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February 14, 2013 12:12 PM   Subscribe

As over 4,000 hungry and doubtless pretty funky passengers and crew of Carnival Cruise Line (Yeah, the Costa Concordia was theirs, too) ship Triumph, who've been without ventilation, hot food, and working plumbing [NYT link] since a fire broke out in the engine rooms last Sunday, near land (they hope) it's a good opportunity to re-read David Foster Wallace's classic piece on luxury cruises, "Shipping Out"[.pdf] (also published as "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.") And personally, I don't care if he may have made some of it up.
posted by mojohand (134 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
but wait, the tow line broke, so now it's another delay.
posted by k5.user at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy crap. (No pun intended. OK, that's a lie.)

And my one and only cruise was actually on that ship last summer. Dodged a bullet there.
posted by kmz at 12:15 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently had my sister read 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again' and she said it made her want to take a luxury cruise.

We think she's illiterate.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:16 PM on February 14, 2013 [30 favorites]


Passengers will also get a refund, $500 and credit for another cruise.

Could you switch the credit to Disney Cruise Line or some other carrier?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:19 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Passengers will also get a refund, $500 and credit for another cruise.

I'm sure they'll all be in a big hurry to take advantage of that last bit.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:20 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


The first story I saw about this said that they are offering a free cruise as compensation. So it's all good.

I had not heard that about the Wallace essays. Franzen and he were good friends, I think, so there's some credibility there. Maybe.
posted by thelonius at 12:20 PM on February 14, 2013


"Carnival Cruises: Come for the Norovirus, stay for the tableau vivant of Turner's Shipwreck!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:22 PM on February 14, 2013 [29 favorites]


> I'm sure they'll all be in a big hurry to take advantage of that last bit.

What if they throw in Mark McGrath & Friends for free?
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:22 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had always kinda assumed that the stories in "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." were hemi-fiction. They're just a little too picture perfect, a little too Kafka-esque. They manage to create this confluence of image that pushes the agenda precisely...which I suppose is ironic, given Wallace's rant against Advertisement-as-Art in the titular essay.

I imagine that the environment on that ship is venomous and misanthropic.
posted by sibboleth at 12:24 PM on February 14, 2013


In my imagination, taking a luxury cruise would be like being physically trapped inside of Facebook for 10 days.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2013 [121 favorites]


Every time something like this happens, my partner is convinced even less that he wants to take a cruise, something he used to talk about doing. I always feel bad for those on board, but it is kind of a relief.

(Semi-related side note: The Simpsons-go-on-a-cruise episode "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again" is a fucking joy and even a staunch late-season-Simpsons-defender like me can't believe it is from the 23rd season and not from a more golden era of the show.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Carnival Cruise Line ship Triumph

Sounds like a great ship ... for me to poop on.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:27 PM on February 14, 2013 [101 favorites]


At this point we should really start repainting the raft of the Medusa with modern characters
posted by The Whelk at 12:27 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know what would be fun? A Metafilter cruise. It would be the most epic meetup ever. I'm serious. I'd go if one was arranged and I could scrape up the money and spare the time.

Although you know we'd all sit in our staterooms, posting to the blue.
posted by orange swan at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2013 [23 favorites]


Shit-Caked, Urine-Soaked Man Determined To Enjoy Carnival Cruise
posted by Flunkie at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


On the bright side, the likelihood of them gaining all that weight on the cruise is now almost nil.
posted by tommasz at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would turn into a dorky version of High Rise in like ...twenty mintues
posted by The Whelk at 12:30 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sounds like a great ship ... for me to poop on.

Turns out, not so much.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:30 PM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


The title of the thread is making me hallucinate an episode of Party Down where the crew is catering a cruise ship that breaks down. Lizzy Caplan's character breaks out her stand-up routine to keep the passengers entertained. Martin Starr's character just keeps quoting from the DFW essay mentioned in the FPP.
posted by Cash4Lead at 12:31 PM on February 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


Cruises are certainly what you make of them. We took a 2-week SoCal to Hawaii round trip cruise this winter. You don't have to eat at the buffet, you don't have to go to the shows, you don't have to play shuffleboard or bocce ball. Neither of us gained any weight.

I spent two solid weeks catching up on my reading and not being bugged by the office because I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and not willing to spend the $0.75/min for internet access. It was perfect.
posted by hwyengr at 12:33 PM on February 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


It's cruel to make people long for the impossible Cash4Lead
posted by The Whelk at 12:33 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a hellish ordeal! Still, it sounds better than Speed 2.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:34 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems like it would be easier to tell people you're going on a cruise, then unplug your phone and read at home.
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 PM on February 14, 2013 [76 favorites]


You've never seen the look on my girlfriend's face when I try to order cocktails from her.
posted by hwyengr at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


Mr. Sophie and I have taken 3 cruises and are booked for our 4th this summer. They have all been with the gay RSVP cruise company (look at my profile if you're confused).

Frankly, just sitting on our balcony drinking coffee and watching the world go by is all I need. I feel terrible for the passengers. Their lives must be a living hell right about now.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:38 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


On Thursday, Julie Hair called her husband from the ship to report that their 12-year-old daughter had Skittles candy for breakfast and that she ate cold waffles.

aaand the kid will officially remember it as the BEST CRUISE EVER.
posted by obscurator at 12:38 PM on February 14, 2013 [55 favorites]


Why do companies give away their services for a discount on another vacation?

Plane has severe turbulance--give away a ticket. Maybe next time you'll crash?

