Why Do People Do This

This is another vacation option I will never understand:

U.S. health officials on Sunday boarded a cruise ship docked in the U.S. Virgin Islands to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 281, or nearly 10 percent, of the 3,050 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas have reported getting sick during a Caribbean cruise that left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Tuesday. Twenty-two crew members also reported feeling ill.

I really don’t understand cruise ships in general. The point of a vacation is to go some place and relax, not to go on a vacation that consists of basically doing nothing but roaming around aimlessly on a floating 150k ton listeria petri dish. All you do on these god damned cruises is eat (cruise ships and their endless buffets are kind of a mobile, international, and successful diabetes starter kit), try not to get diarrhea, and then try not to get robbed by the natives in whatever shithole you are ported in for twelve hours.

It really makes no sense to me. Boats are a form of transportation to get you from A to B. No one in their right mind would would sign up for a ten day plane flight where all you did was eat and disembark the plane for a few hours to get robbed by locals.

And seriously, if I am going to get a life-threatening infectious bacterial disease, it better be from snorting cocaine off an exotic escort’s tanned breasts on a tropical island, and not from bad shrimp at an all you can eat buffet surrounded by blue hairs, fat mid-western newlyweds, and a bunch of underpaid and likely abused Bandgladeshi shipmates on a fucking Royal Carribean cruise ship in some shithole port in the ass of the Caribbean.

And that is all I have to say about that.

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152 replies
  1. 1
    Mudge says:

    Filipino crewmen and I want first distribution rights to the Cole snorting cocaine off an escort’s breasts video.

  2. 2
    BGinCHI says:

    if I am going to get an infectious bacterial disease, it better be from snorting cocaine off an escort’s breasts on a tropical island

    Please proceed, blog Governor.

  3. 3
    namekarB says:

    A cruise ship is a 1st class jail. (Disclaimer – going on an Alaskan cruise with the missus, kids and grandkids this fall)

  4. 4
    BGinCHI says:

    I honestly don’t get the cruise thing either. It seems mostly to be for people who want to travel without really traveling.

  5. 5
    Baud says:

    I love the sea, and I’m not about to join the Navy.

  6. 6
    jl says:

    ” whatever shithole you are ported in for twelve hours. ”

    There are cruises to West Virginia? I might be interested. Where might I obtain a brochure?

    ” snorting cocaine off an exotic escort’s tanned breasts on a tropical island, and not from bad shrimp at an all you can eat buffet surrounded by blue hairs, fat mid-western newlyweds, ”

    I don’t see why the two are mutually exclusive. Cruise ships are big, and they do make port calls.

  7. 7
    CaseyL says:

    Destination cruises are great fun. I took one last year around Maine and the Canadian Maritime provinces, ending up in Quebec City. We sailed with Royal Caribbean, which is a good line – this is the first I’ve heard of RC having the kinds of problems that have plagued other cruise lines. Certainly we had no such problems.

    Taking a cruise means not having to arrange transportation, accommodation and meals along the way. The excursions are extra – and boy, do they add up to a lot of money! – but, again, that saves you the trouble of having to find, compare, and vet day trips all by yourself.

    It’s basically taking the hotel with you as you go. With the added benefit of having very good food available at all hours, very decent (though not amazing) shipboard entertainment every night, and an opportunity every night to do some serious stargazing from the outside decks, far beyond city air- and light pollution.

  8. 8
    Hungry Joe says:

    One of the most hilarious and insightful essays you’ll ever read is on this very subject: David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” It’s the title essay in a collection crammed with others just as good.

  9. 9
    Poopyman says:

    Glad to see you’re feeling better.

  10. 10

    I have a friend who goes on cruises all the time. Personally I don’t see the attraction but I don’t understand people who go to Club Med resorts either.

  11. 11
    dmsilev says:

    that left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Tuesday

    I blame Chris Christie.

  12. 12
    BGinCHI says:

    @Hungry Joe: Yes indeed. That is a great essay. As is “Consider the Lobster.”

    Like his nonfic much better than his fiction.

  13. 13
    Glocksman says:

    Why do some people take the train when you can fly?
    Sense of adventure and all that.

    That said, if I were going on a cruise, I’d go on a smaller ship like the old Pacific Princess of Love Boat fame instead of one of the floating buildings they use today.

    The big ships give you all of the experience of being at sea of a room at the Holiday Inn.

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    Winds in excess of 50 mph tonight with a high tomorrow of 0, actual temp.

    Thanks Al Gore.

  15. 15
    trollhattan says:

    Lord, can think of few things less appealing then being trapped on a cruise ship with N-thousand people who LOVE cruise ships. We have this social contract that keeps everybody happy, and I skip the whole norovirus thing.

  16. 16

    Being on a cruise ship enables you to travel without leaving your comfort zone. Not for me, but I can see why some one might want to do it.
    I don’t see the attraction of the huge cruise ships. I once spent 3 days and 4 nights on schooner off the coast of Maine, it was fun but cold.

  17. 17
    jl says:

    You used to be able to book steerage on some Inland Passage cruises from Seattle to Anchorage. Steerage meant you slept on the deck.

    Not sure whether any still offer that angle. Cole might be interested in that. Real he-man cruising (actually mostly a young drifter, college student, and ‘make some summer dough in the canneries’ crowd).

  18. 18
    Poopyman says:


    There are cruises to West Virginia? I might be interested. Where might I obtain a brochure?

    Here ya go.

  19. 19
    dmsilev says:


    Why do some people take the train when you can fly?
    Sense of adventure and all that.

    I’ve done that a couple of times (e.g. the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago). It’s a relaxing way of spending a couple of days; you can chat with folks in the lounge car, or just sit with a good book in front of a window and watch some beautiful scenery slide by.

    A multi-thousand-passenger cruise ship is on an entirely different scale.

  20. 20
    WereBear says:

    I like being there. I hate travel. But I’m still not attracted to cruises.

    However, they obviously have a niche. Looking at them from the outside, it’s like a very luxurious kindergarten, with all these planned activities. And if you don’t like planned activities, why are you there?

  21. 21
    dmsilev says:


    Winds in excess of 50 mph tonight with a high tomorrow of 0, actual temp.

    Positively tropical compared to the first round of Polar Vortex.

    See, global warming is real.

  22. 22
    Garbo says:

    Time to release the cannibalistic rats and make it a REAL cruise.

  23. 23
    jl says:


    Uh, thanks.. I guess.

    ‘ The French called the serene blue depths of the Ohio River “la belle riviere,” ‘

    That was a long time ago, though.

    But, if the cruises go all the way to W By God Virginny, and I can get travel insurance that includes stuff like the river catching on fire or closed due to fracking fluid spill, I might consider it.

  24. 24
    raven says:

    Does anybody know what time it is. . . .

  25. 25
    RaflW says:

    I’ve never been on a cruise but will, at some point. I’m crazy enough to actually be interested in a repositioning cruise – they have far fewer ports of call and are about the journey.

