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A Supposedly Fun Thing You'll Maybe Click Around Once
July 7, 2014 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Google Street View your way through a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship.

See also: DFW's Shipping Out as printed by Harper's1 (pdf).

1Later reprinted (and massively expanded) as A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.
posted by davidjmcgee (42 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
AHHHHHH DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING

NOROVIRUS
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:29 PM on July 7 [17 favorites]


Socks with sandals? Check.
Knee-high black socks with white tennis shoes and shorts? Check.
Striped shirt with plaid shorts? Check.

It's okay, people. I looked. It checks out.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:32 PM on July 7


3/10. Could not get below decks to the viral labs.
posted by Hactar at 3:35 PM on July 7


That got really boring really fast.
posted by Brockles at 3:44 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


So I was looking for the "exclusive 'access all areas' tour" I was promised at the top of link. Instead, I got a couple panoramas of some rooms and a pool and stuff. Marketing speak sets high expectations that the product doesn't come anywhere close to meeting yet again.
posted by zachlipton at 3:47 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Caribbean Blue.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:52 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The ice rink performance was either a practice session, or the saddest matinee ever. Bonus points if you find the beverage the cleaning staff missed.
posted by davebush at 3:52 PM on July 7


That got really boring really fast.

Verisimilitude FTW.
posted by davidjmcgee at 4:01 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


This sort of reminds me of playing Titanic: Adventure Out of Time back in the day, only that was better because it was on the Titanic, and the first thing you see on this boat is a potbelly in a wetsuit.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:14 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


That book was my introduction to DFW, and I appreciated that he confirmed my life-long desire to never go on a cruise ship.
posted by MtDewd at 4:18 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Very cool, but I wish they had more places to view. Some behind-the-scenes looks would have been fun too. I hope they add on.

(The first area they show you...holy crowd!)
posted by SisterHavana at 4:23 PM on July 7


My family (parents, two sisters and their "hubbies") all love these bloody things and are constantly trying to force me to go on one (by way of my kids, the devious creeps), but it looks about as interesting as spending time at the mall.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:27 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the excuse to re-read DFW's delightful cruise ship essay! I wish he got more credit for being so funny.
posted by dialetheia at 4:31 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


A heaving, yawing plasitc city you can't leave. No thanks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:51 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I love DFW, but I've been on a few cruises. They were fun. Good food, ocean views, lots of booze. It's not torture.
posted by jonmc at 5:59 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


My family (parents, two sisters and their "hubbies") all love these bloody things

I'd never thought about it until now, but I imagine that there is a very strong correlation between calling your husband your "hubby" and being the sort of person that enjoys cruise ships.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:05 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Thanks, jonmc, I was waiting for someone else so I wasn't a lone voice on the great big blue.

Without a cruise, I doubt I would have taken the trip I took last fall, where I visited Barcelona, Cadiz, and the Canary Islands. It's not the best way to get a real feel for local culture (and I do avoid the cruise's "recommended shopping" like the plague), but it allows someone like me, who did not grow up traveling and is not a great planner, to experience more of the world. I was able to bring both my mother and my child, and feel confident that there would be things they would enjoy doing. At 56, it was my mom's first trip out of the country.

Sure, the boats are big, and they are carefully engineered to make sure you'll spend a bunch of money on them. But you don't have to spend extra money to have a really simple, relaxing vacation. It isn't for everyone, but it isn't the worst thing ever, either.
posted by Night_owl at 7:09 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I've spent 13 months on an aircraft carrier which is alternately boring and stupidly dangerous.
This looks worse.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:09 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Don't know about jonmc and Night_owl's experience, but TFL looks simply god awful in the worst, middle-of-nowhere-small-town-crappy-mall style. It's much, much worse than what I imagined it to be when I read DFW.
posted by signal at 7:15 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


My cruise advice, after boarding do a simple drill. Now while the ships are quite safe, there is a possibility that there could be a problem after the masked ball late at night so:

1) When you get to your stateroom, take your usual, 3-5 drinks.

2) Have your partner blindfold you.

3) Have them spin you around once or twice.

4) Time how long it takes to get to your appointed life raft.


Just a suggestion.
posted by sammyo at 7:40 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


You guys can make "someone makes all your meals for you while you lay in the sun reading, getting drunk, and looking at the ocean with the only interruptions being to go fuck in your cabin" sound like a lot less fun than it is.
posted by Metafilter Username at 7:57 PM on July 7 [18 favorites]


You guys can make "someone makes all your meals for you while you lay in the sun reading, getting drunk, and looking at the ocean with the only interruptions being to go fuck in your cabin" sound like a lot less fun than it is.