Cruise stops working--hey, want to risk disentary next time?

Hair in meal--free meal at next visit.
posted by stormpooper at 12:41 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Martin Starr's character just keeps quoting from the DFW essay mentioned in the FPP.

Roman would be quoting the essay and then interrogating people to make sure they knew what he was quoting and then calling them ignorant hayseeds for not knowing. You know? Ordinary fucking people.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:42 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been on a cruise and it was great. But I'm not surprised that it went from 0 to Bartertown pretty quickly..
posted by PenDevil at 12:43 PM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Fucking engine.
Fucking toilet.
Fucking waffle.
Fucking towline.
Fucking pool.
posted by eriko at 12:44 PM on February 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


What if they throw in Mark McGrath & Friends for free?

Well, by the time they reach land I think the passengers will have seen their share of turds and will have no need for the likes of Vertical Horizon, Smash Mouth or the Gin Blossoms.
posted by porn in the woods at 12:44 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's like The Exterminating Angel, except there's a perfectly tangible reason everyone can't just up and leave.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:50 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here is a different link to the "Supposedly Fun Thing..." essay in case other folks are having trouble with the link above.
posted by cool breeze at 12:50 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


At this point I am completely won over to my boyfriend's side of "NEVER EVER GOING ON A CRUISE." I can't beleive they have no back up plans for if things go this horribly bad.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:57 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canonical "fucking cruise ship" link.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:00 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Costa has a pretty shitty history.
(That link is a year old).
posted by adamvasco at 1:01 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cruises are certainly what you make of them. We took a 2-week SoCal to Hawaii round trip cruise this winter.

Some people are just never going to enjoy a cruise but even so, there is a huge difference between a 2 week cruise in Europe, or to Hawaii, Alaska, or Australia, and a Caribbean Cruise. If cruises in general are the Olive Gardens of vacations, Caribbean Cruises are the Denny's. They are middle class booze cruises.
posted by Justinian at 1:03 PM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


It is astonishing to me that they can't just have chemical toilets and generators delivered.
posted by srboisvert at 1:05 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm still not convinced this isn't just a The Filth LARP for the next MorrisonCon.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:08 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Gotta love all this snark when there are real lives at stake and real people doing their very best to trying to fix the situation. Way to keep it classy, Blue.

There's no question that something went seriously wrong on the ship and that the emergency preparedness plan in place for fixing it is either outdated or was not followed. But guess what, folks? S!&t happens (no pun intended). Why not offer constructive criticism and/or critical recommendations on how to resolve the problems? Or even better, how about focusing on getting the people suffering on the ship to safety?

I don't work for Carnival, and don't know anyone who does. I'm just a guy who works for a big corporation. I know first-hand that resolving problems in a huge organization are not always the easiest thing to accomplish. When there is a crisis, it's even harder to make snap decisions. We're not little dictators like Steve Jobs who managed by fiat. Like it or not, most of us work in a chain of command. To make it even more difficult, we live in a litigious society where even good intentions can end up destroying innocent lives in court.

Bottom line: it's all too easy to get holier than thou and get snarktastic when it's not your ass on the line.

"Snark just sucks the humor out of life." - David Denby
posted by zooropa at 1:09 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


They are middle class booze cruises.

So, like somebody said upthread, Metafilter meetup cruise anyone?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:09 PM on February 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


I've eaten lunch in Galveston in the shadow of that monstrosity. How anyone can bypass their poor screaming survival senses and board that gleaming white disease bucket is beyond me.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:10 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've said many times that I'd like to stay by myself in a really nice hotel for a week*. I don't care where the hotel is. I just want to read, surf the net, eat room service and generally veg out. Much better than a cruise because I could leave whenever I want and there's zero chance of getting seasick.

* - This will never happen
posted by double block and bleed at 1:10 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gotta love all this snark when there are real lives at stake

It's a broken down cruise ship within sight of shore. Lives are at stake in the same way my life is at stake when I get a flat tire in the middle of Los Angeles.
posted by Justinian at 1:11 PM on February 14, 2013 [58 favorites]


The logistics of getting untrained people off the v/l in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, or getting equipment on a v/l that isn't designed to be restocked/equipped at sea, with people that have no idea how to operate a crane in those circumstances? Yeah, it's not going to happen on an ship with a captain that can find his ass with both his hands. The things that can go wrong when you have real offshore construction pros doing it v/s what a cruise ships crew can do? Yeah, not going to happen.
posted by SpannerX at 1:12 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow I had somehow forgotten how much I loved DFW's non-fiction. Thanks for linking.
posted by Perplexity at 1:12 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going on the Prairie Home Companion cruise this summer. At least I'll sleep safe in the knowledge that if something like this happens on that cruise, I'll have Garrison's folksie complaining to keep me entertained. Plus, it's not on a Carnival ship so maybe that will help :)

Also - I would totally get in on a MetaFilter cruise.
posted by Arbac at 1:13 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lives are at stake in the same way my life is at stake when I get a flat tire in the middle of Los Angeles.

And are restricted to only the food supplies, fresh water and bathrooms in your car?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:13 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm probably being stupid, but CNN has video that is confusing me. There's a helicopter hovering over the ship, apparently doing some sort of airlift of some kind or another. But it's hovering right next to a big flat surface that looks like it's plenty big to land on. Is there some reason they can't land? (I would have thought that helipads would be standard issue on cruise ships.)
posted by jbickers at 1:18 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Again, it's in sight of shore. If it become dangerous rather than unpleasant they could easily evacuate the ship.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 PM on February 14, 2013


Yeah, they can get in the lifeboats and bail now pretty safely.

