Pi Attitude Zone: Conformity & Stability

Luxury Cruise to Nowhere

They say some vacations can be life-changing, but this example is probably not what they had in mind.  Soon after the Carnival Triumph cruise liner lost engine power in the Gulf of Mexico, the words “luxury” and “cruise” parted company in travel consumers’ minds.  Cruise lines sell dreams.  But dreams are not supposed to turn into nightmares quite so abruptly, and the incident has sharply challenged people’s attitudes to the “glamour” of cruise holidays.

As the fabled architect Le Corbusier once said, “A house is a machine for living in”.  This is even more true of a cruise ship. What happens when the machine stops working?  That is what the passengers on the vast liner found out in the Gulf of Mexico, following an engine-room fire in early Feb 2013. The disaster caused no casualties, but the 4,200 passengers on board found themselves stranded, drifting for nearly a week without power systems, fresh food (supplies spoiled in the heat for lack of refrigeration), or working hygiene facilities. 

Conditions went from luxurious to primitive in a day.  Cellphone batteries died.  Foul odors became inescapable. People waited in food lines for hours.  When cabins quickly became uninhabitable, long lines of mattresses were ranged along open-air walkways.  Makeshift tents were erected on the upper decks, which soon resembled a Moroccan souk.  “Hell is other people”, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said.  But four thousand other people?  

Few of us have any real idea just how big these boats are.  The Carnival Triumph has 14 decks one above the other. If you stood the ship on its stern end on the Miami downtown shoreline, it would tower 100 feet above Miami’s tallest building – 890 feet compared to the 790 feet of the Four Seasons Hotel Tower. 

That such a vast and sophisticated structure can turn overnight into a primitive hell-hole is a sobering reminder of how wafer-thin our veneer of civilization can be.  Passengers interviewed after the rescue said that the most frightening aspect of the experience was the sense of helplessness and isolation.

Pi would also conjecture that the type of people most attracted to an all-inclusive “everything-you-want” luxury cruise-ship vacation were probably those least adaptable to deteriorating conditions when it all went terribly wrong.

Cruise operators can only hope that consumer memories will be short.

Zone: Conformity & Stability Country: USA / North America Product – Travel