Well yeah but what if you get the one that loses power and water and turns into a sweltering shit-caked shitfarm
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:18 PM on July 7


I'll admit to loving cruises too. But I live in the 'burbs and sometimes shop at the mall, so I know my credibility is shot here!

Even so, this wasn't quite what I was hoping. When do we get Streetview in an abandoned amusement park?
posted by primethyme at 8:25 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Which way to the poop deck?
posted by mazola at 8:32 PM on July 7


Click around enough and you get this but I swear to God I don't remember how I did it.
posted by mazola at 8:34 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


oh god yes thank you THANK YOU for reminding me of the existence of DFW's cruise ship essay
posted by elizardbits at 9:30 PM on July 7


I've never been on a cruise, but in one week I'll be observing the 11-year anniversary of moving to a town that is a port of call on a very popular cruise route. From my window, during the season, I can not only watch the boats come and go but in many cases I can even hear the announcements on their PA systems.

And while it's plain to me that many of the visitors are enjoying their experience it makes me a bit sad to see the extent to which they are spoon-fed experiences that represent only a fairly small fraction of the possibilities. However, at the same time I'm selfishly glad that I'm not competing with our 900,000 annual visitors for the best local trails, quiet and private places, etc.

I very briefly worked in a shop catering to tourists when I first moved here (for only a matter of weeks; I was helping a friend of my sister finish out the end of the season after his high-school aged helpers had gone back to school after Labor Day) and it was an eye-opening experience. The owner, G. was a talented artist capable of producing beautiful carvings in the Haida style. One of my sister's most treasured possessions is a beautiful, several foot high orca totem that he carved out of yellow cedar and presented to her at a potlatch. However, his store was mostly full of (to my taste) ghastly tchotchkes made in some factory somewhere (and nowhere near here..) I asked him about it and he smiled at my naivety and told me to wait and see, which I did. It didn't take long, either -- it seemed like my very first customer on the first day walked in the door, looked directly at me, and asked "Where are the shot glasses?" and then we were off and running.

After that I was forced to admit that he knew his business and I should probably just trust his judgment. I still drew the line, however, at the belly-button brushes. Next to one of the cash registers, on the countertop in the impulse-buy area, was a small basket containing thirteen or fourteen "belly-button brushes." They were shaped like one of those toilet brushes that consists of a handle and a loop of bristle-covered wire (example pic) but on a miniature scale -- the loop of wire was actually a section of pipe cleaner attached to a tiny handle and the whole thing was possibly 2" long. I thought they were the most useless-looking thing I had ever seen and couldn't imagine anybody paying $3.95 for such an item, but was again proven completely wrong. On my second or third day a group of five women came in together, one of them spotted them at the register while buying postcards, and exclaimed about them to her friends and between them they bought out the entire remaining supply, purportedly to give as gifts to friends when they returned home. After they were gone I exclaimed about the sale to G., whose reaction was to comment that he had better remember to re-order, as the ones I had sold were the last of his supply. His sister-in-law made them during idle evenings in the winter and over the course of the season he had sold 500 of them, or roughly an average of five per day. I was (and still am) flabbergasted by that.

It used to upset me that so many people were being cheated, I thought, out of a wonderful and more authentic (whatever that means) experience of this area. Eventually, though, I've come around to the realization that not everybody wants the same things I want, that people are allowed to like the things that they like, and that the hugely overwhelming proportion of the people who visit here on the cruise ships would never visit any other way. At least they come and see some small part of it and leave with a sense of how special and amazing this part of the planet is.

Nowadays, when people tell me that they've always wanted to visit this region, I tell them that they definitely should, and I tell them that although most of the people who visit the region come through on cruise ships there are alternatives for those who want a different kind of visit. But I encourage them to come either way and don't expect their choices to necessarily be the same as my own.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:38 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


I'm with jonmc and Night_owl. My cruise experience was great. My wife and I did a cruise around the Baltic capitals last year. We knew the entertainment wouldn't be our cup of tea and we thought it'd be rude to sit drunk at the back and enjoy it ironically so at night we relaxed with cocktails and watched sunsets.

We sat and read for most of the sea days and did our own thing in all the cities we stopped at.

Best of all was the fact that our cruise left from a spot not 10 minutes away from our home.