And no, helipads aren't standard on cruise ships because the rules for helipads actually change from country to country. It sucks when you haul into a new country and have to change all that out (Lights, radios, NDBs, paint scheme, firefighting equipment, etc). And you'd have to have properly trained personnel to be the HLO team. That gets expensive.
posted by SpannerX at 1:24 PM on February 14, 2013


They could have easily helicoptered supplies out via sling. By easily, I mean at a cost of about $10k / chopper hour but it certainly could have been done.
posted by fshgrl at 1:29 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just wait until the videos start being uploaded to YouTube.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:29 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Justinian -- They can't "easily evacuate the ship." Life isn't a Bruce Willis movie.

- First, a ship to ship passenger transfer is not an easy task in calm waters -- let alone seas of 6ft to 8ft waves. Take an unstable rocking vessel and a powered rocking vessel and you are asking for disaster. They could bounce, scrape, bang, hit into each other. That would cause damage to one if not both ships with the possibility of sinking.

- Second, there are 4000 people on board. They are tired, hungry, upset, mad, nervous, scared, and worried. You are talking about asking them to walk across a ramp from one moving ship to another in high seas. There would be possible injuries or maybe a death. Remember, there are many children and elderly aboard.

- Third, all 4000 people have at least 50 lb. of luggage each (probably more, but I'm guestimating).

- Fourth, you try living in squalor with feces sloshing around your feet. After a few days, that becomes a medical emergency. Think Haiti after the earthquake but in a relatively small, contained space.

-- Fifth, bringing in a flotilla of helicopters is impractical. Landing on an unstable ship is dangerous enough. Remember, helicopters are limited to size. How many trips would it take to move the passengers?
posted by zooropa at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I went on a cruise in 2000 and then spent the better part of a decade struggling to express why and how much I hated it. Then I read DFW's essay in 2009, and was like "That. All of that. Everything I've been trying to say."
posted by mannequito at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems like it would be easier to tell people you're going on a cruise, then unplug your phone and read at home.

I've tried that before, and it doesn't really work as a vacation.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was on this ship a couple of weeks short of two years before the fatal sewage gas venting mentioned, and in the same cabin as the two victims. Suffice to say there was poor drainage and a small amount of gas bubbling out of the shower drain.

So what I'm wondering if anyone here knows is: if the bilges don't have power on a cruise ship, what safeguards are there to keep the water traps filled and make sure that bilge gases aren't venting?
posted by ambrosen at 1:31 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not offer constructive criticism and/or critical recommendations on how to resolve the problems? Or even better, how about focusing on getting the people suffering on the ship to safety?

I think that the existence of cruise ships is a problem, zooropa, so to my eyes, the open, frequent, and public mockery of their flaws and inadequacies is actually very constructive. The more that we point out that this entire industry is predicated on gluttony, conspicuous consumption and bad taste, the better odds we have of convincing holiday decision-makers to do... well, anything else, which I'd chalk in the "win" column.

So go, us!

As per your second point, I think maybe all the blue has confused you and you're under the impression that you've wandered into the forums of the Greater Galvaston Maritime Rescue Aficionados' Society. You haven't. We aren't larfing it up while our immense fleet of rescue tugboats lies idle.

Even if we were all to think very hard about getting the people on that ship to safety, I don't think it would have much measurable effect.
posted by Shepherd at 1:31 PM on February 14, 2013 [67 favorites]


Does anyone have any idea how much electric (non-propulsion) power is required to run a cruise ship, or at least the cooling and sanitation systems on one? I am sort of surprised they haven't been able to bring out one or more generators to at least restore some of the systems.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 1:35 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously the situation sucks. You don't need to beat us over the head with it.

The "it's easy to be holier-than-thou" and "snark drains humor out of life" and "won't someone think of the middle managers who fear litigation" thing comes off as pretty self-unaware to me, frankly.
posted by Flunkie at 1:37 PM on February 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


You can't do it! The v/l isn't set up to run the generator, let alone get it on board. It doesn't have a crane that could lift something like that on deck (10 stories or better from the waterline), and you'd have to jury rig it into the power system some how, which they probably have thought of. I've worked on construction v/l that could put that sort of thing off, but a cruise ship isn't set up to do that.
posted by SpannerX at 1:38 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS WHY IS NO ONE HELPING JUSTINIAN.
posted by Etrigan at 1:42 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This does remind me of my flight to Washington from Heathrow last year where we had a cabin fire and were diverted to Shannon, Ireland and spent a day shivering in an unheated airport during a freak summer cold snap and then a night in a complete fleabag dump of a hotel. A lot of people couldn't stop complaining but I spent the whole time grinning like the luckiest man alive. Because I was alive and not in the Atlantic ocean.

Things may suck for these people. At about the level of a power failure in an apartment building during a heatwave. But they are alive and likely to stay that way. Which is much better than it could have been if this had happened elsewhere.

I do still want to laugh about every deck becoming the poop deck though.
posted by srboisvert at 1:45 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


I spent three years working for a cruise ship sewage treatment plant company. I have also been on board when the ship had a fire in the engine room (cracked fuel injector line). Luckily the ship I was on had a split engine room, with a fireproof bulkhead between port and starboard sides. I'm guessing the Carnival ship had all the diesels together.

