It's official: Ocean cruising is not necessarily good for your health.
A year ago, an engine fire left Carnival Cruise Lines’ Triumph adrift without power for days. Air conditioning was knocked out, and for many passengers, so were working toilets. Off the coast of Italy, they’re still trying to haul away what’s left of the Costa Concordia.
Princess Cruise Lines recently had to cut short a cruise on its Caribbean Princess after nearly 200 passengers and crew were stricken by an outbreak of gastrointestinal distress (Too much information? You decide). At least three other outbreaks have occurred this year, two on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and one on Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Maybe the problems are a predictable result of the exploding popularity of deep-sea cruising. You put 4,000 or more people in shoulder-to-shoulder proximity for a week, and even hosing them down with Purell might not help. It may take a village to raise a child, but a crowded village can raise havoc.
The good news is that the news is not all bad. You see sick people. I see marketing opportunities. I think the cruise lines should get to work, turn these negatives into positives, and even generate a little revenue.
Nervous about that cruise to Aruba you just booked? I think your cruise line ought to reassure you that all is well — although it’ll cost you — perhaps with a brochure that says this:
Reckless Abandon Cruise Lines is pleased to remind the traveling public that per government regulations, every ship in our fleet is equipped with enough lifeboats to evacuate every passenger safely — for a small fee. Now, for the first time, we offer three categories of rescue in our lifeboats.
Category 3 is just $50 per person, but includes no amenities other than a place to stand and hang on. No food. No water. No toilet. Sort of like staying on board the stricken ship.
Category 2 is available for $100 per person. For that, you receive all the benefits of Category 3 plus a life-preserver key chain as a souvenir just for sailing with Reckless Abandon.
However, why not pay a bit extra to ride out the crisis in comfort? For just $200 more per person, you get a reserved seat in our rescue tender — we call it our “Tender Mercy” option. You also receive a military-style ration kit, a spot in line for the porta-potty, a CD of the stirring Navy hymn “For Those in Peril on the Sea,” and a complimentary 8-by-10 glossy photo to document your adventure for the folks back home.
Worried that the food at sea might make you sick? Leave your concerns on shore and book with Howdy Doody Cruise Lines. Here’s a brochure my sources say they’re working on:
Howdy Doody Cruise Lines announces a new dining option now available on all our cruises: bring your own food. Guests will now be permitted to bring one portable cooler aboard per cabin — and one hibachi. For an extra fee, Howdy Doody will provide the charcoal.
Food must be cooked on your balcony, not inside the stateroom. Passengers in interior cabins will be issued Spam in colorful souvenir containers they can take home. Paper plates and plastic flatware will be available for a small charge.
Are you a traveler who cruises not only to escape, but also to gain an appreciation of history? Mea Culpa Cruise Lines, I’m told, is about to announce the following:
Looking for the ultimate seagoing adventure, one with some history attached? Consider our new Mayflower cruise. Spend three months crossing the Atlantic aboard a vessel with no power, no working plumbing, and slowly rotting food. That’s right — we turn everything off, so you can gain a new appreciation of what the Pilgrims endured on their way to brutal winters in the new world.
Since the Pilgrims had no exercise equipment, you won’t either. Our fitness center will be closed and locked. However, you will be encouraged to stay shipshape by volunteering for rowing duty.
Row, row, row your boat, and receive a $50 shipboard credit toward the purchase of a beverage package that features unlimited grog and a refillable mug. Trust us, this will be a popular option.
Also, sign up early for our red meat dining plan, available the first week of your cruise only. Or you could wait until week two and get it at a sharp discount.
Finally, you could book a cabin on Mishap Cruise Lines’ Hokey Pokey Cruise. I’m quoting from their brochure:
Yes, it’s true that we have screwed up a lot lately, but we are determined to turn ourselves around.
Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org