    That said, I am not interested in the 4,000 pax IKEA/grocery store type cruises. The ships just keep getting bigger, which I guess means: they have things like water slides now, and a big ship can afford a bigger entertainment crew for the hokey stage shows.

    I have been on at least three 12 to 16 hour overnight ferries. I love em. I can stand on the fantail and watch the wake for hours. I tend towards introversion but also enjoy people (yes, those are compatible urges – I just need down time between bouts of good conversation).

    I see a trans-Atlantic (or other) repositioning as a chance to read some good books, have dinner conversations, spend time with my partner, and – since I gather internet is highway robbery on cruises – tamp down my Juice time-wasting. I’ve seen some cruise lines with 350-500 pax ships. A bit more expensive, but at a scale of humanity I could manage.

    I also someday want to cruise the Panama Canal, Alaska passage, Norwegian Fjords, and maybe the Red Sea and Suez. (Not on one cruise, mind you!)

    A three night “funship” booza-palooza with all you can eat fried clam strips, free norovirus, and 3,998 morans in the eastern Caribbean does not appeal.

  26. 26
    Glocksman says:


    If anyone wants to take one of those Ohio River cruises and likes Blues, take one that disembarks in Henderson, KY or Evansville, IN during the W.C. Handy Blues & Barbeque Festival

    Good music and instant heart attack on a plate, what else could you ask for? :)

  27. 27
    donovong says:

    I, for one, would never want to snort cocaine off of anybody’s body parts, but I do enjoy cruises. They are just like any vacation – you choose carefully and plan in advance. For example, there are 7 day cruises around the Hawaiian Islands that transport you from island to island, allowing you to explore different areas. We planned our own excursions with a rental car and did our own thing for a day or two, depending on the stop. In the future, we now know where to go for an extended land vacation (Hanalei). Somebody else toted my ass around for 7 days, fed me and cleaned up after me while I lived it up. Nothing wrong with that!

    And look at how many cruises are going on every day with nobody getting sick, for chrissake. The odds are in your favor by a long shot.

  28. 28
    AnotherBruce says:

    @CaseyL: Maybe it’s just me, but all the things you describe, the planning, accommodations and destinations are part of the fun of travel. There is nothing quite like the feeling of pulling off a great vacation package on your own. Plus you save tons of money. That’s precisely why I would never go on a cruise.

  29. 29

    @jl: What do you think about Raj Chetty’s new income inequality study, have you looked at it? Douthat was quoting it approvingly in his column in this morning’s NYT.

  30. 30
    Howard Beale IV says:

    This is the only boat I’ve been on in decades-mainly to bypass a metric shit-ton of traffic jams on I-90/I-94.

    Best part is that it’s only four hours.

  31. 31
    Hungry Joe says:

    @BGinCHI: Agree. I liked “Infinite Jest,” though, even if it did take me months of on-and-off reading marathons, a la “Gravity’s Rainbow,” to get through it. A Wallace bio came out a year or two ago; it was pretty good and very disturbing, as was Franzen’s essay on Wallace in the New Yorker a while back.

  32. 32
    ChrisNBama says:

    And seriously, if I am going to get a life-threatening infectious bacterial disease, it better be from snorting cocaine off an exotic escort’s tanned breasts on a tropical island, and not from bad shrimp at an all you can eat buffet surrounded by blue hairs, fat mid-western newlyweds, and a bunch of underpaid and likely abused Bandgladeshi shipmates on a fucking Royal Carribean cruise ship in some shithole port in the ass of the Caribbean.

    And it is comments like this that keep me coming back to this site. Cole has the Best. Rants. Ever!

  33. 33
    raven says:

    I’m only taking the kind of cruise where you rig up the big-eyed scad!

  34. 34

    @dmsilev: I like trains, have taken AmTrak a few times from NY to DC, and once from Boston to Philly, much more pleasant than driving on I-95 and takes about the same time (ok may be slightly longer, but not by much)

  35. 35
    Baud says:

    I’m trying to paste the first paragraph of Moby Dick, but FYWP won’t let me. I think I tripped some copyright sensor or something. Here’s the link.

  36. 36
    AndoChronic says:

    C’mon, there is nothing like getting shart your banana hammock drunk in San Juan, good blow too apparently! Never took a fucking boat there though!

  37. 37
    danielx says:

    And seriously, if I am going to get a life-threatening infectious bacterial disease, it better be from snorting cocaine off an exotic escort’s tanned breasts on a tropical island…

    It’s important to have goals.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    Bo Alawine says:

    Having worked for the U.S. Navy for over 26 years and having been underway more times than I can count on frigates, cruisers and destroyers, I see no good reason to pay good money to inflict upon myself what I have to do for a living already.

  40. 40

    @Baud: That is just mean, who are you calling a whale?

  41. 41
    Violet says:

    @Southern Beale: I didn’t understand those either but one year was so rough that I couldn’t handle planning any kind of vacation. We booked a week at one of those all inclusive resorts and it was great. Didn’t go further than the pool the first day, the beach just past the pool the second day and finally the rest of the beach the third day. So exhausted we just sort of lay around and ate and drank. It was wonderful not to have to make any decisions or do anything. It felt like a cruise on dry land, though.

    My cousins just got back from doing a Disney cruise with their kids. It was way cheaper than going to Disneyland/world and they all had a great time. There were enough kids activities that the kids stayed busy and the parents also had a chance to relax without the kids. So that’s why they went–the whole family got to have a vacation without stress.

  42. 42
    Jay S says:


    Fast-spreading norovirus is often to blame for similar symptoms sweeping closed quarters like those on cruise ships, but a determination will likely have to wait until samples are tested in a lab.

    This isn’t likely to be a bacterial infection, or from bad food. It’s more likely from putting large numbers of people into confined spaces for long periods of time.

  43. 43
    John O says:

    Highly recommend DF Wallace’s hilarious essay about luxury cruising, the title track of “a supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again,” a collection.

    Captures my angst about cruising to a T. And it ain’t about the food.

  44. 44
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    who you calling fat?

  45. 45
    raven says:

    @Bo Alawine: God, you’re not from Athens are you?

  46. 46
    John Cole says:

    @Bo Alawine: That’s basically been my response to anyone who has wanted me to go camping since I got out of the Army. No thank you, I’ll stay in a hotel.

  47. 47
    Smiling Mortician says:

    First: I’m with you on the cruise-ship hate, John.

    But calling pretty much everywhere in the Caribbean a “shithole” where you get “robbed by the natives”? That’s bullshit.

  48. 48
    scav says:

    @BGinCHI: Yup. and it’s snowing just a bit more for a change. Hadn’t heard about the windspeed, that’ll be fun.

  49. 49
    Baud says:

    @Jay S:

    It’s more likely from putting large numbers of people into confined spaces for long periods of time.