On my ship, we drifted for 3-4 hours before the engineers got the fire out and restarted the #1 & 2 engines. These diesels are freaking huge (12,000hp), and it took about one diesel at half-throttle to run the non-propulsion parts of the ship, AFAIK.
posted by anthill at 1:46 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lot of people couldn't stop complaining but I spent the whole time grinning like the luckiest man alive. Because I was alive and not in the Atlantic ocean.

As I have said on the blue before, inconveniences during travel tend to produce good stories afterwards. I have taken hundreds of train trips in my life. Twenty-four hours in second class on Egyptian Railways* was miserable at the time, but makes for good stories now.

*IIRC, the name 'Egyptian Railways' in Arabic is pronounced more or less 'sakhamta misri', which sounds a lot like 'succumb to misery.'
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:53 PM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Justinian -- They can't "easily evacuate the ship." Life isn't a Bruce Willis movie.

I think we're just disagreeing on what "easily" means in this context. If people's lives were in dangerous they could certainly evacuate the ship and it is likely no-one would be seriously injured doing so. If people on the ship were in significant danger rather than just experiencing unpleasantness they would indeed evacuate.

If they were in serious danger to their health, we would be seeing injuries and deaths. Because, as you say, there are 4000 people on board. That is strong evidence that they aren't in significant danger. Because even a small danger when applied to 4000 people would lead one to expect more than a few injuries and deaths.
posted by Justinian at 1:55 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why doesn't everyone just take refuge in the doody-free shops? They're like, right there.
posted by Awakened at 1:55 PM on February 14, 2013 [23 favorites]


The last thing you do is leave a floating ship. THE LAST THING YOU DO IS GET IN LIFEBOATS AND LEAVE A FLOATING SHIP! As in it is sinking or the whole v/l is on fire. That's it.
posted by SpannerX at 1:59 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


What I found astonishing was reading that they used *other cruise ships* to deliver supplies -- and that (when that article went to press) another was "on its way." Is that really the best way to get them food and water -- sending another luxury behemoth to rendezvous with the stranded ship?
posted by eugenen at 2:03 PM on February 14, 2013


They won't get power back from a temporary generator. Besides needing a 1,000HP+ generator, and not having a crane, not having a properly reinforced deck surface to install it, and having to get qualified crew to do the installation (which if they are within 12 miles of US shore would require US-certified technicians), the ship runs on 460V three-phase, which you do not fuck around with. Getting the power from the generator to the ship's distribution system safely, through watertight / fire bulkheads is not going to happen.

Reading Carnival's environmental horn-blowing, it seems this ship doesn't have a sewage treatment system to speak of. So what's being reported is basically just the vacuum toilet collection system being shut down. The tanks down below the waterline are probably filling up too. If they could get power to the vacuum pumps, they could just dump the crap overboard (which is essentially what they do anyhow, so it wouldn't be any more environmentally harmful).
posted by anthill at 2:05 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


the last cruise I was on was dreadfully boring. you know the ship full of humans on WALL-E? that's what it felt like

maybe there should be an adventure cruise line where, at some point on the journey, something major goes wrong and everyone on board has a stressful, yet safe, ocean adventure. have tugs and helis onshore on standby just in case and randomly shut something down with a dramatic thud and let the fun begin.

Carnival should just lean into it at this point and take my idea.
posted by ninjew at 2:08 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, in another part of the ocean, the JoCo Cruise Crazy (NOT a Carnival Cruise) is hauling around Jonathan Coulton, John Hodgman, Wil Wheaton and a bunch of firkers, RiffTrakers and webcomickers (who will bring back funny drawings of the whole thing). It would be 'a triumph' if that were one of the 'other cruise ships' bringing supplies, because Jon and Co. could entertain them by singing "Still Alive" over and over and over...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:11 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Carnival should learn that, as soon as these kind of events happen, they need to immediately place the blame on pirates.
posted by perhapses at 2:14 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's Ballard's High Rise 2: Cruise Control.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:17 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The last thing you do is leave a floating ship. THE LAST THING YOU DO IS GET IN LIFEBOATS AND LEAVE A FLOATING SHIP! As in it is sinking or the whole v/l is on fire. That's it.

Deathboats. And deathboats.
posted by jessssse at 2:22 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The last thing you do is leave a floating ship. THE LAST THING YOU DO IS GET IN LIFEBOATS AND LEAVE A FLOATING SHIP! As in it is sinking or the whole v/l is on fire. That's it.

Yes, because they aren't actually in any significant danger since the ship is floating! That's my point! That's what I'm saying That they are in unpleasant but not life threatening conditions!
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Poor sanitation and thousands of people confined in a giant metal hulk sounds like a life-threatening condition to me.
posted by dr_dank at 2:52 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Compared to the ocean, it is not.
posted by rtha at 3:20 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Perhaps they bent a connecting rod.
posted by exogenous at 3:22 PM on February 14, 2013


"Evacuate the ship" - why does that sound dirty to me?
posted by skepticbill at 3:23 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


