It seems like whenever you check the news, yet another cruise ship is either losing power, on fire, or en route to Davy Jones' Locker. Nonetheless, vacationers have few qualms about boarding these heaving pleasure vessels.
Sure, Carnival is charging rates normally reserved for motels that specialize in crack cocaine transactions just to fill rooms after the Triumph turned into a stool-logged hellhole this past February, but people aren't deterred. 21 million passengers this year will take a spin on one of these floating poop Hoovervilles in the making.
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"If you know a faster way to get salmonella, we'd love to hear it."
But the truth is, the cruise industry on a whole is a dreary business. Here are some details about cruises that make Hedonism look like the responsible choice for your next family reunion.
#3. Cruise Ships Are Pollution Factories
In 2012, there were approximately 200-300 cruise ships active. And with all of these ships chugging around -- jam-packed with thousands of passengers blotto off of daiquiris, crab legs, and shuffleboard -- there's obviously gallons and gallons of chemicals, oils, and diarrhea water being produced daily.
"Eat food poisoning, whales."
So what happens to all that stank-ass effluvia? Take a guess.
See, while the United States and any other country can throw all the pollution laws they want at cruise lines, that shit will only stick for about three nautical miles out. Byproducts like bilge water -- an oily runoff that a ship can churn out 25,000 gallons of per week -- have to go somewhere. That "somewhere" usually is "the octopus's garden, where gentle flurries of tourist droppings rain down upon a confused Ringo Starr."
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They're all having the shrimp cocktail tonight. And every night.
And that's just the waste water -- we haven't even touched on the crap-ton of air pollution these things belch out, a problem the government's just getting around to addressing. But in case you haven't figured it out yet, we really have no idea what these ships are dumping out there. This brings us to our next, equally depressing point...
#2. Cruise Lines Are Laughably Regulated
Go ahead and look up statistics on cruise ship accidents. You'd imagine someone is keeping track of that besides Wikipedia, right? But the truth is, there's no official record keeping for cruise ship fires, collisions, groundings, or even sinking. We don't even keep a record of their kitchen sanitation. (Sometimes you really want to know if you're drinking roach nymphs, y'know?)
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"The maggot-stuffed bread tastes particularly gamey tonight, sir."
Sure -- there are plenty of regulations, but literally no central agency to enforce them. Why's this? Ships are only required to report problems with the state they are registered in. This measure would come in handy if the ships were actually registered in the United States, which -- cue the sad trombone -- they totally aren't!
Let's take the infamous feces barge Triumph. It's operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, but is also owned by a company in Panama and registered in the Bahamas. And none of that is anything registered in countries like Bermuda and Liberia, which allow cruise lines to waltz around taxes, eschew environmental laws, and exploit foreign labor in sweatshop conditions.
This man hasn't actually eaten in weeks.
Indeed, the whole system is -- to apocryphal quote Captain Hook -- "a total clustarrrrrfuck." So after this recent cavalcade of high-profile cruise ship mishaps, the primary questions on everyone's mind are "How could centuries of human seafaring suddenly turn so sour, so fast?" and "Just how many Viking ghosts are ashamed of our civilization right now?" The truth is...
#1. Cruise Ships Have Always Been This Messed Up
Even before Costa Concordia and Triumph made international news, cruise ships have been riddled with fuck-ups that would make that creepy sea captain from those old McDonald's commercials hang his head in shame.
Between 1990 and 2011, 79 fires broke out on cruise ships, and at least 171 people disappeared on cruises between 2001-2011. (Let's not forget the occasional Somali pirate attack.) And should you be the victim of a robbery (or worse) while on a cruise, be prepared for your crime to be reported to the flag-nation of convenience. In other words, A) don't expect much help from the cruise line's ship personnel and lawyers; and B) you better bone up on the Liberian legal code.
Laura Lezza/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Does anybody speak Liberese?"
In summation, cruises aren't always the sugar-high maritime Mardi Gras depicted in on the tee-vee. And given their environmental impact, you'd be better served spending an afternoon tooling around your local pond courtesy of Itchy Joe's $15 Bathtub Gin and Open Grease Fire Paddleboat Tours.