  50. 50
    jl says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I haven’t had time to look for a copy. But I plan on finding it.

    I heard an interview with one of the co-authors on local news radio. He said that some people were misinterpreting the study’s finding that mobility had stayed constant. Paraphrasing, he said, Look, dude, you start out the sample period with one of the lowest rates of mobility in high income industrial nations, there really isn’t anywhere to go on the downside, and we sure did not go up. So, that might have been an answer to the Brooksies and Douthats of the pundit world.

    The team also did research on regional variation in mobility, though not sure those results were included in the paper that just came out. I was indeed surprised to hear that SF Bay Area and San Jose, and Northern California were regions with higher than average mobility. SF Bay and San Jose had the highest mobility among MSAs. Not sure whether those two were very highest or in highest group.

    He cited much lower than average levels of residential and school segregation, more generous than average pre-school and day care options for wide range of incomes, relatively generous community cultural enrichment programs.

    Hey, I was amazed. Since so many people been telling me in the news that we damn liberals out here were imposing slavery and cultural genocide on the poor with our commie socialist ways.

    So, after hearing that regional and MSA aspect to the research, I mean to get the publications and working papers when I have time.

  51. 51
    lectric lady says:

    @jl: Alaska maritime ferry. Highly recommend it. http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

  52. 52
    Baud says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    A white whale at that!

    Actually, the first paragraph is all about the call of the sea.

  53. 53
    jl says:

    @raven: Looks good. But how many blue haired grammas and fat midwestern newlyweds can you get on that thing, anyway?

  54. 54
    realbtl says:

    Another thumbs up for the DF Wallace cruise essay. One of the funniest things I’ve read.

  55. 55
    Punchy says:

    Oh go fuck yerself Johnny. A well-planned cruise hits multiple countries quickly and allows one to experience different cultures for a day. Try flying separately to each country and booking hotels in each country and schlepping your shit from place to place each day. I’m sorry that the Dub-V version of vacation is installing indoor plumbing so you can flush the condom you used on your first cousin. In developed regions of this country, cruises are considered a legit way to travel relatively safely and easily.

  56. 56
    raven says:

    @jl: I dunno, 4 of the 6 on that trip puked for 12 hours!

  57. 57
    CaseyL says:

    @AnotherBruce: I’ve done both, and each has its virtues. If I’ve been to a place before, and know something about it, I’m more likely to feel comfortable planning things myself. If I’m going somewhere new, I’d rather leave the planning to people who do have the knowledge and vendor relationships already in place.

    The excursion selection a big cruise line offers is vast and varied, and the vendor-operators have, with very few exceptions (I can’t think of any bad ones offhand) been delightful. And not having to deal with traffic – intracity, as well as between states and provinces – is a big plus all by itself.

    That being said, I know there are people who never get off the ship. They tend to be fairly elderly, or otherwise infirm, who want to travel with as little fuss and effort as possible.

  58. 58
    Greg says:

    I went on one cruise because my company at the time had the stupid idea that it would be a good place to have our yearly manager’s meeting. I hated it so much that I had to stay drunk the whole time just so I wouldn’t have a complete nervous breakdown. As my friend said about our fellow cruisers “It looks like somebody backed a trailer park up to the dock and had them all get on board.” I have taken a couple of long distance trains with a private room. Super relaxing, because you can shut the door and never have to interact with anyone and you can bring your own booze.

  59. 59
    Lihtox says:


    Why do some people take the train when you can fly?

    Ugh, why would anyone fly if there were any other option? Flying is such an awful all-around experience.

  60. 60
    Baud says:

    if I am going to get a life-threatening infectious bacterial disease,

    Already in the 50s and nobody’s made a reference to shaving a cat’s ass?

    I am disappoint.

  61. 61
    jl says:

    @raven: All right. Call up Cole, he might be up for that kind of cruise. None of that dowdy floating luxury hotel / notovirus experiment crap.

  62. 62
    namekarB says:

    I see now the NRA is offering a Somalia Coast cruise. Passengers can bring military style weapons aboard or for additional money may use some of the shipboard equipment such as 50 Caliber machine guns, RPG’s and assorted high end weaponry. The cruise ship is designed to look like an oil tanker and cruises near shore trolling for pirates.

  63. 63
    raven says:

    @jl: Ha, why do I think he wouldn’t be much of a deep sea fishin dude?

  64. 64
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Hungry Joe: I was going to mention that. : -) Listen to our published author folks. It’s an essay set that’s well worth the price and your time to read. You’ll never see state fairs in the same light again.

    An never mind what Jonathan Franzen says. I believe he is bitter and envious.

  65. 65
    OGLiberal says:

    OK, first of all…have you watched “The Love Boat”? If I have to go on a cruise ship to watch Marsha Brady hook up with Juan Epstein, I’m paying the fare!

    That said, I’m intrigued by the bigger ones and my kids are dying to go on a Disney Cruise, because of the marketing/advertising. (they are 6 and 7 – the see the pretty commercials but not the news stories of cruise guests stuck for three days on boats with non-working latrines filled with trots-infected passengers) The ships are just so freaking big these days with so many features/attractions. I spent many years labeling cruises as cheesy because the only people I knew who went on them were my bachelor friends (even when I was a bachelor) who saw it as a) a perfect opportunity to get cheap sex and/or b) the place where they would find true love. (a la Cpt. Steubing’s ship) These were the same folks who (for the most part) went to Hedonism. None of these was my cup of tea. But what they market today seems to be so family friendly and comfortable. Plus, I like boats but no nobody with a boat.

  66. 66
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Needs moar “and bleedin’ Watney’s Red Barrel beer…”

  67. 67
    lectric lady says:

    If you want to visit the Galapagos Islands, you have no choice but to cruise. Fortunately you have a range of vessel sizes from which to choose. I went on a 40 passenger ship, and it was great! Will also consider a cruise ship to traverse the Panama Canal. Other than that, meh.

  68. 68
    p.a. says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: If possible I always take the train for NE corridor travel. Pvd to DC, Baltimore, and Philly. Went Amtrak Pvd to New Orleans twice. First time just great; good food, conversation. Next time OK, but you could tell there had been cutbacks. And people don’t talk on trains anymore. Everyone is plugged in or online.
    As for cruises, the multi-stop ones are good for scoping out which areas you would like to go to for a full week or two.

  69. 69
    GregB says:

    In my formative years I identified cruise ships with the Titanic, the Poseidon and the Achille Lauro. After that they never had much appeal.

    In the parlance of stand-up comics, becoming a cruise ship comic is known as burial-at-sea because the act has to get watered down and niced up so as not to offend the crowds.

  70. 70
    KG says:

    @BGinCHI: a few weeks back I was having a Facebook discussion with someone about Super Bowl conditions and what weather football should be played in… it was when SF was playing Green Bay. The weather report said it’d be zero degrees, all I could say then, and all I can say now is… Zero degrees is not weather, it is a lack of weather.

