So be my guest you’ve got nothing to lose, won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?
— Frankie Ford
Ah, yes, I remember the good old days ... back before automobiles became rolling phone booths ... when a person could fill up his vehicle without having to take out a personal loan ... when planning a cruise vacation was not seen as a potentially deadly activity for thrill-seeking adventurers looking for new and dangerous challenges.
The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line flew more than 2,200 passengers from the Bahamas back to their port of departure in Baltimore early this week after a Memorial Day fire erupted on the company’s Grandeur of the Sea cruise ship. The ship was four days into a seven-day cruise when fire broke out on the vessel, bringing to an abrupt end a lot of unhappy folks’ dream vacation.
The latest incident comes in the wake of a February misadventure in which the Carnival Triumph cruise ship lost engine propulsion in the Gulf of Mexico and kind of floated aimlessly for five days, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at sea without air conditioning or working toilets.
I think I speak for the general public when I say it doesn’t matter how the folks in the cruise industry spin it, five days without working toilets is no one’s idea of a fun vacation.
In the aftermath of the latest calamity, Royal Caribbean announced it would have to disappoint thousands of others who’d no doubt been planning their vacations for months or even years by canceling another weeklong cruise planned to start Friday. Which, I think, begs the question: Who in their right mind would want to get on one of these floating houses of horror at this point?
There was a time when about the only thing the public had to be concerned with as far as cruise lines were concerned were the fast-talking telemarketers who called out of the blue to tell you about the amazing cruise you’d “won” — even though you didn’t quite remember registering for any kind of contest — only by the time they finish talking around in circles and you’re thoroughly confused, they demand your credit card number so they can take those small, $4,000 incidental fees out of your account and you’re so confused you give it to them, even though your credit card limit of $250 is not quite going to cover those incidentals.
Now, it seems, “booking a cruise” has become a euphemism for calamity along the lines of “sleeping with the fishes” or “going to the mattresses.”
(Speaking of the Mafia, I have a feeling if Tony Soprano — or any of the real-life “Wise Guys” with less creative booking agents — were still operating his businesses in Jersey, he might have Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts, Little Carmine and Big Pussy Bonpensiero book some of their more annoying competitors on a few cruise ships as a means of “pest removal,” if you get my drift.)
Ironically, I’ve talked with a number of people who’ve told me they booked cruises — and, I’ll say here, most revealed that they encountered none of the current problems that are now plaguing the industry — because they were not so keen on flying these days. I guess their next best alternative will be to book some kind of hiking adventure, out in nature with like-minded enthusiasts combining their quest for discovery with a desire to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
For those who choose such an option, be forewarned: You may run into the bodyguards of a former South Carolina governor-now-congressman anxious to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of Washington for a few days. He’ll be the one with the exotic-looking Spanish-speaking lady tagging along.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.