The Worst Cruise Impressions
Written by: Paul Motter
Where are you most likely to see the worst possible impressions ever about cruise ships? Only movies, television series and major newspapers.
My wife and I were watching the silly Pixar movie WALL-E recently. In the plot the planet earth can no longer sustain any kind of life. Our eyes were glazed over from this cartoon that doesn’t even have any dialogue for the first hour, when suddenly it put us on space ship. I mean a cruise ship. I mean a space cruise ship. That’s right, it turns out the plot of this movie includes the last of humanity surviving an ecological crisis while they were away on a space cruise.
Listen, if you ever want to get discouraged about cruise people just watch this movie. You will never see us exactly the same way again. The “people” have morphed into spaceblobs – nothing more than gelatinous, amorphous water balloons with hair and faces.
They live in anti-gravity Lazyboy recliners that shuttle them past the swimming pool and straight to the buffet lines. Any food they want they can summon from service robots as long as they can literally lift a finger and hit their call button. At night, robots roll them from the chair to a bed.
It is hard to describe how horrible these cartoon human balloons look – like an adult Pebbles Flintstone on a tapioca diet. The have no necks, and every scene shows a soda straw or pizza in their mouth. The pizza is lifted up to their lips by a robot arm, because lifting is more than they can muster. Above is the captain, something of a “hero figure” for the movie.
It is horrifying to think anyone envisions “us” that way. Although it is mentioned that lack of gravity causes bone disintegration, that explanation comes far too late in the script.
Just today I read an article from the Washington Post with the title, “Despite inherent cheesiness, cruises are cheap last-minute getaways.” What can I say? Just yesterday I wrote an article about last minute cruise bargains being a MYTH. The fact is that the best prices on summer Alaska cruises, for example, were here last March, not at the last minute.
Ironically, along with the snobbery of this article comes a good dose of misinformation about the best time to book a cruise. Too busy congratulating himself for finding a “great last minute bargain” on his Carnival cruise out of New York, he completely misses how every source he quotes in his article obviously told him there is no such thing as a last minute cruise bargain. All of his quotes say the same thing I did – book at least 90 days out, not at the last minute.
So, like WALL-E, he is compelled to paint the picture of cruises as “cheesy” by using phrases like “the epic hokiness that is cruising,” and nevermind the fact that he obviously enjoyed himself. Oh, the irony of a major authoritative source like the Washington Post making epicly nitwit conclusions like “With proper preparation, just days from now you, too, could find yourself love-hating a five-night cruise that costs just $600.” In my “myths” article I describe how todays last-minute $600 Alaska cruise was as low as $249 a few months ago. But don’t let facts get in the way of the author’s self-bestowed congratulations. I don’t mind that he thinks an average deal is a bargain, but I do resent him giving bad advice to people when as a “travel reporter” he should know better.
It isn’t my job to right every ridiculous conclusion I see about cruising in print. That job belongs to CLIA – the cruise industry marketing alliance. If a muckety reporter wants to paint cruises as cheesy that’s OK. I just wish consumers were smarter than to buy into everything the media says. Unfortunately, there are still certain sources everyone believes. Even the Pixar people believe the Washington Post.
A few nights ago we were watching the Showtime series Dexter. In the show a Miami District Attorney describes a case where a guy just killed his third wife and dumped her off of a cruise ship. “There were witnesses who saw him on deck, but I can’t touch it for jurisdictional reasons.” That much is accurate, crimes at sea go to the FBI.
But who has time for the FBI? Not our hero, Dexter, who tracks the guy down on yet another cruise ship. In the next scene we see Dexter in the perpetrator’s stateroom, “serving up justice” with a carving knife. He kills the man, dismembers the body and then throws legs, arms and the head, each individually wrapped in garbage bags and duct tape, through a porthole and presumably over the side of the ship. Just your average cruise experience – courtesy of Hollywood.