    The again, “winter” here in Dorne Southern California means it’s 64 at 6:00 at night. And rain is never going to happen again.

  71. 71
    WereBear says:

    My aunt is part of an extended learning program, with cruises focused on certain subjects. That’s entertainment I can enjoy.

    A lot of cruises are Vegas rated PG and there is a market for that. Just not me.

  72. 72
    RSA says:


    Looking at them from the outside, it’s like a very luxurious kindergarten, with all these planned activities.

    I’ve never been on a cruise, but I’ve spent the last two months in an independent living community with group meals, activities, and so forth. I think I have a reasonable idea now: retirement homes crossing the ocean.

    A few of my older friends and family have done destination cruises, though, and they sound okay, as a moving reunions that go somewhere interesting.

  73. 73
    jl says:

    @lectric lady: thanks. I went once in college, occupying a deluxe space on the bow deck. Would like to go again, but with a room, since I am progressing towards being an olds.

    Edit: I don’t think I took any of those lines, though.

  74. 74
    ruemara says:

    You’ve never been on a cruise, so stuff it. It can be a very nice way of seeing a region. You can spend a lot of time enjoying the ocean, you don’t have to go for “planned activities” you can damned well go explore on your own and I did. It was the last vacation (and the first) I’ve ever had, in 99. Dancing in the marginally pisspoor club, reading, enjoying the gym. I never got the buffet thing, it makes no sense, why eat if you’re not hungry? But it was nice to dress up for dinner, enjoy friendly company, explore the islands and sleep with the action of the waves. I barely recall it, but I remember how Dominica looked before you pulled into port and the strange beauty of the rocky shores of Sint Maarten. How sad it was that development was poisoning one of their beaches. The beautiful butterfly haven, the hike up the mountains to the waterfall pools. Vacations are what you make of it and if you’re willing to fly on a plane or ride on a bus, you’re subject to just as much petri dish conditions, just with less time. So stow it up your pie hole.

    It’s been a horrible, shitty goddamn day and I swear to god, about all the nice that I can remember is a little bit of that travelling I got to do. You have not seen water as clear as Sint Maarten, where it’s like clear, pale blue glass so you can see a deceptively close bottom, when you’re jumping into enough water to hold the massive lump of a cruise ship. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

  75. 75
    danielx says:

    I could possibly be persuaded to indulge in this cruise.

  76. 76
    Glocksman says:


    Pre Security Kabuki Theatre, it wasn’t quite that bad.

    In fact, I had quite a sense of ‘adventure’ flying on one of those commuter airline prop jobs back in the 90’s.

    For starters, there was only a curtain separating the cockpit from the passenger cabin.
    Then there was the whole ‘just got back from flying refugees out of Bosnia’ ambience with the ripped seats, smelly cabin, extremely loud engines, etc.

    I felt vaguely like Lindbergh :)

  77. 77
    James E. Powell says:

    @Hungry Joe:

    One of the most hilarious and insightful essays you’ll ever read is on this very subject: David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” It’s the title essay in a collection crammed with others just as good.

    Seconded. It is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read and I’ve read ’em all over the world.

    I call it “A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Have To Do Because DFW Covered It For Me”

  78. 78
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Does anybody really care?

  79. 79
    Mike in NC says:

    Caribbean cruises are a mixed bag, but of the several we’ve taken none could compare to a fabulous river cruise in Europe. Best vacation ever.

  80. 80
    Mnemosyne says:

    Tina Fey has a whole chapter in Bossypants about the cruise she took for her honeymoon and it was basically people who are afraid of flying.

    Also, too, I have to be the PC person here and mention that cruises can be great for people with limited mobility, which is why elderly people flock to them. They even have dialysis cruises so kidney patients can vacation with their families.

  81. 81
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @raven: 25 or 6 to 4.

  82. 82
    scav says:

    So many of the big ships never get anywhere but the larger ports with very thick tortilla curtains and sanitized bubbles with trinkets. Definitely not my idea of foreign travel. With care, some of the smaller (really smaller) ones would be fun in certain environments, esp in areas where you can really only get there in boats.

  83. 83
    Anniecat45 says:

    I did a river cruise in Russia a few years ago; 4 days in Moscow, then the cruise boat went along the Volga to Karelia and back to St Petersburg. It stopped every day at a different small village with some significance in Russian history. It was a great, relaxing way to see these villages without having to pack and unpack in a new hotel every damn day, or drive on Russian rural roads which were awful.

  84. 84
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    I have a friend who observed (in a really good poem) that the weather was making everybody kind of schizy — Bipolar Vortex.

  85. 85
    Mnemosyne says:


    There are lots of crafting cruises — I’m occasionally tempted by some of the more exotic knitting cruises. And, of course, there are Galapagos cruises, which tend to be on smaller boats and much more education-oriented.

  86. 86
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    There was a time when I really, really wanted to take one of these cruises. Not a good idea, these days, to hit some of those ports of call.

  87. 87
    Tokyokie says:

    The spousal unit and I took a short cruise (Galveston to Cozumel and back) for our 10th anniversary, and we hated it. (The spousal unit getting seasick didn’t help matters.) But what really got to us was just how many friggin people were on the ship. I never saw the eight-person hot tub with fewer than a dozen people in it. Forget swimming in the pool, too many people standing around in it, and the chaise lounges around the swimming pool were spaced so closely together that you couldn’t walk between them, plus they were four rows deep and every one of them seemed constantly occupied. (Good luck finding adjoining ones.) It’d be one thing if these were people with whom you’d like to spend time, but they were the sorts who didn’t get more than a block away from the street that fronted the cruise-ship area, because, hey, once you’ve gotten a souvenir sombrero and downed a lot of tequila, what else is there to Mexico? Ugh. We’ll never do that again.

    Another thing we’ll never do again is take a long trip on Amtrak. We traveled from Fort Worth to L.A. a few years back, and it was fairly miserable. The snack-car attendant didn’t show up in San Antonio, so the service there was spotty. We wound up with a cabin directly across from the restroom, which stopped working a few hours outside San Antonio. The train arrived so late that had our LAX-to-SJC flight not been an hour late, we wouldn’t have made it, and that was with allowing more than six hours. I will say that the understaffed crew did yeoman’s work (one of them figured out how to fix the busted toilet on the fly), and I understand that service east of the Mississippi is a lot better, but if I were to suggest another long domestic train trip, the spousal unit would probably initiate commitment hearings for me.

  88. 88
    WaterGirl says:

    @ruemara: I was about to ask how your day with the cupcakes, etc went…

  89. 89
    jl says:

    @John Cole:

    “That’s basically been my response to anyone who has wanted me to go camping since I got out of the Army. No thank you, I’ll stay in a hotel.”

    Sorry, Cole can run but he cannot hide from the great outdoors.

