Just the sight of that massive Carnival cruise ship gives me the willies. I have absolutely no desire to ever cruise, at least on those massive nightmares. I have no desire to leave a crowded city to be trapped on an even more crowded ship full of boring, unattractive obnoxious people. I'm turned off by the ads so I know I'll be turned off by the people who are attracted by those ads.
I could perhaps do a river cruise in Europe or a small boat around Greece, but that's it.
I have rented self drive canal boats in the UK and France and it is the only way to enjoy boating. Okay I have chartered sailboats too, but I'm talking about relaxing.
It sounds to me, Gerard, like you might be stuck in the doldrums. Why not organize and stage a mutiny? Half of the guests would probably participate; the other half would appreciate the distraction.
Captain Vanderleun has a very nice ring to it.
I've never been on a cruise ship, but I have taken the Alaska Marine Highway (the state-run ferry boat system) with my car from Prince Rupert, BC, to Skagway & return. Everything is pay as you go and the scenery is exactly what one would see in SE Alaska along the Inside Passage from a cruise ship. One can even camp out in a tent on deck, eating his own brought-aboard food, sort of a far cry from those with 62 inch waists (wearing belts AND suspenders) awaiting their fifth serving of prime rib on a Carnival ship...
Did a few cruises in the Western Pacific courtesy of Uncle Sam. We were usually at sea for 25 - 30 days at a time. Hitting port (Sasebo, Iwakuni, Atsugi, Hong Kong, Cubi Point) was an exercise in seeing who could consume the most alcohol and make the biggest ass of himself - all good fun. The only time we saw the ocean or the sky was when we manned aircraft for doing our duty for God and Country. My last trip was in 1968 and I was done. Never going to sea again - no sirree!
Fast forward to 2006 and our 50th wedding anniversary. My bride requests a cruise. What can I do, it's our 50th and all. We go. We have a great time.
Have been on seven more since then and enjoyed every one. Sea days are great for reading, walking, enjoying the sun. (We always go to sunny climes because of the constant winter drizzle here in Puget Sound.) We avoid the big ships. 1200 or fewer passengers are better. You can eat as much or as little as you desire - most of it quite good. (Lots of fresh vegies and fruits.) Osso Bucco (one of my favorite Italian dishes) is served regulary on the ships we frequent. And that's an attraction for me. We have experienced some difficulties (engine trouble, running from a typhoon in the South China Sea, swarms of flies in port in Mexico, etc.) but nothing worthy of complaining much about. We'll probably keep on going once a year for the sun, the time to read, the time away from computers, TVs and our electronic culture. It suits us at this point in life.
Any real Marine could tell you that there are only two things to do at sea: Eat until you're sleepy. Sleep until you're hungry.
The sailing cruise ships operated by Star Clipper line are fun. The sister ships Star Clipper and Star Flyer each have a passenger capacity of 170. Food was decent but no overemphasized.
If I didn’t cruise, I wouldn’t go to the places I’ve been. Not a rucksack-around-Europe type - I like being dropped in a city and picked up in time for supper. So I’ve seen things and been places I’d never otherwise experience, and I’ve seen things you don’t get unless you’re on a ship. Cruising past the Russian naval base at Krondstat at sunset; threading through the gorgeous waterways of Sweden; taking a day to travel the murky silence of the Panama Canal.
A deckchair, a balcony, sunshine and a Kindle: any time. Never gained a pound, either.
Mr. Lileks! I agree with you wholeheartedly (and really admire your work). I also admire your work, Gerard, and am sorry that your experience was not good. We, too, have seen the waterways of Sweden and the amazing system that is the Panama Canal. A few things we have also seen while plying the waters in various places on various cruise ships (20 in all over 30 years): Russian submarines inspecting our vessel, hundreds of humpback whales, the Hubbard glacier calving, the green flash at sunset (five times), the incredible Milky Way and southern constellations from the pitch-black forward deck of a ship in Tahitian waters, and gazing at spectacular ports best seen from a ship as you approach or leave (Istanbul, San Francisco, Oslo, Venice, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Athens, Barcelona, Naples, New York, San Juan, Cartagena, Saint-Malo, Lisbon, Seattle, Victoria BC, Vancouver BC to name but a few). Yes, we have probably eaten too much, but we have enjoyed every minute. Unpack once and have the scenery come to you (and we have never cruised on Carnival).
I've been on two cruises, both times for events my company sponsored (and probably wrote off on its taxes). The Carnival ship was exactly as Gerard described it, full of enormous, crudely-mannered people trying, and sometimes succeeding, to eat their way through the mountains of food in the numerous buffets, then washing it all down with outrageously-priced umbrella drinks. After a time, they didn't bother with the umbrellas, and went straight for the bottle. It was a tacky exercise in excess. As a side note, one of the pool areas was set aside for topless bathing, but I shuddered at the thought then, and still do today. Some things should remain concealed. I later learned that Carnival is known in the industry as the "booze cruise". Easy to see why. The other cruise, Royal Caribbean, IIRC, was more like what Jimmy J. or Lileks described. The dining experience was more fine restaurant and less feed trough, the service efficient and unobtrusive, and the clientele less likely to have been on the Jerry Springer Show. A much better experience all around.