel.

To me these cruises today are not.

I could not be paid to take one.

Tank said...

I think whether you enjoy cruises depends on (1) what kind of cruise you take and (2) what you like doing on vacaction.

Some people want to listen to the Beatles and Bob Dylan, others only classical and opera. You put that Beatles fan at the opera - what kind of review you gonna get? And vice versa.

We took one cruise of the Greece Isles and parts of Turkey. Small ship. Basically, tour a different island each day, then get on board eat,drink, sleep, wake up at the next island. We had a great time, but would not do it again - we did not get to spend enough time at each place to get a feel for it. Also, mostly you keep getting on the boat to eat and spend the evening - I'd rather spend that time at my destination.

I'm guessing that almost anyone could find a cruise of some sort that they would enjoy.

gerry said...

The PDF is an interesting bit of self-flagellation and haughty condemnation of all who participate in cruises.

Contemporary puritanism.

Rusty said...

Ann Said,"Note that my avoidance of cruises isn't based on fear... at least not of dangerous things happening. I am afraid of not liking being stuck on the boat, trapped and confined."


I feel the same way about flights to Europe.

chuckR said...

A cruise ship was the major reason I got a big generator. Newport RI is a popular summer and fall port for long weekend cruises and one of the ships dragged the anchor - right over the underwater line that is the sole power feed where I live. Out for a week. Not terribly professional of them. A more honest description of the staff would be hundreds of hotel workers and a couple dozen seamen.
Helpful hint for newbie genset users - do not let the garage door slam down on the 4 wire #8 feed to the crossover box. You will find out what an inductive short is. Very impressive.

wv - fiess - the inductive short sure did fiess-le

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Rose said..

If i were to do it over again. I would fly in to Juneau, rent a cabin, and go out on all the excursions from that base.


I lived in Juneau in the seventies and loved it. I think your plan is a good one. Juneau has some big-city amenities, but is located well for trips to Sitka, Skagway, Glacier Bay and wild Alaska.

When I lived there we got maybe five cruise ships a week in the summer. Now they get five or six cruise ships a day. My friends who still live there think the town has lost its character with ten thousand cruise ship passengers cramming themselves into South Franklin Street every day. Last year the helicopter company that flies people up to the ice field applied for a permit to make four thousand flights per year. Juneau is in a deep fjord and that noise is inescapable. The town is filled with shops that sell knick-knacks made in China, and whose proprietors close up shop in the fall and go back to Arizona. Oh well. I guess that's progress.

Barbara said...

"This is what I love about home!"

Me too. But when do you get to nap, read and sip wine at home? At home you clean the bathrooms, plan meals, shop for them and cook them, answer the phone, run necessary errands, etc. That's why I've taken nearly two dozen cruises. No one expects me to vacuum the hallways or plan the menus onboard. I'm treated in accordance with my inner Princess.

Yes, I loved the David Foster Wallace essay too. It was hilarious, but by the end you had to see that it was Wallace who was the total ass and his fellow passengers who were amazingly tolerant of his boorish behavior.

mariner said...

Hagar,
As for sailing on one, look at the superstructure on those things and visualize a good southwester in the North Sea, never mind a hurricane in American waters!

Professional mariners visualize being far away from hurricanes. Notice there aren't many luxury cruise ships operating in the North Sea.

I've often fantasized about taking a long cruise, just to see what it would be like to just sit around for several days on a ship.

mariner said...

pst314,
What happened to the watertight bulkheads?

Some of the photos show extensive damage to a long portion of the ship's bottom. Watertight bulkheads aren't effective when there is flooding on both sides of the bulkheads.

mariner said...

I've seen many comments asserting that cruise ships are "top-heavy". They are not; they could never be built and certified for service if this were true.

They have high superstructures, balanced by the weight of machinery, liquids and stores low in the hull.

Look around the room you're sitting in -- it's mostly empty space, which weighs basically nothing. Cruise ship superstructures have a LOT of that empty space.

As for waiters operating lifeboats, that's not necessarily a bad thing. How many of you who are not professional seamen have launched a motorboat and used it for fishing, skiing, or just moving around on the water? Yes, some training is involved in being a lifeboat operator, but it's nothing beyond the capabilities of average people. We're not talking nuclear reactor operation or brain surgery.

Strelnikov said...