    Luxury Camping, dude. Have a lot of that stuff out here on Left Coast, and on up through British Columbia. I think BC was an early pioneer in artsy little comvy cabins and heated tents and room (or, tent?) service, and canneles and eggs benedict for breakfast out in the woods.

    Top 10 luxury camping trips

  90. 90
    Ash Can says:

    I went on a cruise some years ago (on a Carnival ship), with immediate and some extended family. It was to the west coast of Mexico and the primary purpose was as an errand of mercy; we scattered a relative’s ashes at sea off the coast of Mexico. The people working on the ship were very friendly and pleasant, and they all seemed happy to be working there. Also, considering the fact that they were feeding so damned many people, the quality of the food was quite good. (My favorite was the congee bar amid all the choices at breakfast.) They also did a good job of keeping the kids entertained.

    Having said that, though, yes, it got kind of boring on board the ship. (It helped that there was a group of us and we could sit around and shoot the breeze.) As beautiful as the Pacific Ocean is, there was usually no other scenery but water. The entertainment for adults aboard the ship was cheesy (with a few exceptions), and we spent way too little time in the ports of call. On top of everything, we had rough seas for the day on our way back. Ugh. So, once was enough for me for the cruising. I’d go back to Mexico in a heartbeat, but not via a cruise ship.

  91. 91
    Bo Alawine says:


    LOL! Do folks from Athens have a Southern accent?

    Nope. Originally from the bustling metropolis of Meridian, MS, and now residing in the great megalopolis of the MS Gulf Coast.

  92. 92
    Tim F. says:

    Not on board with his camping thing, but the main post is another example of how Cole and I see eye to eye on a striking number of things. That includes the emphatic word choice. It still feels weird, though not as odd as when he was a Republican and I was registered-Green-who-did-NOT-vote-Nader-thanks-for-asking.

  93. 93
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Speaking of shitholes, here’s something closer to John (via Atrios) that ties in with last night’s rant.

  94. 94
    jl says:


    Try the Surfliner in Southern California and Coast Starlight. I’ve had a blast on those. Great for one or two day stops at good beach places like Santa Barbara.

    Last time had a lot of free wine cheese and local food tastings. An effing wine cooking demo. I assume local food and agricultural organizations put those on, not Amtrak, but whatever, it was fun.

  95. 95
    Mnemosyne says:


    My boss went on a Disney cruise this fall — turns out fall is not necessarily the best time to go since it’s hurricane season and there were high seas. :-o But overall she really enjoyed it and Disney does go to a lot of trouble to make sure there are plenty of activities for all ages, abilities, and interests. She was there to deliver a couple of lectures on Disney art, so they’re trying to add a little kultur to the offerings.

    Kidwise, they basically have daycamps for kids up to about age 16 (I think), so you can drop the little rugrats off in the morning and head off to do what you want the rest of the day. They even have an adults-only pool.

  96. 96
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Hungry Joe: I just can’t quite get over how much Franzen has made DFW’s death about Franzen. It reminds me of how Robbie made Levon’s death about Robbie (“I was so glad my good friends Libby Titus and Donal Fagen were there to help me get through it.”) It’s been a topic of discussion with my psychiatrist even. He’s a huge DFW fan – and bought Anyway* for his kids after I let him read my copy.

    @raven: That’s a cruise worth taking!

  97. 97
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    All you do on these god damned cruises is eat (cruise ships and their endless buffets are kind of a mobile, international, and successful diabetes starter kit), try not to get diarrhea, and then try not to get robbed by the natives in whatever shithole you are ported in for twelve hours.

    Oh, no. It’s worse than that. It’s much worse. There are activities. And people trying to get you to do them. It’s like the ninth circle of Hell.

  98. 98
    dmsilev says:

    @jl: When I rode the Empire Builder, they had a wine tasting one of the afternoons (it’s a 2 day trip). The route doesn’t pass through much in the way of wine country, so it might just be an Amtrak long-haul thing. Decent food (included in the price of the roomette) and some interesting folks to chat with along the way.

    I’d do it again if the opportunity arose.

  99. 99
    Olivia says:

    I used to feel the same way. Didn’t want to go on any kind of cruise. It seemed like a nasty way to spend my time off. I didn’t want some cruise director nagging me to join in on anything. I don’t dance, I don’t play bingo, I don’t mingle. I don’t need to meet new people. But then I went on one… and another, and another, etc. There is no other way I can get this kind of a view of the open ocean in the daytime or in the nighttime. Believe it or not, there are lots of places on a ship where you can enjoy solitude and quiet, day or night. You don’t have to eat yourself into a coma. I don’t do the buffet. There are other places to get good food. I lost weight on a couple of cruises because they had healthy food venues. I have never caught a disease on a cruise. You don’t have to do the touristy things in the ports. There are lots of opportunities to go off and do your own thing or you can stay on the ship and enjoy the quiet while everyone else leaves. Just like everything else in life, you create your own reality.

  100. 100
    Jay C says:

    I guess some people might be OK with some types of cruises: the only ones we used to really like were the Windjammer cruises in the Caribbean – Mrs. Jay used to work for the ad agency that they used: part of the payout was in vouchers; she (and I) were ones of the few to actually use them. Fun as hell, as I recall, as long as you really don’t expect too much. The one time we went on a “major” cruise though was a drag: like being locked up in a second-tier New Jersey resort hotel for four days. And maybe it’s an artifact of being from New York, but we thought the food was mediocre at best: the ship put in at Isla Mujeres, and we got off to go have lunch ashore: one of our fellow-passengers stared at us in amazement: “What kind of food are you going to get OUT THERE??” she asked: “Umm,. Mexican food??”


    It stopped every day at a different small village with some significance in Russian history.

    Maybe they weren’t different: were any of them named “Potemkingrad” or something like that….?

  101. 101
    Citizen_X says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Damn! What is it with gun nuts ( “deputies seized many weapons and ammunition” from this guy’s house) that they think life is so cheap? He just saw two guys down the road, imagined that they were on his property (they weren’t), picked up his rifle and shot them dead!

  102. 102
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: About time

  103. 103
    jl says:

    @dmsilev: I would like to take some of those routes in the NE. Seems like good train trip country. Looking back on a couple of adventures that seemed cool when I was a kid, but not so much now, Texas and NM, or Nebraska and Kansas do not seem like such great train trip territory.

    They had so much free stuff on Surfliner and Coast Starlight when I took them this summer, I assumed they were local food industry promos, I can’t imagine Amtrak would spring for multiple tastings in one day. And it was very local: sea food along the beach, and wine and cheese and little meat tidbits when went through Paso Robles and San Louis Obispo.

  104. 104
    jl says:

    @Citizen_X: Yikes that is horrible. Some fool squints off into the distance and thinks, figures, imagines, more or less kinda sorta calkylates ‘by gum’ style in his half-wit noggin, that two people are on his property when they are in fact not on his property, and so the gun nut roars off and shoots them dead with a rifle.