This happened on the one cruise I ever took when I was a kid, on what was then the officially licensed Disney cruise line which caught fire on the way back to port. My memories are a little hazy - I was one of the small children crying because hey, it was 3am and the boat was on fire, and when we got into the lifeboats we realised how lucky we were that we had time to get dressed, because there were families who had fled from the smoke spreading through the lower cabins and were wrapped in the sheets they'd carried with them. Once it was daylight and we weren't in danger of having to abandon ship, it was really not so bad. It helped that the crew were amazingly good and kept everyone supplied with free drinks, tried to entertain the kids, set up barbecues to deal with the lack of cooking or refrigeration, but it was also pretty cool when you're a kid and you get to sleep on a sunlounger on top of a cruise ship. The main problem was the lack of toilets, you didn't sleep below decks partly because of the heat but partly because of the smell, and we were only stranded for 24-36 hours, so after four days it must be pretty bad. Indeed, the lack of toilets is the main comment from my dad in this article, where I am deeply amused they had to translate the word "loo" for an American audience.
posted by penguinliz at 3:34 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


This just confirms for me I never want to go on a cruise because when my vacation hotel sucked, we just left and went to a different one. Though pooping in the trash cans does have a certain appeal...
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:35 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went on two-week Disney cruise. I stayed with the crew. It was more or less hell on water. Everywhere I went horrible pop songs were playing...with the lyrics changed to be about Disney stuff. I heard "Livin' La Vida Mickey" more than 360 times during those two weeks. You're trapped for days and then they let you off for a little bit to go to a Senor Frogs and buy some shitty silver.

This cruise actually sounds vaguely more exciting than the mediocre floating hotel with no escape that I was on.

the souffle was good, though.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


And somewhere, Guy Grand is chuckling.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


1 in the UK, funky only means like Bootsy Collins..i took 2 reads to understand that!

2 i worked in a posh clothes shop, we sold 'outfits' to people old enough to still be indoctrinated that you have to wear head to toe matching stuff, and had weird seasons (wedding, cruise) instead of 'spring, summer'. I have actually never not dressed out of oxfam shops, from long before this 'vintage' nonsense, back when only bag ladies did, so i had a few problems fitting in. Also, income-wise, i'm in the bottom 0.05%. This elderly lady came in and said, "What would you take on a cruise?" I said what i first thought without thinking, "A life jacket." She blanched and tottered off. Oops... i didn't last too long.
posted by maiamaia at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I went on a cruise in 2000 and then spent the better part of a decade struggling to express why and how much I hated it.

The only cruise I've ever been on was a day cruise from Miami to a Caribbean island. I couldn't wait to get off of that boat soon enough. It was like being stuck at a wedding reception for people you don't know very well, and not being able to leave.

We were only on the ship instead of flying because someone "won" some kind of 3 for 1 deal on cruise tickets in the mail. Do you know what happens when you take up that kind of offer? You end up on a boat where at least two thirds of the passengers are only there because they got a 3 for 1 deal in the mail.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Poor sanitation and thousands of people confined in a giant metal hulk sounds like a life-threatening condition to me.

There are 4000 people plus on the ship. Simple math suggests that if you keep 4000 people in life threatening conditions for days some of them will die. Ergo, if nobody dies, they are not in significantly life threatening conditions.
posted by Justinian at 3:50 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


My father the captain whose maritime career spanned nearly fifty years and included working with such wonderful ships as the SS Constitution and Independence refused to go on the current breed of super-ships from the get-go. He predicted that there would one day be an incident much like this one and he didn't want to be on board when it happened.

He also said that with that many people, any highly contagious disease would see the afflicted ship held in quarantine for ever so long.

Consider yourselves warned.
posted by BWA at 3:52 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


orange swan wrote: You know what would be fun? A Metafilter cruise. It would be the most epic meetup ever. I'm serious. I'd go if one was arranged and I could scrape up the money and spare the time.

If we act fast, we could probably book the Triumph at a bargain rate!
posted by 1367 at 4:01 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had not heard that about the Wallace essays. Franzen and he were good friends, I think, so there's some credibility there. Maybe.

Whatever novelistic liberties - if any - Wallace may have taken, casually suggesting he "felt free to make stuff up" in a public forum, when Wallace is unable to respond or verify or clarify or otherwise qualify the statement, is an appalling thing to do to any writer, let alone one you consider a friend. It is, alas, not out of character for Jonathan Franzen (or at least the public persona version of him).
posted by gompa at 4:09 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


OK, seriously, the pictures do make it look like hell.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:17 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean, you have to be a crazy person to think a cruise sounds like fun even when it goes as planned. Right?
posted by TheTingTangTong at 4:25 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, you have to be a crazy person to think a cruise sounds like fun even when it goes as planned. Right?

Your favorite band sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:34 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


the whole v/l

You keep saying "v/l" as though that ought to be a familiar abbreviation. Care to explain your jargon?
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:42 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


vessel
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:47 PM on February 14, 2013


roomthreeseventeen: OK, seriously, the pictures do make it look like hell.
So many cell phones.

Maybe I'm just an old grouch, but I wouldn't want a network-type device like a phone or a laptop with me on a cruise. Isn't the chance to escape all those connections and banal habits supposed to be a big part of the draw?
...it's a good opportunity to re-read David Foster Wallace's classic piece on luxury cruises, "Shipping Out"...
I've tried reading a couple of things by DFW before and failed to enjoy them at all. But I'm loving this thing.
posted by Western Infidels at 4:51 PM on February 14, 2013


My friend's mom is on this cruise.
posted by drezdn at 4:53 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the late 1990's my wife and I went on several cruises which were comped by one of the Gulf casinos, back when she was playing for the card counting team and getting comps for things like cruises.

