Saturday, February 16, 2013

A shitty cruise


Recently you might have heard about Carnival’s ‘cruise from hell’. An engine fire last Sunday stranded passengers in the Gulf of Mexico on a ship without power. The situation was reportedly like a mix of ‘survivor’ and ‘Lord of the Flies.’ Passengers disembarked Friday and told their stories.

Perhaps the most graphic of the accounts (besides the panic, the hoarding of food, and the man who had  breakdown at a movie the cruise ship operators played to try to distract people) are those concerning the sanitation situation: on a cruise ship with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members, the toilets stopped working.

 People urinated in sinks or just on the floor. Sewage dripped down the walls. Crew distributed red bags. It began to stink so badly on the lower levels that people made ‘tent cities’ on the top decks. Those who braved the lower floors slipped on the sewage. “The stench was awful,” said Robin Chandler, a 50-year-old from Dallas. “A lot of people were crying and freaking out.” The stewards were continually having to clean up after people who had defecated and urinated in random places. Upon return, another passenger scrawled “Triumph RIP: Rest in Pee” on a sheet with mascara and held it triumphantly aloft.

As soon as people did not have toilets that functioned how they were accustomed to using, they began to urinate and defecate—well, pretty much anywhere. People complained about using plastic bags. (These are called, in many parts of the developing world where this is common practice, flying toilets.) I just want to point out that these people were primarily Westerners from the developed world, and we attribute their behavior to the conditions. And yet, if we’re talking about people of developing countries, we jump to calling defecation behavior that does not conform to our standards as being “cultural.”

Let’s try to be more careful before we make judgments, shall we?