    Does WV have a stand your ground law? Would make for an interesting case in FL.

  105. 105
    atlliberal says:

    The advantage of a cruise is that you get totally unplugged. No news, no internet, no cel phone. Besides seeing places you may never see otherwise (i have been to Mayan ruins deep in the jungle of Mexico) and doing things you may not otherwise (I have been snuba diving, swam with the stingrays and kayaked in a river in Belize) You can relax and recharge while being completely disconnected from all that is going on at home. No matter how nice a place you go to on land, you don’t get unplugged like you do on a cruise. For someone whose hiatus from blogging usually lasts about 8 hours, you may want to try it sometime.

  106. 106
    NobodySpecial says:

    Cole, you convinced me. I’m’a go play Sid Meier’s Pirates! now.

  107. 107
    Bill Arnold says:


    Luxury Camping, dude.

    “Safaris” in East Africa can be like this. Did an upscale (midscale probably actually) safari in Kenya about 2007. The one place we stayed with tents, the tents were luxurious. Mahogany floors, huge marble bathroom (maybe 300 square feet), tightly netted to keep out mosquitoes.

  108. 108
    WereBear says:

    The thing about the big cruises is the EXCESS. Tons of people, food, shows, activities, extravagance. To be the middle American version of Kublai Khan

    To be spoiled.

    I’ve never actually been on vacation. I’ve done fun things in other places in the course of doing other things.

    One of these days…

  109. 109
    tybee says:


    “I know y’all ain’t got a watch, ‘cuz if you had a watch you’d know it’s night time. And night time ain’t no time to be in this here neighborhood.”

  110. 110
    Kent says:

    Heh yeah.

    I spent 6 years of my life working on various ships and fishing vessels in Alaska as a fisheries observer and later a research grunt. When my wife brought up the notion of a cruise years later I told her my going rate for spending time at sea was still $200/day. I wouldn’t step on board any ship for a penny less.

    One thing I have noticed after spending years at sea and years living on various coasts is that people on the sea shore are always looking out to sea whereas people at sea on a ship are always looking back to shore.

  111. 111
    JoyfulA says:

    The in-laws took everyone on an Alaska cruise to get the far-flung family together. I liked it because I could stay in bed reading for hours, have dinner with the in-laws, and go to a lounge and edge my way into whatever conversations were going on. There was a 24-hour buffet for any hunger pangs, and somebody else (lovely staff was Thai) cleaned up after me. The only worthwhile stop was Juneau, where we got to visit an antiwar demonstration. The rest were shithole tourist traps intent on selling diamonds (?) and junk; the people there told us they work the Caribbean in winter. I couldn’t spend much time on deck because it was frigid in July, and I didn’t bring my winter coat. I didn’t go to any of the onboard entertainment, not my thing.

    If I ever get into vacations, I think I’ll look for a hotel with a 24-hour buffet in a city I’d like to visit. Same thing, but better, I’d guess.

  112. 112
    Kevin says:

    Contextual Advertising Fail:
    For me, the ad above this post is for Carnival Cruiselines, tickets available from $249!

  113. 113
    Time Travelin says:

    I also can’t understand why anyone would pay thousands of dollars to hang out in a floating Holiday Inn. I honestly don’t get it.

  114. 114
    Jay C says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: @Citizen_X: @jl:

    Yeah, it’s that “distance” thing that makes this case weird. According to the linked news report, the two victims were killed with a “scoped rifle”: so this obviously wasn’t a point-blank, spur-of-the-moment, in-your-face kind of shooting like so many of the “SYG” killings lately: sounds like the asshole had to carefully take aim at [what?] distance: sniper-style. And do it twice….

  115. 115
    Ruckus says:

    I crossed the Atlantic a few times on a less than luxury cruse ship with missiles and guns. We even stopped in exotic ports. Maybe it was the food, or the accommodations but I didn’t find it all that pleasing or fun. So tell me how would a cruse be better?
    And yet I like the sea and even owned an ocean going sailboat once upon a time which I have sailed out of sight of land.

  116. 116
    Joel says:

    Definitely not a cruise fan myself, but I stopped judging people about them when I realized that more than one of my friends enjoys them regularly.

  117. 117
    Ajabu says:

    I share your sentiments on cruises. I’ve never been on one although I can see them dock from my back window — sort of like Palin & Russia, I guess. However…
    We don’t have shithole ports here and the V.I. is in no way the ass” of the Caribbean.
    Chances are the ship you mentioned was docked in St. Thomas (too crowded with tourists for my taste) they get the bulk of the cruise ships, but the Virgin Islands in general are beautiful places to be — and no, we don’t rob the goddamn tourists!
    Try St.Croix some time. It was good enough for Jimmy Carter recently.
    Just got to defend This Little Island Mine.

    @ruemara: Got to agree about St. Maarten. It’s where we go on our vacations from St. Croix. Love me some Holland House.

  118. 118
    Joel says:

    One cruise that I did enjoy was a three-day tour of the Whitsunday Islands on a retired Maxi racer. This is a popular thing to do in Airlie Beach and it’s easy to see why. I would also like to “cruise” around the Galapagos, since that’s basically the only way to get there.

  119. 119
  120. 120
    jake the snake says:

    Cole, just about the most relaxed I have ever been is on a cruise ship. No laptop, no cell phone, just sun, blue water, and fat olds like me. And, there is nothing wrong with being fat and middle-aged.
    The Port calls are just to circulate you around and let the locals vacuum money out of your pockets.

  121. 121
    StringOnAStick says:

    My husband’s company started selling river cruises in Europe 5 years ago, and at first they were offering unsold berths to employees for a screaming discount; now they are so booked up we can’t even use his vouchers to get on one. I can see the value of a small ship that moves between cities at night, and you have all day to go into town by yourself for adventures.

    Norovirus can be anywhere, but enclosed places combined with easily transmitted disease are a bad combo on a cruise ship or anywhere else. We have friends who choppered in to a back country ski lodge in BC; the other guests included a married pair of ER docs from BC, with their nanny and infant daughter Nora, whom they knew had norovirus and didn’t bother to tell anyone because they didn’t want to lose their booking or their money (these places are no refunds and run tight financially). Not only did they sicken the entire guest and staff population, their daughter could have died from dehydration since the only way in or out is by helicopter and dependent on decent weather (it was winter and not every day is flyable). On top of that, they had to cancel the next set of guests in order to decontaminate the lodge so they lost a week’s worth of what is at best a 20 week per year season for making money. Everyone who was on that trip now calls it Noravirus since Nora was the vector and her parents were total morons with medical degrees and a huge self of self-entitlement.