Oh, we’ve come a long way since the Love Boat – haven’t we? In fact you can almost trace the decline of cruise movies:
Poseidon Adventure – we all know this story of a cruise ship disaster. It is actually fairly believable outside of a few stereotypes. One of the better ship movies – even the remake.
Titanic – it is SO important to point out that it is one of the most historically accurate movies ever made. Even some of the dialogue in the movie is authentic, taken from real survivor accounts. The few gunshots onboard actually happened (but no one was hit , let alone murdered in the movie). This movie shows passenger vessels in their true glory, everything there is to like about an ocean liner – except the sinking, of course.
Out to Sea. This comic romp with Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon was obviously meant to appeal to the over-60′s single ladies who actually are a pretty common demographic on upscale cruises. It’s all in good fun, not too bad. Walter and Jack play “dance hosts” onboard – those Arthur Murray graduates that cruise ships often give free cruises to as long as they dance with the ladies into the wee hours every night.
Boat Trip. This one stars Cuba Gooding Jr as a straight guy who mistakenly books himself onto a gay cruise charter. He has to pretend to be gay when he falls in love with female crewmember who apparently has “man issues” and likes him better gay. Stereotypes abound about everything: cruising, gays, gays on cruise ships, ship officers, elevator sex, men, women… If the word slapstick ever applied to a cruise ship comedy – well, enough said.
So, when I read articles by people such as this Washington Post reporter I keep this in mind; Newspapers like the Washington Post have policies against reporters taking free trips, which is why we got an article where a reporter pays bottom dollar for lowest category cabin on a Carnival Cruise and then describes all cruises as “cheesy.” If ever there was argument for sites like CruiseMates and Cruise Critic, and cruise reporters like Gene Sloan from USA Today and Anita Potter from MSNBC this is it.
Even experienced travel journalists often do not “get” cruising. Business travel columnist Joel Widzer once wrote an article about cruising that was so wrong and so awful that soon afterwards he was fired and he soon “disappeared.” Um, nothing nefarious happened, he only died of embarassment (figuratively). Apparently he was on a personal sabbatical from public life and forgot to tell anyone where he was going.
Here is what he said, “Take a cruise? No thanks, not me: Potential of disease, accident, crime enough to keep columnist off high seas.” The truth is that he had never been on a cruise ship in his entire life and was judging them solely by media reports. The media was wrong and hence so was Joel. It cost him his job – as it should have – he was misinformed but claimed the opposite.
Another columnist who also does not accept free travel is Wendy Perrin. She is a very enthusiastic, sincere and likable person with an important role as the consumer travel editor for Conde Nast. But she recently wrote this in an article:
“As someone who … was just in Europe two months ago, sightseeing in Spain, I am here to tell you that (1) even with the weak dollar, there are much cheaper ways to see Europe than on a cruise, and (2) likening the sightseeing experience you get staying in hotels to the sightseeing experience you get on a conventional large-ship seagoing cruise is like comparing apples and kumquats.”
She went on to explain how she had rented a villa in Spain for two weeks which she considered much more “value-oriented” as a way to see Europe. Obviously, she didn’t see much of Europe, she only saw a villa in Spain. In a comment I posted that you could board NCL Jade for the same amount of money and travel from Istanbul to Egypt and then on to Barcelona with several Mediterranean stops in-between.
She responded to me that you have hidden costs on a cruise like tips and shore excursions. True, but tips are not much and tours are not mandatory. You still see far more of Europe than you will from a villa window on the Iberian Peninsula.
Later she wrote an article about the biggest sticker shock she ever had in her life – the cost of a rental car in Spain! Um, you’re not going to see much of Europe, including that villa you rented, without the rental car. Suddenly the value of cruises in Europe seems a lot more apparent than she originally reported. That’s OK Wendy, live and learn. No apology needed, we’re used to being misunderstood.
Bottom line – don’t believe Hollywood, and don’t believe even the average travel press when it comes to cruises. Even experienced travel reporters do not understand cruising the way we do. Only an experienced cruiser can give you true cruise advice.
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