(One of the books I brought on that trip was A Supposedly Fun... which I wanted to re-read while supping daft coloured drinks while massive dragonflies buzzed me)
posted by gnuhavenpier at 12:55 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I've only been on one cruise. Dragged along with my extended family when I was 17. It was a ton of fun. Since then I've always wondered...Does every cruise have a group of bored teenagers sleeping all day and turning the ship into a drunken playground after all the old folks have gone to bed?
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:14 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I don't care if it makes me tacky... I love the ocean and a cruise is a lot more affordable than 7+ days at a prime oceanfront hotel with a balcony directly over the water, so yeah, I am hella excited for my first cruise.

To a Midwestern kid who only saw the ocean once as a child, and still gets REALLY EXCITED about just walking on the beach or having an oceanview room, spending several days literally on the ocean sounds like an awesome adventure to have at least once.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:59 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I find the notion of a "normal" cruise pretty repellant, but there exists an interesting phenomenon called, I think, "affinity cruises" wherein a group books together with their own set of events, entertainment, and other perks. There are Republican cruises, and progressive cruises, and cruises about folk music (but never mind that one; going on IT is like getting season tickets to Lambeau Field), and so on and so forth.

This winter, we're going on our third such cruise: JoCoCruiseCrazy V, centered around Jonathan Coulton and his cadre of amusing folks. It's like a wonderful, luxurious floating nerd con. Last year, there were like 850 of us. The group gets an entire floor of the main dining room at dinner. We get the conference center for the duration of the cruise as a 24x7 gaming center (Catan at 3AM? You can bet someone else is game.). There are group-only excursions at ports.

Coulton brings great other entertainers, generally speaking kinda pre-approved for this geeky cadre. Always present are Paul & Storm, and there are other repeat attendees like John Hodgman, John Roderick, David Rees, and Paul F. Thompkins. Zoe Keating performed on the 2013 cruise, which was AMAZING. Sara Watkins came last year, and blew us all away.

It's like nerd summer camp for adults, complete with actual lasting friendships (I'm now always playing iPad Waterdeep with a friend from JCCC). Basically, there's nothing about it that isn't awesome, and I'd be surprised if it turned out if I was the only MeFite who also calls himself a Sea Monkey (well, Scalzi has gone a couple times, so there's at least ONE other one).

Logistics nerds may find it interesting that JCCC has basically grown itself into a spot where only three cruise ships will work: the Freedom class on Royal Caribbean (one size smaller than the one in the post).

This is because it needs two venues capable of seating the whole subcruise, and only these boats have that; cruise ship design has shifted to providing ONE big venue, and lots of other kinds of spaces, apparently. Growth above this point would require significant changes to the character of the event, and one gets the idea the organizers kinda like it like it is (with good reason).
posted by uberchet at 9:01 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Yeah, lots of cruise snobs on Metafilter.

I was just on the Allure of the Seas in May and we had a good time. I rarely drink and huge meals are not such a big deal to me; I played a lot of pub trivia matches in the Schooner Bar, read my Kindle while lounging in the fresh ocean air, enjoyed the 360 degree view in the Viking Lounge. My husband pre-paid for the unlimited drink program ahead of time, so never lacked for strong, top shelf alcohol. There's bars all over the ship, of course, even an elevator bar that travels up and down between decks with scheduled stops (but we never rode on that). The kids soaked in jacuzzis or lounged poolside. The guys do enjoy their lobster and steak, and I treated myself to freshly spun cotton candy a couple times on the boardwalk, so we took the stairs more often than the elevators and occasionally walked the track around the ship's perimeter to make up for the indulgence (the track is down on a deck close to sea level, with amazing views of white-topped waves at twilight and gorgeous sunsets, not exactly a hardship). We liked our Captain, too, a delightful Norwegian man with a soft spot for classic cars and Harley Davidsons and a tendency toward mismatched socks.

Of course, not all of it was perfect. We've been on lots of cruises, as they are an economical vacation choice for us, and the Allure had many more "choice" (read: extra charge) bar and restaurants than other ships we'd been on. We avoided them all and stuck to the main dining rooms, buffets,and 24-hour pizzeria. Typically, some of the shows were flops, others more entertaining, but that's true anywhere you go. I have seen some pretty meh shows in New York, too.

The Aquatic shows were fun to watch, even from a purely academic perspective; the stage was a marvel of engineering. Water levels and platforms beneath the surface rose and fell so that high dives alternated with Cirque de Soleil acrobatics and a duet of extremely strong men hand-balancing. Very cool to design a set like that at all, let alone on a huge floating ship. We also enjoyed the late night adult comedians.