  122. 122
    Mike G says:


    I’ve been on one cruise to Alaska which I very much enjoyed. It was a large ship (2000 passengers) rather than a mega-ship so the crowds onboard were tolerable. Food was pretty good. The commercialism (endless plugging of jewelry stores on ship and shore, “art shows” and the casino) and cheesy on-board activities can be annoying, but it’s easy to tune them out.
    The entertainment was OK and they had some speakers on the history and wildlife of Alaska, and a woman who won the Iditarod which was interesting.
    And always beautiful scenery passing by, ranging from very scenic to staggeringly majestic. Cruising Glacier Bay on a (very rare) sunny day was awesome — 15,000ft peaks descending to massive glaciers calving into ice-cold ocean, the highest coastal mountains in the world.
    Not all cruises are trashy hedonistic drunk- and obesity-fests to tourist-choked banana republics – some can be quite appealing.

  123. 123
    Laertes says:

    Yeah, that’s about where I’m at on cruises too. But I’ve got some friends who do them now and then, and love them.

    I think we non-cruisers get a skewed view. We only hear about them when they make they make the news. I gather it doesn’t happen all that often. There must be hundreds of cruise ships out there, working pretty much every day. Only a few make the news in any given year.

  124. 124
    Anniecat45 says:

    @Jay C:

    Nope. It was several years ago so don’t remember all the names off the top of my head but two of them were Kostroma and Novgorod, both of which are mentioned in Russian history going back at least to the 17th century. The cruise also visited the village where the first Romanov tsar accepted the crown in 1613. So, real places — all had begun as trading villages on the Volga.

  125. 125
    kuvasz says:

    The rant of an Army man.

  126. 126
    lectriclady says:

    Been on the empire builder 3 times. The train experiences were great, but the problem is timing. Freight trains have priority so the amtrack has to spend lots of times on side tracks waiting for the freights to go through. Last summer i was 8 hours late getting into st paul. I highly recommend empire builder if you don’t need to be at Point B at a particular time.

  127. 127
    lectriclady says:

    Been on the empire builder 3 times. The train experiences were great, but the problem is timing. Freight trains have priority so the amtrack has to spend lots of times on side tracks waiting for the freights to go through. Last summer i was 8 hours late getting into st paul. I highly recommend empire builder if you don’t need to be at Point B at a particular time.

  128. 128
    Tripod says:

    @Bo Alawine:

    I suspect the difference is that on USN ships, the life systems are scaled to support the crew over a long duration cruise. A cruise industry ship’s systems are costed out to survive the average cruise length. Oversubscribing the HVAC and water system aren’t usually a problem, unless there’s something like a nasty viral outbreak, or the ship is dead in the water for a few days. Then you get the unfortunate headlines.

  129. 129
    Hungry Joe says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Thanks as always, Bella Q. Yeah, Franzen’s got a real DFW problem, all right. Although when he’s on his game he can do the essay thing with the best of them.

  130. 130
    Ruckus says:

    So they have to replace those systems much more often and the ship sits in a yard while the work is being done with not only no income but massive expenses. And they can’t be bothered to at least attempt to keep their paying clients happy and not sick so they also don’t care about repeat customers or lawsuits.
    OK, I guess that answers that.

  131. 131
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    A cruise to Alaska would be OK, I guess, where there is basically no nightlife. But when I have taken Baltic cruises, I have had to be back on the ship exactly when the city is coming to life. The opera house opens, the symphony plays, the local bars fill. I would do it next time on ferries instead of cruises because it would give me more flexibility in staying overnight in a city that appeals to me. And the ferries are quite nice. I was on one about 10 years ago where the “Broadway style-show” was choreographed by the “Estonian State Bureau for Dance.”

  132. 132
    BubbaDave says:

    Did the Alaska cruise thing about 5 years ago when my then-98-year-old grandmother decided it was time for a family outing. Great for her because of her limited mobility, Glacier Bay was beautiful, I met an Internet buddy in Juneau and had some great halibut. Downside for me was no Internet– normally I’m anything but a morning person, but when the ship docked at 6:45AM I’d been waiting 20 minutes so I could go find an Internet cafe and get my geek on.
    It wasn’t bad, but if I were doing it myself I’d just fly into Juneau and spend a week or so there. Now, a co-worker is going on a river cruise in Europe, which sounds a lot closer to my speed — but $7k a ticket is probably too rich for my blood.

  133. 133
    Tripod says:


    I don’t believe they replace the major systems. That would require cracking open the hull. They amortize these boats over thirty years and then it’s off to the breakers. Capital outlays during dry-dock are of the customer facing variety – change out the rooms, new restaurant themes, etc.

    I would think giving everyone on board the rocket shits is a bad bit of business, but it happens over and over again.

  134. 134
    Avery Greynold says:

    @Glocksman: Why the train instead of flying? Try it. Seats are wide, comfortable, and really recline. Walk around without permission. Noisy kid? Get a seat in a different car. In their cafe choose when to eat, what to eat, and get it served to you hot on plates. No line at the restroom. The view outside changes every couple seconds.

  135. 135
    Juju says:

    @John Cole: I hate camping. I just don’t get the thrill of doing your business outside.

  136. 136
    Interrobang says:

    I went on a cruise about 10 years ago, because some friends paid for me to go (long story). I hated it. The only thing that made it tolerable was that my friends had rented the “owner’s suite” for themselves, so we had access to a private deck and hot tub. I didn’t actually go down on the normal deck once; too many people. The food was lousy — bland, greasy, and salty — definitely tailored to a US midwest palate, and the place was basically like a giant overcrowded three-star hotel, with really bad decor. (On getting on the ship and seeing the garish colour scheme, I blurted out, “Oh, g-d, this place is a moving taste violation.”)

    When we hit Nassau in the Bahamas, I went ashore and looked around to find the tiniest hole-in-the-wall food joint, and got myself a huge box of jerk chicken with rice and peas and a malt soda, which amused or bemused the woman behind the counter somewhat, as I’m pale as milk but had a really bad sunburn. Her eyes got really big when I started putting hot sauce on the rice and digging in with relish, but damn, bland food for a week…

    That was the high point of the trip, really. I liked seeing the Canadian banks in Nassau, and getting these understanding looks from the locals since I was in long sleeves and pants (it was only about 23C) and all the other tourists were in shorts. :)

  137. 137
    maurinsky says:

    I’m going on a cruise in April. Not my first choice, but my fiance has never been on one (I have – many years ago, it was a Disney cruise that we took after going to Disneyworld, and it was a gift from my Disney obsessed former father-in-law. I know my enjoyment of the cruise was magnified because it came after spending 5 days in Disneyworld – the exhaustion of that part of the vacation made the cruise a billion more times enjoyable, I’m sure).

    I’m looking forward to sitting on a beach in the Caribbean while it’s still early spring in New England.

  138. 138
    lou says:

    We did our only cruise for our honeymoon. It was relaxing — but that’s because we had a balcony where we could relax and watch the flying fish bobbing along the ship. And it was a short, 4-night trip.