The ship was the Enchanted Capri and it was a lot smaller than modern cruise boats; it carried a bit over 500 passengers and it was a proper ship, not a barge. I most fondly remember the small bar, which couldn't have seated more than 50 people at a time, at the very top; you had to climb narrow ship-stairs and walk across a couple of catwalks to get to it. The gym was also up there, but because this was the topmost level of a proper ship there were catwalks and you had to walk around various bits of actual ship hardware to get to the two or three passenger things up there.

I remember taking drinks from the bar and going to the back of the ship and just watching the sky, which was just stuffed with stars and the Milky Way out there in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. The Capri didn't generate a lot of light pollution because it wasn't a floating city with floor to ceiling windows on 10 decks. You could see the people in the bar, or walk to the rear and look down on the dinky swimming pool, but if you looked up it was black as coal.

I find it kind of amazing that the new floating palaces like Triumph are all single point of failure if the main drive motor fails. How much expense could it possibly add to have a backup engine capable of powering the toilets and ventilation? It's not like this has only happened once, and it's a general matter of nautical history that single points of failure are Bad.

Anyway the cruises we took were five days, with three stops. The ship didn't have modern stabilizers and I learned the usefulness of Dramamine the hard way. But all in all I'm glad I took those cruises, but in large part because as hard as it was trying to be a floating resort it was still a ship and I'd never been on an actual ship at sea before, and there's something about the way the whole thing vibrates and rolls and is so far from everything that I've never experienced elsewhere.

Anyway the Capri couldn't compete with the new floating palaces, and it was scrapped over 10 years ago now. I'm not really interested on taking a cruise on a ship like the Triumph, because the intimate bar on the top deck would probably accommodate 400 people and there would be no navigating of satellite dishes and antennas to get to the nearly always vacant gym.
posted by localroger at 5:18 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


OK, seriously, the pictures do make it look like hell.

Looking at the pics, I'd say it looks far more appealing than I would have thought.

I've been on a Carnival cruise ship a few years back, a several day Mexican Riviera thing that was really quite fun, mostly holed up in a clean cabin, being with my fuck buddy and all. They do have all kinds of structured activities, shows, gambling, formal dinners and stuff. All Love Boat-y. Screw all that, we didn't do any of it. First of all, it just ain't my bag. And I was fairly preoccupied, anyhow. Nobody nags you about stuff.

Had I not been so preoccupied, I probably would have going out of my head. As humongous as the ship was, and it was ginormous, I felt like it could easily become claustrophobic. But that's just me, I guess. Oodles of people seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit.

The Triumph's misadventure would have been a challenging opportunity for me to really mix it up. I'd be doing a Burning Man on the sea.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:33 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have fantasies about going back in time so I can book a trip on the Zenith/Nadir, find DFW, and hang out with him for just a little while, kind of like the Amy and The Doctor did with Vincent.
It's not fair he's not around anymore.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:35 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel terrible for the crew members. What is going to happen to them? Are they even going to be allowed to get off the ship when it reaches port in Alabama? I know a lot of them are not US citizens.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:44 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, taking a cruise this summer, and this was a good reminder to bring a big bag of snacks and double the amount of baby formula and diapers I think I'll need.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:46 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the available evidence, it may be a good idea to quadruple the diaper count and vary up the sizes.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:54 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Might want to keep an eye on the CruiseCritic roll call thread for this cruise- I imagine some of the people onboard will check in over the next few days and tell their stories.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:05 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


double block and bleed wrote:
I've said many times that I'd like to stay by myself in a really nice hotel for a week*. I don't care where the hotel is. I just want to read, surf the net, eat room service and generally veg out. Much better than a cruise because I could leave whenever I want and there's zero chance of getting seasick.

My great grandmother once said that the best vacation she ever had was the week she got to spend in the hospital after a hysterectomy.

Of course, I think it was probably her only ever vacation - dairy farmers didn't get much time off.
posted by mosessis at 6:29 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recently had my sister read 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again' and she said it made her want to take a luxury cruise.

We think she's illiterate.


I'm being quite serious when I say she may have read it more carefully than you did. To read that piece in the spirit of "cruises are weird and horrible, who except a moron could possibly enjoy them?" is not to have read it at all -- what is going on is that Wallace understands exactly what is enjoyable about the cruise, even to some extent enjoys it himself, while simultaneously forbidding himself from enjoying it, and wishing that he could excuse himself from forbidding himself from enjoying it. And in the end the only way he can keep it all in one piece is to psychically cast himself off from the ship, into the black ocean, because he can't bear to really experience the cruise ship except from the outside:

I find myself, in my plush seat, going farther and father away, sort of creatively visualizing an epiphanic Frank Conroy-type moment of my own, trying to see the hypnotist and subjects and audience and ship itself with the eyes of someone not aboard, imagining the m.v. Nadir right at this moment, all lit up and steaming north, in the dark, at night, with a strong west wind pulling the moon backward through a skein of clouds — the Nadir a constellation, complexly aglow, angelically white, festive, imperial. Yes, this: it would look like a floating palace to any poor soul out here on the ocean at night, alone in a dinghy, or not even in a dinghy but simply and terribly floating, treading water, out of sight of land.

