Sunday, March 21, 2010

cruising with Crow

This past winter I happened to overfly the Caribbean after my annual winter visit with my condor friends in South America. After landing in Fort Lauderdale for a brief rest I couldn't help but notice the newest of the world's largest cruise liners. You see it’s always sunny in Florida unless there’s a hurricane or the world’s largest cruise ship is blocking out the light and this particular behemoth, called the Oasis of the Seas, is 16 stories tall.

Out of curiosity about this latest foible of humanity, I purchased a ticket for a week long cruise (a modest cabin that cost $5000) and beetled up the gangway into the belly of the beast. At a gross weight of more than 225,000 tonnes and a passenger carrying capacity of 6,296 the effect was somewhat unbelievable to a creature of my reserved disposition. Nevertheless, since I'd never met anyone who'd been on a Caribbean cruise and hoping I might meet Johnny Depp in order to get his autograph for susan, I soldiered (sailored?) on.

Gliding up, up, up in one of the glass elevators, it became clear how immense and strange this ship is as I stepped out onto the highest, largest pool deck in the world. Ranks of sunbeds stretched off into the distance by the hundred, on multiple levels around two large swimming pools; there is also a children’s water park and a waterpolo pool. Hanging gardens draped down four decks with flowering vines and ferns. The ship has seven 'neighborhoods' including the world's largest floating park - Central Park. Is this a giveaway as to who is expected to sail on these monsters? There are 24 restaurants as well as a huge dining room, boutiques and a 1400 seat theater. I was reminded of Wall-E where huge people who spend their lives on floating couches sail around a world that's filled with garbage.

I'd thought a ship cruise was about breathing fresh sea air, reading a good book and perhaps alighting at a port where one can meet new people and learn their views. This one hardly docks at all and besides, there's so much entertainment and extravaganza most passengers barely looked outside.

I wonder if the Oasis of the Seas is a symbol for the end of western civilization, a gargantuan ship that's really America for Americans who don’t want to travel? Amazingly enough, there's an ongoing battle among cruise lines to build bigger and bigger ships like this that don't go anywhere. You may as well offer people vacations away from it all in old warehouses with giant video screens.

I ran into my old friend Arthur Frommer who agreed: 'The sole explanation for a 6,000-passenger ship is that it is able to offer more entertainment and thus cater to more of those people who are unable to entertain themselves, those arrested personalities who rely on constant, massive, outside distractions to ward off depression. I’m talking about people who get fidgety if they have no nearby television set, who never read a magazine, let alone a book.'

After two days of searching I eventually found my way to the topmost deck where there were were towers and funnels and a real sea breeze. I spread my wings and flew home.


jams o donnell said...

That is a monster of a cruise ship!

marja-leena said...

Crow's observations on the type of people who would choose to travel (travel??!!) in this behemoth are very perceptive! I'm almost embarrassed to say that it was built in Finland, but of course it was a contract from the ship owners. I love Crow's very fashionable cruisewear with the red shoes and yellow tie.

Crow said...

jams - A big one indeed!

marja-leena - Thank you for your kind observation, dear lady. I was aware it was constructed in Finland and have no quibble with the craftsmanship. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the clientele.

Seraphine said...

i want to be one of those people who spend their lives on floating couches!
without the garbage, of course.
and with my tv and a microwave.
and fresh tomatoes.
and my electric blanket.
oh hell, crow, i might as well stay home.
one of my friends got married on a cruise ship. it was anchored (moored? parked?) in san francisco, so i spent the day on it. it was smaller than your cruise ship, but you're right, most of the activities were centered inward instead of outward.
it was like a floating motel 6.
actually, it was much nicer than that, maybe like a marriott.
but it was still a floating couch. with microwaves and televisions. and fresh tomatoes.

Crow said...

sera - I've been wondering if these ships might eventually prove useful when nobody has cruise credit left but the Caribbean islands have been inundated. Perhaps then they could be anchored where those islands used to be in groups strung together with chains and rope bridges. They'd become the new countries for those who'd never afford the fare now. They might even grow fresh tomatoes there.

I heartily enjoyed your remark about the floating Motel 6.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Susan. I enjoyed your interesting previous post and of course you’re painting
Your crow looks resplendent clothed in boating holiday garb. The size of this monster cruise ship is amazing and apparently the justification for their extraordinary size is because of "economies of scale" with lower cost per crew and operating expenses per berth, in comparison to smaller ships. But there seems to be many disadvtantages apart from the huge cost; it is becoming a nightmare to board taking up to 6 hours with new security checks, much less open deck space and great difficulty in stopping off at destinations as the ship is too big for many ports.
Best wishes

Elaine- said...

my husband wants to go on a cruise, coz he just wants to EAT tons of good food without having to cook it, that's a good a reason as any, i suppose :) he just wants to be a slug for a week

Gary said...

Disneyland day and night...for under-stimulated brains. It would make a pretty good homeless shelter, moored off the East River or on Lake Erie for the good folks of Detroit.

Mary Ellen said...

I've always been afraid to spend the money on a cruise because it would be just my luck that I'd spend the entire time hugging the toilet because I was seasick. Just give me a small pier, beach, and a small clean lake and I'm good to go.

Crow said...

lindsay - How good to see you again. I've always believed one's apparel should be commensurate with the standards one wishes to uphold and your compliment is graciously accepted.