    I love taking the train, even though service is getting worse as Congress keeps cutting Amtrak’s budget. On our last train trip, we met a Princeton physicist and an ex-pat who lives in London.

  139. 139
    Samuel Lockhart says:

    Hey, Coley. Next time you can open the window on a plane and climb out on the wing and sunbathe, let me know.

  140. 140

    I worked as an actor in a small theater group aboard the Crystal Cruise line for two contracts. The first one was half Alaska and half Mexico round trips (out of San Fran for Alaskan cruises, LA and San Diego for the Mexican ones). The second contract was a world cruise – LA to Bordeaux via South America, South Pacific (including Easter Island), New Zealand, Australia, Africa (Johannesburg to Cario), and all around the Med. After I got off the ship, I did a couple of days in Paris on my own.

    So that’s ten months of my life aboard a luxury cruise ship. There’s worse ways to spend your life, believe you me.

  141. 141
    bemused says:

    Spouse and I never could picture the appeal of a vacay on a ginormous floating sardine can with hundreds of other people and that was before all the cruise fiascos in recent years. oth, we loved a catamaran bvi trip years ago with another couple and crew of 3 to wait on us.

  142. 142
    boatboy_srq says:

    Cruising in interesting places is a lot of fun, and often a competitively-priced alternative to flying in and staying in hotels. The Med, Adriatic, Black Sea, South Pacific (Indonesia/Malaysia/Thailand), Indian Ocean and other destination cruises have a lot to offer.

    Transatlantic voyaging is also competitive. For half-again the cost of the flight you have accommodation for a week, zero jet lag on arrival and a far more pleasant customs experience than any airport.

    With all that said, though, the thing I don’t understand is Caribbean cruising. The flights aren’t all that expensive, casinos are casinos, colonial-era settlements have charm through perhaps the third one in a row, and there are only so many sun-drenched tropical islands you can visit before they all start blending together. Outside the opportunity to eat, sleep, sunbathe and swim for a week, the best thing going for most of them is that you’re not spending your dollars filling Governor Voldemort’s coffers, which isn’t exactly a resounding positive (“well, you could be paying $$$ to be somewhere much worse” doesn’t make for good marketing). I think it’s telling that (from the recent designs) many of the larger cruise ships have to lug a chunk of sunny sandy beach (complete with potted palms) around with them so their guests don’t have to step onshore.

  143. 143

    @Baud: ” Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But BEING PAID,—what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” Moby-Dick!

    Of course, that was Ishmael, and we know what happened to him—

  144. 144
    Kay S says:

    On Friday I accomanied my elderly mother in law to her doctor, who is making a case for her to join an assisted living community. He thought this argument was persuasive: “Think of it as going on a cruise!” If ever there was an argument against cruises, this was it! I think the only contrast between cruises and assisted living/nursing home might be that the boat has norovirus, and the other facility has C-diff.

  145. 145
    Bill says:

    @CaseyL: I agree with you. A cruise can be very pleasant, educational and relaxing. Small cruise ships are my preference.

  146. 146
    Andrew J. Lazarus says:

    I’ve crossed the Atlantic on the QE2 and the QM2. First, the food stuffing isn’t outrageous, at least on the Cunard Line. Second, I have all the legroom I need. Third, it’s basically a moving resort. Bridge a few mornings, or shuffleboard. P.D. James gave a couple lectures on her life and writing. A very funny entomologist talked about bugs. Bingo in the afternoon, also tea. Kids had their own room; draw your own conclusions about late afternoon. What’s not to like?

    I have less interest in the sort of cruise where you get six hours per port, because those sorts of cities are either worth several days or no time whatsoever.

  147. 147
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    My wife just came back from a cruise (a present to her mother) and she described the passengers as “rednecks and old people”. It’s basically a c@s1n0 resort on a boat, and the cruise companies are actually pretty good at taking care of people who just want to get drunk and go wild at the buffet, or people who have disabilities or mobility issues.

    She also noticed the international division of labour: most of the entertainers were Brits, the medical staff were Saffers, the officers were Russian and Italian, the stewards were a mix, but lots of Filipinas (and the unseen workers in the engine room are mostly Filipino).

    A friend of mine once worked for an upscale cruise line that had guest lecturers talking about ancient Mediterranean sites rather than cabaret acts. That’s a more interesting sector of the travel market than 5,000 people on Vegas of the Seas.

    I’d honestly do one of those “relocation cruises” with smaller passenger numbers, fewer stops, more quiet time. Or a fortnight on a container ship, if they actually allowed it.

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    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Ah, damn, the c*s*n* word triggered moderation.

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    pseudonymous in nc says:


    I’ve seen some cruise lines with 350-500 pax ships. A bit more expensive, but at a scale of humanity I could manage.

    Swan Hellenic fits that bill. One ocean ship, 350 pax, large destination list. Very posh, though.

    Personally, I like the concept of ship travel: it was, after all, the way in which we perceived large parts of the world for all of human history until the last century when those bicycle makers got ambitious. It makes sense to travel by sea to places, and I’d love to live somewhere where the commute could be by ferry (say, Pac NW).

    It’s always hilarious, though, how American Caribbean cruises basically pretend that Cuba doesn’t exist.

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    eyelessgame says:

    I’ve been on one cruise – to Glacier Bay and southern Alaska. I consider it worth it to have done it, as it’s hard to see Glacier Bay otherwise, and I learned a good deal about the area (history, natives, and so on) – and of course the bus tour of Juneau, where the driver said “That’s the governor’s mansion up there, and that island you can see over there is not Russia”, made up for much else. But I think one was enough.

    I’m taking my two younger kids to Italy and Greece on a school-arranged trip this summer, and my wife is pushing for us to take the three-day cruise around the Greek isles at the end of it, and I’d honestly rather go home – but I’m going to be outvoted. *sigh*

    But first I will get to see the Sistine Chapel again, and I will put up with two nights on a boat for that.

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    Matt McIrvin says:

    Sam and I went on a cruise several years ago; it was the idea of some friends of ours who were on there too. It was in the eastern Mediterranean, out of Barcelona, and we spent a few days in the city before the cruise.

    It was OK. The best day of the whole cruise was when massive dockworker strikes diverted us from Corsica to Menorca, and we spent a whole day exploring a lovely island we never expected to visit. It was raining, but it was an adventure and it didn’t really matter.

    But the ship itself was kind of like a floating hotel that you could only leave at certain times. There was stuff to do, but getting the most of out it seemed to require some advance planning that was only really possible with experience; we kept missing the deadlines to sign up for the various activities on offer.

    I decided then that I’m just not a cruise person; I think that, on the whole, I’d rather have just spent more time in Barcelona, a spectacular city that is well worth a visit.

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    Kaleberg says:

    @Hungry Joe:

    For an interesting response to Wallace: http://caissiesthing.tumblr.co.....n-a-second

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