The game of “could be worse!”

Here’s an entertaining pastime for when you are getting cabin fever: find people on the internet who are worse off than you. It’s easy! So easy, it’s easy to tell yourself things aren’t so bad.

An example: Julia Whitcomb has been trapped at sea for a month in this little windowless cabin.

Cruise companies are allowed to disembark and repatriate people still trapped on ships around the U.S. by private transportation as long as their executives sign an agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that holds the companies accountable for the process. They are refusing to do so.

In conversations with the CDC, cruise company officials have complained that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew is “too expensive,” according to a spokesperson for the agency.

The standoff is preventing about 100,000 crew members and some passengers from leaving cruise ships lingering in and around U.S. waters, including dozens of U.S. citizens. Crew members still stuck on board say they feel like an afterthought after watching their companies move mountains to repatriate passengers on charter flights and other private transportation after the industry was shut down on March 13. Only a handful of ships still have passengers on them, including Carnival Corporation’s Coral Princess, floating off of South Florida.

Remember this, next time you see an ad for a cruise in some exotic, beautiful place. There is a range of possibilities here. You could have a wonderful time, putting on pounds at the buffet, drinking lots of sickly sweet alcoholic drinks on the deck with strange people. Or you could spend the whole time vomiting in your cramped cabin as norovirus sweeps through your ship. Or you could get quarantined and end up wandering the seas like the Flying Dutchman, no end in sight, as the cruise line stonewalls on signing paperwork that would set you free.

It’s like gambling! If you’re one of the people who likes to gamble, you should sign up for a cruise!

In the game of “could be better”, the government refuses to bail out all these foreign-registered vessels, the cruise lines all collapse in bankruptcy, and the ships are all sunk to provide artificial reefs for wildlife. But first they let all their hostages off. Maybe the owners could be locked up in first-class cabins before the scuttling?


  1. says

    I see reason to bail out an industry that strikes me as a 19th century anachronism that provides no public good, pollutes the oceans and serves to enrich the super wealthy. Let the cruise lines die. Fuck-em.

  2. whywhywhy says

    Adding the owners prior to sinking would add too much pollution. These folks are filth.

  3. microraptor says

    I’ve seen reports on the pollution that cruise ships put out. IIRC they’re basically floating coal mines.

  4. robertlfoster says

    I’m confused about where the responsibility lies. In my experience most of the crew members on these floating saloons are non-American. Shouldn’t their respective nations attempt to extract their own citizens?

  5. HidariMak says

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the idea of cruise ships being sunk for the coral reefs. It’s more likely that people such as Kenneth Copeland, Jeff Bezos, and other twisted tax-free billionaires would instead decide that their private yachts need upgrading, or need “improvements” for a new industry.

  6. Walter Solomon says

    Here’s an entertaining pastime for when you are getting cabin fever: find people on the internet who are worse off than you.

    Unless they’ve lost a loved one to the pandemic, they’re probably not going to be worse off than me. There are many people, unfortunately, who are on the same boat as me and, for some reason, I’ve found comfort in that.

  7. unclefrogy says

    so a company has said it is too expensive to do anything other then the minimum for their employees. When has any company ever not said that? I am pretty sure the meat packers have said the same thing just the other day. while I have not heard the “administration” say that they are behaving the same way in this case employees = citizens.
    uncle frogy

  8. gijoel says

    I think the cruise ship industry is going to be dead for a good while after this Covid-19 crisis passes.

  9. says

    For accuracy’s sake, Julia Whitcomb was stuck in that room for a little less than a week. Eventually the cruise line decided it didn’t cost them anything to give crew members the unused guest rooms while the ships weren’t taking any passengers anyway.

    it’s still bad – apparently depending on your ship you can be restricted to your cabin for 21 hours per day. But they have started to move crew members to guest cabins so at least they get windows and (apparently) access to fresh air… not sure how that works, b/c I didn’t think those windows could be opened, but whatevs. That’s what the article says.

    Separately, about the pollution: those ships truly are terrible. They run on highly polluting fuel oil. As far as greenhouse gasses, they aren’t nearly so bad. Ships are pretty efficient that way. I’m not saying that they don’t emit a lot, but per ton of cargo carried, they emit dramatically less CO2 than shipping things by semi-truck and even substantially less than shipping things by train.

    But other pollutants exist and for oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, the 15 largest cargo ships put out more pollution than all the cars in the world. Apparently cruise ships have implemented some level of pollution control because not having any pollution controls makes them a smelly, noxious mess that makes their passengers sick when the wind shifts. However the extent and nature of that pollution mitigation is different from ship to ship and the primary effort is directed at protecting passenger experience rather than simply discharging less. As a result, in 2017 Carnival Cruise Lines emitted more SOx than all the cars in Europe did that year. Oh, did I just say more? It was actually TEN TIMES MORE.

    And, of course, then there’s the habit of dumping untreated human waste overboard. Technically they’re supposed to treat it. But that doesn’t always happen and the results can be horrible for local areas.

    These things are bad.

  10. wzrd1 says

    In conversations with the CDC, cruise company officials have complained that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew is “too expensive,” according to a spokesperson for the agency.

    Very well, we’ll repatriate them for you and we’re seizing your vessels as collateral, after three months you will be in default and we’ll sink your vessels as warship targets over an abyssal plain. Your companies and the officers of said companies will be prohibited participation in any form of business with our country and said officers prohibited from visiting our nation. Forever.
    Have a great day and enjoy the SINKEX!