November Diary
NR cruise, , Caribbean, no; immigration morality; and more.


John Derbyshire

Cruising: the blanket apology     Highlight of the month was of course the National Review post-election cruise. I got reacquainted with some old friends and made some new ones. I don’t recall ticking anyone off, but some of the evening events continued well past the (for me) critical third-drink stage, so it’s hard to be sure.

I therefore offer the following blanket apology: If at any point on the cruise I forgot your name, disagreed with you too vehemently, fell asleep while you were telling a joke, scoffed at your profession, insulted your state, mocked your religion, groped your wife, vomited in your lap, punched you on the nose, pitched your significant other overboard, or stepped on your blue suede shoes, I am truly sorry.

And to those cruisers who purchased permitted me to gift them with my book: THANK YOU!

The shabby Caribbean
     I must admit that I enjoyed my shipboard time much more than my shore time. I’m just not much of a tourist. This puts me at odds with Mrs. Derb, who is always keen to sample whatever is on offer, from souvenir stores to snorkeling expeditions. For the sake of marital harmony I allow myself to be dragged along on these adventures with only the barest minimum of passive-aggressive resistance displays. I thus got to see some of the Caribbean (not for the first time).

Overall impression: You can keep it. The people harvesting the tourist dollars were of course very pleasant, and at least one of them (hey there, pájaro!) plainly took real pleasure in his work and left an impression of genuine friendliness and hospitality. People like that make getting off the ship seem almost worth the trouble.

Net-net, though, if you’re not in the rich-folks compounds or at one of the up-market tourist spots, the Caribbean is a shabby place.

Grand Turk is worse than shabby — it’s a slum. NASA used to have some tracking facilities there, but they were decommissioned in 1984 and now are just rotting away undeveloped, fences sagging and concrete crumbling.

Cozumel’s better, and — as the locals hasten to assure you within 15 seconds of being introduced — “Not like the rest of Mexico!” but still not a place you’d want to live unless you had a ton of money. Even the climate isn’t that great. The last hurricane that came through Cozumel, our guide told us casually, “took off all the roofs.” Hmm, that could be an inconvenience.

The water really does have that lovely turquoise color, though. I’ll say that for the place.

Cruising for health
     A cruise ship is the healthiest place you can be. Imagine an outbreak of, say, stomach flu on a cruise ship. With a high proportion of oldsters on board, there would likely be a death or two, and consequent lawsuits. Even without that, the cruise line would lose millions from the publicity.

Those in charge are not going to let this happen. The crews on these ships are trained rigorously in hygiene. All surfaces are scrubbed and inspected constantly. Food with the least mark of unfreshness will feed the fishes. The air quality is likewise closely monitored: Legionnaires’ Disease is another nightmare for the owners.

So strong are these obsessions that seasoned cruisers whisper dark tales of people taken ill on board ship who mysteriously vanish — hustled away to an airtight room somewhere in the bowels of the vessel. I haven’t yet heard a version in which the invalid’s cabin itself disappears, as in one telling of the classic Paris Exposition urban legend, but if there is not currently such a story going round, I am sure there soon will be.

The downside of all that hygienic purity is that one’s immune system, seeing that there is nothing for it to do, does an automatic power-down. It’s still slumbering when you reach dry land at the end of the cruise and get on a plane to go home. Now, the cabin of a plane is one of the least healthy places on earth. Passing from cruise ship to plane cabin is like going from an iPod assembly room to the Congo basin. Result: I spent much of the post-cruise week moaning and coughing in bed with a savage bad cold. (That’s the reason for no Radio Derb last week – sorry, RD fans.)

Morality and the law
     A reader has invited me to get into a debate with Victor Davis Hanson on the subject of Victor’s November 26 essay, “Is Illegal Immigration Moral?

I’ll give it a shot, but obliquely. I disagree with VDH that “ultimately it is a complicated moral issue.” Seems to me that ultimately it’s a simple legal issue.



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