Magazine June 1, 2020, Issue

Canceled Vacations

The Carnival Panorama cruise ship sits docked as the coronavirus outbreak continues, Long Beach, Calif., April 16, 2020. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Los Angeles Times business-column headline: “The Cruise Ship Industry Is Sinking. I’m OK with That.”

Without reading the article, what do you think might be the author’s reasons?

Cruise ships are bad for the planet! Any large machine that does not use the wondrous power of wind or the sun is a bad thing that should be stopped, because the computer models say Antarctica will shrivel to the size of a playing card. Maybe we could keep one cruise ship handy to rescue the scientists who will be treading water and sending up flares.

Even if they converted to wind, and erected huge sails to power their voyages, this would be bad: The fabric required to make the sails probably wouldn’t be sustainably produced. They’d probably cast huge amounts of shade that would prevent photosynthesis, and this would cause a die-off of the plankton, leading to a decrease in the krill population the whales depend upon, so the whales might lose some weight. This would suggest that the whales were overweight to begin with, and the Guardian would have a series of stories about Blubber-Shaming and how cretaceous beings are beautiful precisely because they are huge. Blubber Acceptance now!

Even if they converted to solar, and figured out a way to be carbon-neutral and zero-waste, they’d still be bad! The entertainment is garish, the buffets encourage gluttony, and they’re either full of louts who start drinking at breakfast or glowering old people who put black socks over pale legs and totter ashore to be shuttled inland five miles for tacky tourist experiences.

Well, enough torching the straw men; let’s read the article and see how wrong I am.

“If we’ve learned nothing else from the coronavirus catastrophe, it’s that cruise ships are a breeding ground for nasty, potentially lethal little germs — and that the vessels are perfectly positioned to transport those germs around the world.”

He’s got a point — if the Chinese Communist Party hadn’t lobbed a huge cruise ship from Wuhan into a New York nursing home we wouldn’t be in this mess.

He quotes a senior citizen who had a cruise canceled because of the Chinese-Originated Viral-Infection Disaster, a.k.a. “COVID,” and this person does not seem likely to take the chance of getting sick. Even before COVID, people worried about norovirus. True. But I’ve taken a dozen cruises and never gotten the dreaded ship-trots. I have gotten about ten colds from eleven plane trips. Let us study the difference between a plane and a cruise ship:

Plane: Sealed tube of people packed together and breathing recirculated air, with bathrooms visited 30 times per flight, with no disinfection in between.

Ship: Enormous structure with vast open decks pounded by the purifying sun, with rooms that open up to admit fresh air, with all common surfaces constantly scrubbed down by a staff of 9,000 people who sleep four to a room below deck but still say “Good morning” with bright cheer.

Yes, by all means, put me on a plane.

The author never explains why he’s okay with the industry’s death, aside from the whole “people moving around can spread germs” thing. But lots of joyless folk hate the big ships. They shouldn’t. Cruise lines are a progressive dream.

Really! Think about it. Leftists don’t like the suburbs, because the preferred model for living is dense, with people stacked and packed into featureless monoliths in expensive cities. Well, cruise ships are dense. It’s a lot like living in a New York high-rise, except it moves around and you get a chocolate on your pillow and a towel tied in the shape of an animal at the end of the night.

Leftists don’t like cars, because they will make the earth an unlivable hellscape in seven years, and they encourage that whole ridiculous American “individuality and unfettered freedom of movement” thing. They want you shoved into mass transit, clattering along underground in a box that was overdue for disinfection during the Wilson presidency.

Well, cruise ships are mass transit. There aren’t any other single vehicles capable of carrying so many people. If the Left were honest, they’d skip their dreams of high-speed rail and put people on cruise ships towed by horses. Sure, it’s 48 days from New York to Los Angeles, and you lose a lot of horses, but it’s dense! It’s mass!

Cruise ships also train you to disconnect the relationship between food and money. You eat three squares a day — and there’s never a bill. Food is a human right! In the leftist mind, once we decouple food from capitalism, there are not only endless amounts of omelets but midnight chocolate buffets that just . . . happen! It’s awesome.

Personally, I’m not okay with the cruise-ship industry collapsing. I’ve had some of my happiest memories on ships. Sliding away from Venice, sailing from a Russian port into a red sunset, beholding the fjords of Norway, experiencing the rise and fall of the Panama locks, and of course basting in the glare of a Caribbean sun at a time when my home state was locked in frost. I could get COVID by going to the store. I could get COVID by going to New Zealand on a ship. In the former case I got bread. In the latter case I saw the world.

That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? I could get COVID. That makes you either stop and cower forever, or mask up, wash up, and sally out. The cruise industry, I suspect, will survive, because people need to get out in the world, with all its dangers and glories, and live.

I’m okay with that.

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