My husband and my youngest went scuba diving in one of the ports while my oldest went exploring with me. We bought some lovely hand-carved wooden pieces, chatting with the artist while he worked (no belly-button brushes for us).

Let's see, what else can I say about the ship? The guys won the onboard soccer tournament (a lot less impressive once they fessed up to the tournament consisting of two teams). A couple of us climbed the rock wall and surfed on the flow rider. Oh yeah, we also enjoyed the casino; I quadrupled my stakes on one visit alone. We set aside some cash just for gambling, that we can afford to lose. I play for small stakes, though, blackjack for the odds, roulette just for fun. I taught my sons to play Blackjack properly and they did well. We all ended up a bit flusher in the pocket at the end of the week than we went in, always a plus after an expensive vacation.
posted by misha at 9:11 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I've been on one cruise with a few friends from high school, and we had a great time. The main reason we opted for the cruise over less mediated travel options was that one of us was seriously ill (fuck cancer) and getting medical care for her would have been relatively fast and simple (they've got at least a nurse and will helicopter you off the ship to a hospital if required).

For our sick friend, having a cabin to retreat to when she needed rest made all the difference -- she didn't need to worry that she was holding us back from enjoying our trip, and we knew she could join us at any time without a lot of work. Pretty much ideal for our situation, and I'd recommend it to anyone with similar issues. Just make sure to wash your hands. Often.
posted by asperity at 9:14 AM on July 8


I've been on one cruise, down the Yangtze (or Chang Jiang, as I was told to call it, apparently the Yangtze is only the end section). I speak approximately 3 words of Chinese, most likely with horrible pronunciation. The guides/translators were fantastic, especially since we (my mom and I) hung out afterwards to talk to them. Most of the people on the boat, well, we were lucky to find another pair of people who were actually interested in the culture, etc. and not just there for the cruise. It was the worst food I ate in China, the worst of bland, middle American food, run through a bad interpretation. The view was amazing and since we were on a river, there were stops every day.

It was also the year before they completed the Three Gorges damn, so I can't exactly recommend the trip to anyone, as the river we went down doesn't exactly exist in the same form.

I really enjoyed the cruise, even as I looked down on the people I was there with. But honestly, they were generally older (I was in college at the time and my mom is incredibly adventurous about this sort of thing) and this was a good and safe way for them to see China. It was honestly no less controlled then our hiring individual guides to show us around cities, even if they did have suggestions that were not in the main tourist guides (like Zhujiajiao, near Shanghai). What I think we easily forget is that while cruises are designed to keep you in your comfort zone, they do introduce you to things that you would otherwise never experience. I have walked in a city that is now submerged, as did everyone else on the cruise. That's something not many westerners can say.
posted by Hactar at 9:22 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


That's the other thing: if you want to vacation with an extended family group, it's a nice option. People can go do their own thing, and then come back together at dinner. The only non-JoCo cruise I ever went on was with my wife and her extended family when we were dating, and it was more fun than I'd have expected.
posted by uberchet at 9:23 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


> there exists an interesting phenomenon called, I think, "affinity cruises" wherein a group books together with their own set of events, entertainment, and other perks.

According to 23 and Me, I'm probably resistant to norovirus. I wonder if my genetic relatives and I could get a bulk rate?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:03 AM on July 8


Don't know about jonmc and Night_owl's experience, but TFL looks simply god awful in the worst, middle-of-nowhere-small-town-crappy-mall style. It's much, much worse than what I imagined it to be when I read DFW.

I think I'm slow this morning. What is "TFL"?
posted by misha at 10:33 AM on July 8


That got really boring really fast

But surely less boring than the actual cruise.
posted by waving at 10:38 AM on July 8


I think signal was in too much of a hurry to be snarky about cruising to spell out "The First Link."

Cruise ships are intentionally banal in decor; it's the suburbs' idea of what a fancy environment would be. But if you're spending lots of time gazing at the interior, you're sort of missing the point BECAUSE YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMN OCEAN AND IT'S FUCKING GORGEOUS OUTSIDE.

So, you know, mileage varies.
posted by uberchet at 10:57 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Though the towel animals inside the cabins are pretty neat.
posted by asperity at 11:40 AM on July 8


I think signal was in too much of a hurry to be snarky about cruising to spell out "The First Link."


Nah, it was "The Fucking Link". Like TFA=The Fucking Article?
posted by signal at 12:28 PM on July 8


Still can't find the engine room. Or water treatment plant. Or all the other cool parts of the ship. Tour fail.
posted by defcom1 at 3:18 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


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