God, this is so great, and ambivalent, and un-cheap, and it so rigorously declines to take a side.
posted by escabeche at 7:15 PM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry, but if this is the worst experience of a person's life, he has a pretty cushy life. Honestly, sleeping outdoors under the stars looks like a kick to me; having my mattress crunched up right next to someone else's makes it an adventure - a chance to get to share all the fuss with a stranger means you get to meet someone new. Going to the bathroom in a bucket is, yes, unpleasant, but anyone who hasn't had to use a honey bucket or go behind a bush out in the wilderness somewhere has lived a sheltered life; you get over things like this. The thing I found the most tragic about the whole picture was the incredibly powerful image of all those people whose dependence on their little electronic devices took on life-or-death proportions; my God, what happened to their lives that they cannot shut off the magic box and walk away and look at the sky and ocean and talk to other people and make new friends and - oh, and everything else. These people aren't alive - they're hooked up to life support machines. What an incredibly pathetic mess.

A friend called me today and said he'd been watching Faux News when they interviewed a woman from the cruise. He said they tried for all they were worth to get her to say something really ugly about the experience and she just said it wasn't really a big deal at all - everyone did just fine. Her way of looking at it was basically, "stuff happens." Way to go, Lady.
posted by aryma at 7:56 PM on February 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


My wife and I took a 58 hr ferry ride across the equator in Indonesia this past fall. It certainly looks like conditions aboard that Carnival cruise were far more comfortable than what we experienced. Funny that taking a trip like that in Indo is a "fun" adventure, yet at home it's "life threatening".

My poor, suffering wife. The only reason we took that ferry ride is because I had always told myself that my first trip across the equator would be by sea. I have sailed across the Atlantic a couple of times, sailed the N. Sea, the Med, the Pacific, Caribbean, South China Sea. Never across the equator. The trip was from Sumatra to Java, via a couple of other islands. Not only were the hallways crammed with people sleeping on whatever they had, and the heads were 2" deep with sewage, the hallways soaked in sewage, and the food nearly inedible, but it was almost entirely Muslims (not normally a problem, and unsurprising in Indonesia) and it was during the riots in the wake of Bengazi and the movie fiasco. A 6' tall, blonde white woman and I were the only gringos on the whole ship. Needless to say, we felt a little unwelcome and stuck out like a sore thumb.

We crossed the equator at 3am. There was no celebration, no acknowledgement of the crossing. We blearily toasted the horizon with a clink of our water bottles and went back to bed.

She's a good sport. Happy Valentine's honey.
posted by karst at 8:59 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


A Carnival Triumph passenger's Reddit IAmA
posted by riruro at 9:28 PM on February 14, 2013


They've finally docked.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:28 PM on February 14, 2013


(As of this timestamp, news crews are on site waiting for the first passengers to disembark, which should be in a few minutes.)
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:33 PM on February 14, 2013


Here's a DFW quote from Lipsky's road trip book:
One of the things I don’t like about myself is, I have a very low capacity for enjoyment. Of an actual thing that’s going on. ’Cause I manage to turn almost anything into something scary.
posted by mbrock at 1:16 AM on February 15, 2013


Honestly, sleeping outdoors under the stars looks like a kick to me

Copying a reddit comment:
People who cruise are usually the same people who hate camping. I'm just saying.
posted by muddgirl at 6:24 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the buses carrying rescued passengers also broke down.

With this luck, it's time to hit Vegas on the next stop.
posted by rewil at 6:34 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


These diesels are freaking huge (12,000hp), and it took about one diesel at half-throttle to run the non-propulsion parts of the ship, AFAIK.

The term de arte here is "hotel load" -- that is, the load needed to run everything on the ship that isn't propulsion. On a very large ship, you need air conditioning to ventilate all the spaces, and that load is significant.

Warships, where survivability is a huge concern, have multiple power systems isolated from each other, and casualty power systems that allow them to reroute power around damaged sections. They can even take power over the side from another ship, if need be, but they have electrical systems built to do so, the *very* large cables needed to move significant power, and a standard so that each ship has a common voltage to share power with, if needed.

Turns out that the thing that most often directly sinks a warship is its own ammunition, in either an exploding magazine or by aircraft on deck during an attack. Yes, the people shooting at them cause damage, but until you hit a magazine or something else that has a lot of ammo in it, mostly, that damage is survivable because the ship is built to survive it and the crew is trained to fight fires and mitigate damage -- both to save the ship, and to keep the ship fighting.

It appears that this line was poorly designed in that all power came from one space, and when that space had a fire, they lost all propulsion and hotel loads. I don't expect a cruise ship to be built to warship standards, but on a multi engine warship, each engine (and if steam turbine, boiler set) was built in an isolated space, to prevent fire or flooding in one costing all power.

As warships in the 1930s demanded more and more electrical power, secondary generators were also fitted to make sure that there was power to firefighting and pumping systems, at the very least, if all main power was offline.
posted by eriko at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I must be a horrible person or something, because I look at the beds lined up on the deck with sheets over them, and I think, that looks awesome.
posted by webwench at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It appears that this line was poorly designed in that all power came from one space, and when that space had a fire, they lost all propulsion and hotel loads. I don't expect a cruise ship to be built to warship standards, but on a multi engine warship, each engine (and if steam turbine, boiler set) was built in an isolated space, to prevent fire or flooding in one costing all power.

They didn't lose all hotel loads, as far as I can tell. There was still power available in some cabins and public areas. It looks to me like a lot of the reason why people moved outside is because sewage backed up in some areas due to loss of sewage system power. The AMA Redditor notes that their toilet still functioned.
posted by muddgirl at 9:39 AM on February 15, 2013


Gotta love all this snark when there are real lives at stake and real people doing their very best to trying to fix the situation. Way to keep it classy, Blue.

I don't know that lives are at stake here. It was certainly a bad situation, but everyone seems to have survived just fine. This isn't, like, a natural-disasters-or-wars level catastrophe.