Cruising is the perfect, affordable vacation, especially for a family. You should be aware, however, that boats do sink, just like airplanes can fall from the sky, and cars run into things. If you're not willing to take those chances, stay home.

Tibore said...

"Have you ever given in and — against your better instincts — gotten on a cruise ship?"

Why would that be "against your better instincts"? One accident due to incompetence does not a reckless industry make.

"But I have read "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" — PDF — perhaps the most amusing essay I've ever read. Apparently, it's all quite awful even when it's not some "Titanic"/"Poseidon Adventure" experience."

Let's summarize that "essay": "Oh, woe is me. The staff was enthusiastic and took their jobs seriously, the ship was maintained impeccably, the food was incredible, OH THE HORROR!" "Essays" like that are more accurately called "whining", and if you want to hone the accuracy even further, prepend the word "unjustified" to it. Well before I finished it, I realized that the piece was nothing more than a narcissistic exercise by the author in showing off his cynicism. In demonstrating his ability to be ironic and cast good things in eye-rolling terms, he was actually no better than the incoming freshman Mona he mentioned in the article, and was probably a good deal worse. He was, in other words, being a hipster: Too cool for the good around him.

I don't know if cruises would be my thing or not - I've never been on one - but the last thing I want to do is base my opinion on an overwrought work from an excessively ironic hack who's probably a working poster boy for stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. Or better yet, that website's target. I'd rather judge the topic on its own merits, and not by an article's that's more about the author's inability to not be an asshole than it is about the cruise he's writing about.

Tibore said...

And for the record: No, I'm not the waiter "Tibor" for Table 64 :) . I've only been on a seaborn ship twice, and they were ferrys, not cruise ships.

Andrea said...

Tibore: actually, the author of that essay, David Foster Wallace, committed suicide a while back, so he isn't anything now. And frankly, after reading the essay, I'm not surprised that suicide was in his future. You can also tell he was an American: no one hates Americans as good as an American. Another clue that Wallace was American: when, say, a Frenchman ponders the fact that ultimate satisfaction in life is unattainable, he just shrugs, puts it down to le merde de la vie, and goes on with his day. An American realizes that no matter how much he gets of whatever he wants it will never be enough, feels rage and despair, and eventually commits suicide.

As for cruises... I grew up in Miami and always hated the tropical beach-fun-sun life so I've never wanted to go on a cruise of the sort that is talked about in the essay. Also, I hate "activities," and don't need to be "forced to relax." (Instead, I find it all too easy to relax.) On the other hand, I refuse to fly for various reasons, and have decided that if I ever plant to travel anywhere that necessitates crossing the ocean, I'm doing it by boat. Maybe I'll book passage on one of those container ships. I don't need frills or pampering -- in fact, being fussed over makes me nervous. Apparently I lack what another commenter has said she has: an "inner princess."

Rex said...

Been on three cruises: Carnival over a decade ago (for a wedding), Royal Carribean three years ago (10th year anniversary for the couple who got married on the Carnival cruise), and Celebrity last year. By far the best experience for us was the Celebrity cruise, but the Carnival would have been fun if we had been in our 20's.

Going on a Celebrity cruise later this year. First three cruises were all Carribean, next one will be in the Med.

Not as nice as home in a lot of ways, but makes a nice change from home. Life tends to center around mealtimes. Shore excursions are fun and you pay a little extra for having someone else make all the arrangements; if all you want to do is sightseeing, you can hire a cab for a couple of hours for less money. And the cabbies know a lot more than you'll ever hear from a tour guide.

There's always something to do if you want to be doing something, or you can just find a quiet room (library or card room, e.g.) and read. Or read by the pool or on the sundeck, if you can tolerate a bunch of people moving and talking while you're trying to read.

We found on the Celebrity cruise that there were a bunch of small lounges in various areas that would have musicians at various times, and the only posting was on a sign near the particular lounge. It made for a fun challenge to find someone playing the kind of music we were in the mood for, and when we found one, we would order a drink and relax and just enjoy ourselves.

The shows were generally good. Food was decent on the Carnival cruise, not so good on the Royal Carribean, and excellent on the Celebrity.

Unlike Wallace's article, the smiles of the staff were genuine, and not the professional smile he mocked.

We had a good time, but I can't imagine going on a cruise all by myself--it's better as a shared experience.

Nora said...

"Have you ever given in and — against your better instincts — gotten on a cruise ship?"

Yep. Moreover, I even get in the car quite frequently.