Yes, these ships are a cacophony of madness in sight and sound. It doesn't surprise me at all to learn they are produced simply as a cost effective measure for the owners. From what I experienced there is very little interest in where one of them sails or if it does so at all.
Kind regards

elaine - Well, I can understand that desire being a connoisseur of fine dining myself but I'd highly recommend the cafes of Paris instead. The cost might be even less.

gary - In an earlier comment I suggested much the same thing myself. susan's husband wondered who'd be in charge of scraping off the barnacles?

nunly - Glad to see you've returned and I hope all is well with your family. The odd thing about these ships is that they are so utterly enormous that they simply don't rock on the waves. Well, maybe if there was a hurricane..

Seraphine said...

islands and homes for the homeless: a splendid use for boats.
or just as good, sink them to save the coral.
i like your red boots, btw.

Randal Graves said...

Betcha there's a McDonald's on board.

La Belette Rouge said...

Crow: I LOVE your shoes.

And, dear Crow, I used to go on lots of cruises. Why, you ask? Because I had a family member who worked for a big cruise line and all I had to do was pay the port tax. I never saw Johnny Depp or Arthur Frommer on any of my cruises.

If I was paying for my own cabin I can assure you I could find better ways to spend $5500.

Pagan Sphinx said...

"I'd thought a ship cruise was about breathing fresh sea air, reading a good book and perhaps alighting at a port where one can meet new people and learn their views. This one hardly docks at all and besides, there's so much entertainment and extravaganza most passengers barely looked outside."

Crow: I am embarrassed on behalf of humankind. Or that least "those people who are unable to entertain themselves, those arrested personalities who rely on constant, massive, outside distractions to ward off depression." That is so right-on.

Crow said...

sera - Yes, and by the time they get around to adding defunct aircraft carriers and battleships to the new island mix there could be entire new countries afloat.

randal - Absolutely and all sorts of others intent on selling stuff to a captive audience.

belette - My boots were made by the famous Spinoza daRoma - thank you for noticing :-)

A cost free holiday is nothing to be sneezed at so your choice was wise. No, I didn't see Johnny Depp either but I did catch a glimpse of a Wayne Newton impersonator. Class all the way on that ship.

pagan sphinx - Sometimes I'm embarrassed on behalf of humankind too and I'm not even partially human. It was my old friend Dwight Eisenhower who was shocked to learn that half the population rates below normal intelligence :-)

Spadoman said...

Doggone Crow, you're lucky you can fly home. I'd be stuck on that thing if I ever got on it. Stuck until they dropped the gangplank to let me off. I tell you, you don't know how lucky you are to be able to fly.
I took a "sample" cruise once out of Miami. It went to Grand Bahama. It lasted one full day and was suppose to show people how great cruising on the sea could be so they'd book a 7-day cruise on the big ships.
I got seasick after I drank too many rum punch concoctions. (Boy, I thought I could fly after that rum)
Anyway, no cruise ships for me, of any size, going to any destination. I would, however, entertain the thought of a steerage passage on a working boat.
And I was actually hired to be the cook aboard a 1856 twin masted sailing sloop out of Long Beach, but never took the job.
Thanks for your research and thoughts, and have safe flight patterns.


Liberality said...

How much pollution do those behemoths produce? When, and if, I ever travel the world it will not be by flying so I always imagine a ship taking me across the seas instead. Yet I don't think I'd enjoy anything like that. The point of traveling is to get out of your comfort zone and experience other things, places, and people. But really, I may never be well off enough to go gallivanting around anyway when we retire :)

Seraphine said...

maybe putting swimming pools and salad bars on warships would be a good idea. adorn them with flowers.

Crow said...

spadoman - Once upon a time you could travel the high seas on a working ship but I don't think that's possible anymore. Small ships are okay but hard to find too and you should stay away from the rum punch until you get your sea legs. Did you know the Crow's Nest was named for me?

liberality - You really don't want to be downwind when they dump their effluent. It's strange that the only cheap way of getting to another continent is by plane and they've made that very unpleasant - at least from this country. I recommend working on your own wings or building a boat.

sera - I'll mention that to the Admiral next time I see him.

okjimm said...

reminds me of the guy that went all the way to Cancun to drink in a resort bar. He NEVER left the resort.....!!!! WTF....

Steve Emery said...

Yikes. This does seem like Wall-E... Weird.

Today my Dearest and I spent a good part of the day walking around two gardens in a nearby small city - enjoying wildflowers, fiddleheads, the green of the grass, ducks, a heron. We didn't want to go inside and passed up several opportunities to look into interesting places because they were indoors. Simple pleasures, like recognizing a tree species from its shape against the sky, and seeing the unique way that species breaks out of its buds... That's what we love. There is no end to that kind of enjoyment, and it doesn't take hundreds of thousands of tons of ship or thousands of dollars for a berth.

And I enjoyed wearing my red beret - perhaps serving the same purpose for me, Crow, that your red boots serve for you?

Crow said...

okjimm - I suppose one could say he at least died in a state of inebriated euphoria. I've heard of worse things.

steve - It does, doesn't it?

I'm delighted to hear you and your dear wife spent the day enjoying the best of the natural world while surrounded by the safety and amenities that should be afforded to everyone. The best in life is found in simplicity.

Next time I fly your way I'll be sure to recognize you by the red beret. Perhaps we'll have time to commune with one another.