I think that the existence of cruise ships is a problem, zooropa, so to my eyes, the open, frequent, and public mockery of their flaws and inadequacies is actually very constructive. The more that we point out that this entire industry is predicated on gluttony, conspicuous consumption and bad taste, the better odds we have of convincing holiday decision-makers to do... well, anything else, which I'd chalk in the "win" column.

I dislike cruises and what they represent and I don't think you could pay me to take one but, I don't know...even if we were to immediately enact an international ban on all holiday cruises, I suspect gluttony, conspicuous consumption and bad taste will find other ways to rear their ugly heads. I may disagree with many people's holiday choices, sometimes strongly (frittering away money in casinos! gigantic tour groups for perfectly navigable US cities! adults who take vacations in Disney World! all these things confuse me), but I don't think they really rise to the level of Serious Problem With Society.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:38 AM on February 15, 2013


I may disagree with many people's holiday choices, sometimes strongly (frittering away money in casinos! gigantic tour groups for perfectly navigable US cities! adults who take vacations in Disney World! all these things confuse me)

You are missing out on life, my friend.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:50 AM on February 15, 2013


No, I think the point was that people who vacation like that are the ones who are missing out on real life.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:57 AM on February 15, 2013


I dislike cruises and what they represent and I don't think you could pay me to take one but, I don't know...even if we were to immediately enact an international ban on all holiday cruises, I suspect gluttony, conspicuous consumption and bad taste will find other ways to rear their ugly heads.

No, I think the point was that people who vacation like that are the ones who are missing out on real life.

To be fair, the second page on the NYT link has one of the passengers confirming this:

“We are all just beyond disgusting,” she said by cellphone, planning her flight back to California.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2013


No, I think the point was that people who vacation like that are the ones who are missing out on real life.

For some values of "real life," sure. Their definitions may differ from yours.
posted by Etrigan at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2013


When we've come to a conclusion on what constitutes an acceptable holiday, let me know, because I actually enjoy a cruise from time to time. They're relaxing, you can travel with a bunch of family and no one has to cook or clean, you can spend time with people or the ship is big enough to get away from them, and they're actually pretty cheap for what you get. If I had to pick a cruise for every vacation for the rest of my life, I wouldn't, but thankfully that kind of choice isn't necessary.

None of that applies to this particular cruise from hell, but the average 7-day Caribbean cruise is actually quite pleasant.
posted by festivus at 12:54 PM on February 15, 2013


No, I think the point was that people who vacation like that are the ones who are missing out on real life.

The point (or my point, anyway) was actually that people have different vacation preferences and that's fine.
posted by breakin' the law at 2:18 PM on February 15, 2013


webwench: "I must be a horrible person or something, because I look at the beds lined up on the deck with sheets over them, and I think, that looks awesome."

Shame on you. Pillow forts are clearly superior to blanket forts.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The part where they dock in Alabama.. that is a fucking travesty.
posted by phaedon at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just over halfway through the David Foster Wallace piece linked in the post and it is one of the best things I've read in years. Somehow, though I've long hated the idea of going on a cruise, now I kind of want to try one. But I would probably bring survival equipment.
posted by exogenous at 6:50 PM on February 15, 2013


And my point was that people who say things like "No, I think the point was that people who vacation like that are the ones who are missing out on real life" need to read some David Foster Wallace.
posted by escabeche at 6:32 AM on February 16, 2013


Bus Transporting Carnival Cruise Passengers Crashes Into Sewage Treatment Plant
posted by exogenous at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


A friend called me today and said he'd been watching Faux News when they interviewed a woman from the cruise. He said they tried for all they were worth to get her to say something really ugly about the experience and she just said it wasn't really a big deal at all - everyone did just fine. Her way of looking at it was basically, "stuff happens." Way to go, Lady.

Remember like seven years back when a cruise ship was shot at by pirates off (I think) Kenya? CNN desperately wanted outraged passengers, but they didn't have a crew nearby, so they'd bought the passenger interviews off of ITN or someone who had interviewed some eminently practical 60 year old English couple who were all "We thought the captain did an excellent job, coming on and telling everyone to stay inside. He was very sensible and didn't panic." Over and over, CNN would talk about the terrible ordeal the passengers had just endured and then have to cut to this couple who thought it was all a bit exciting.
posted by hoyland at 3:40 PM on February 17, 2013


aryma: "the incredibly powerful image of all those people whose dependence on their little electronic devices took on life-or-death proportions"

I understand what you're saying, but their families may have been worried sick and they needed enough charge to call home and let them know they were okay.

Also, I was recently in our brand new ER as a patient, where, much to my dismay, there is no signal on my carrier. My family did not arrive for at least an hour, and especially after I'd had an infusion of an anti-vertigo drug that sedated me just ever so slightly, I was anxious and I felt extremely isolated not being able to text or call my friends/family. For some of those people, contacting friends and family might have been a way of avoiding panic attacks. (There was wifi but you have to jump through hoops to connect and I was not feeling well enough to figure it out.)
posted by IndigoRain at 10:48 PM on February 17, 2013


Many hospitals frown on the use of any RF generating devices that aren't strictly audited, and some install cell phone jammers for this reason.
posted by localroger at 6:04 AM on February 18, 2013


Video of crew meetings on the Triumph after the guests were all gone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:56 AM on February 19, 2013


Watching the videos- they do get all the staff off the ship to hotels that first night.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2013


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