Every so often we would discuss the topic of taking a cruise family vacation. And for the last fourteen years our Jenna has always maintained that this is a terrible idea. As a seven-year-old she maintained that it was possible for a ship to run out of food or medicine (but mostly food), and being in the middle of the ocean was not a good place to be hungry with, say, 1,000 people. I think she also surmised that the children would be the first to be eaten. The Nap Family would gently mock her, but we never did take that cruise.
Now I think our young Evil Napping Genius was ahead of her time in predicting choppy seas for cruising. Just this week the New York Times ran an article “Too Big To Sail,” about the gargantuan size of today’s cruise ships and the potential for bigger problems – and we’re not talking about food shortages. We’re talking about fires, damage to plumbing and ventilation systems, and how big a life boat should be. On top of it all is the lack of oversight and safety regulations for the industry as a whole.
Think of the most recent publicized cruise ship disasters: Carnival Corporation’s Costa Concordia capsizing off the coast of Italy and the Carnival Triumph, floating crippled and powerless in the Gulf of Mexico due to an on-board fire . I know some folks who grew up with Dads who conducted fire drills in hotels. These fire marshal Dads would make their families count off the steps from their room to the stairwell in case of a smoky fire evacuation. Maybe a little extreme (then again, maybe not), but how do you evacuate from your hotel room on the high seas? Are there fire drills on these behemoth boats or does the cruise industry not want to kick-off anybody’s vacation with thoughts of potentially life-threatening accidents?
In terms of scale compare the Titanic, which held approximately 2,500 people (2,223 passengers plus crew) to the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas, which holds almost 8,700 people (6,300 passengers and 2,394 crew) – a capacity almost three and half times the size of the Titanic! That is one big boat, and while I’d like to think seasickness would be the least of my problems, I would be awake nights wondering just what keeps something that big moving through the ocean. And just how does it handle all the waste from the 8,700 revelers each day? Am I so jaded as to believe the only reason to build these mega-ships is to wedge more revenue (paying customers) onto each cruise?
Plus it reminds me a little bit of the corporate-sponsored spacecraft in the movie Wall-E. For any readers who aren’t Pixar fans, the humans of the future in this film live on huge space craft after Earth has been rendered uninhabitable by waste. What makes it even more disturbing is the “shape” of the humans: after living in space for generations they can’t even support their own weight and move exclusively in individual hovercraft. The below quote from Wikipedia feels eerily applicable to this “bigger is better” trend:
“The film is seen as a critique on larger societal issues. It addresses consumerism, nostalgia, environmental problems, waste management, the immense impact humans have on the Earth, and the direction in which the human race is headed.”
It’s not that I want to be a buzz kill for folks who like to take cruise vacations, but I’d like everyone to have fond memories of the places they’ve visited and the things they’ve seen. And to come home safely.