Last week, 4,200 people on the Carnival Triumph got a little more than they were expecting on their cruise.
The Triumph had an engine room fire last Sunday while sailing through the Gulf of Mexico, knocking out power to much of the vessel, disabling ventilation and toilets. Passengers dragged mattresses on deck to form their own Carnival shantytown, and had to resort to using plastic bags for toilets.
Food ran short and passengers described eating sandwiches made only of bread and condiments.
Thursday, there were news reports that the Carnival crew had started to try and mollify the stinking masses on board by handing out free alcohol. Now, how could that go wrong?
It is, of course, the second high-profile case of a cruise ship losing power in the last couple of years. Two years ago, it was the Carnival Splendor which lost all power in the Pacific, also losing air conditioning, electrical power and, once again, toilets. The Splendor gained notoriety when the U.S. navy reportedly had to airlift crates of canned meat on board to feed passengers, a move that earned the trip the moniker “Voyage of the Spammed.”
But when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
This kind of powerless, lost-at-sea epic might be a kind of mayhem some might even be willing to pay for. After all, there are all manner of themed cruises: there’s even a
com/, dedicated strictly to finding you the cruise of your dreams.
A trip blocked full with American conservatives? They have that. Dancing with the stars? Wine-lovers? Baseball greats? You can do all of those, and that’s really just the beginning.
You can do a “Steampunk Cruise” that promises “Seven Days of Steampunk Music, Metal and Lace on the high seas,” or what appears to be an all-naked, eight-day sojourn on the vessel the Tere Moana in the Caribbean, something called the “Shoes Only 5th Annual Lifestyle Caribbean Cruise.”
So why not a survivalist-themed cruise? You could call it “Cruise of the Flies.”
Trying to recover
Right now, Carnival is talking about refunding passengers’ fares and offering them free trip vouchers for future cruises, presumably with power the next time. That kind of payback may be a good idea for customer relations — though it might be unlikely to lure many back — but it’s also a huge financial hit.
The cruise line is also taking a public relations kicking, because, as passengers Tweet and email pictures and tales of their experiences, Carnival management has taken to downplaying the obvious problems and maintaining that thing are not really going so badly — some toilets somewhere on the vessel do work.
That doesn’t quite make up for the majority that don’t.
Instead of losing money, Carnival could be raking it in.
Think of it as a money-making niche.
“Cruise of the Flies” could start like any other trip: fine dining, cheap liquor, swimming pools and shore trips. But somewhere along the way, the power could be cut off, the ship could suddenly be left to drift side-on to the seas, and mob rule could take over.
Deck 3 could barricade itself in — along with the majority of the ship’s non-perishable supplies — and deck-top tent cities could be allowed to form their own tribal councils, along with militias armed with rudimentary weapons made from the frames of deckchairs and cabin furniture.
It would be “Mad Max” meets “The Poseidon Adventure,” with groups of passengers forming their own markets — hard cash only — for stolen and looted goods.
Heck, the cruise line could even throw in costumed actors to portray ship-born, modern Somali-style pirates, and the assembled passengers would have to work together to overthrow the warlords and reseize control of the vessel.
All you really have to do is to find the right audience. Sure, the vast majority of people might find being forced to defecate into plastic bags on a stinking, overheated derelict hulk somewhat unpleasant. But there are bound to be people who would see the whole thing as an adventure, rather than an imposition.
There has to be an audience that would be quite happy cooking roast seagull over a small Sterno fire in the back of Lifeboat 4 while the vessel swings peacefully in its davits, a sliver of crescent moon lighting the wartorn decks below, and while a raucous and violent poker game works its way up to eventual violence next to a deck-top bonfire of smashed banquettes. Throw in a guest appearance by Ted Nugent and some bows and arrows, and it could be survivalists’ heaven.
It’s all about marketing, people. Opportunity knocks.
And just think of it: the Lyubov Orlova’s available already.
If you can find it.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.