Cruise Patrol

Now, by nature, I have a very adventurous desire to go a lot of foreign and exotic places, such as going to get my driver’s license renewed. I would love, for instance, to see the aurora borealis, which I suspect could possibly be cooler in person that on my Windows screensaver. However, I also have a burning desire of not pissing away money on things I could conceivably do when I’m retired and inflation has ravaged all my savings away so I might as well hitch it to the North Pole to evade the tax authorities and soak in the local flavor, and also see if I can get a decent price for the trip via my future robot travel agent.

But cruises never struck me as a particularly interesting method of transportation. To me, they’re just self-contained petri dishes of stomach flu and chlamydia, isolated from any form of vaccine or Coast Guard by design. I’ve been told otherwise, but I picture cruise ships as being one big lobster buffet with baccarat and Mrs. Robinsons defiling the sanctity of youth and, eventually, a murder mystery involving an antique revolver and a gramophone.

In a way, the cruise ship is ingenious. Going on vacation is fun, but the transportation to get there sure isn’t. You can either travel by car, which involves the suffering heat, sweltering boredom, and the dull hum of the highway as you drive to the bank to cash in your savings bonds to pay for the gasoline. Or you can go by plane, assuming that the Terrorist Threat Level is lower than “Don’t go any place where they eat lamb.” Or if both you and your destination happen to be in a congressional district influential enough to have a train, you can do that, too, as long as you enjoy quietly riding in the physical manifestation of the color gray and have no self-esteem.

But cruise ships—well, there you go. Not only is your arrival going to kick off the fun, the transportation is equally fun. By taking the down time you would normally spend reading billboards or ignoring that loud old bat sitting two rows behind you who WON’T SHUT UP about her no-good son-in-law and converting it into an all-night party, cruise lines have tapped a lucrative and creative market for vacationing individuals. It’s maximizing the fun potential of the entire trip, provided that you have no problem with the off chance that someone on board is extraordinarily happy that extradition treaties have no force of law in international waters.

Of course, things change when there is a chance that you will hit a freaking iceberg. Which, of course, recently happened to an unsuspecting boat about a week ago or so. The cruise line in question specializes in “extreme” destinations, such as the Amazon and Detroit—in this case, they went to Antarctica, a place not generally known to be highly rated by AAA. Even more puzzling is that the cruise originated in Canada—and here, I assumed they would want to get away from a Canadian-like environment. Though I suspect there are a lot less fussing about with dollar parity in Antarctica.

The ship itself was built in 1969, which, for me seems like an eternity in Cruise Ship World. If I’m going to be ramrodding it to a desolate area even scientists are afraid to go, I want to make sure it’s something that wasn’t built before Kissinger was. I can only assume the thing was lime green and ran on kerosene and still had the Led Zep II 8-track stuck in the stereo.

The captain of the rescue boat helpfully and amusingly stated that Antarctica is the “windiest” continent, that particular adjective being the one for him that sticks out as notable, I guess. I would have assumed “darkly treacherous,” “desperately isolated,” and “suicidally dangerous” would be more apt, but, then again, I’m not the captain of a Patagonian rescue boat.

Though, to be fair, the Antarctic is a lot more violent than I assumed. Certainly, I wasn’t going to nominate it as the next location of the house-of-cards-building exhibition, but I kind of assumed all of those end-of-the-world locates were kind of all eerie and spiritual with their stillness. Turns out it’s actually a grade-A class one menstrual cycle tempest in a teapot down there, and it was equal doses good fortune and miraculous luck that the place wasn’t wound up like a four-year-old after a nutritious breakfast of Oreo cookies and raw sugar cane.

Thankfully, everyone involved is safe and rescued, despite the fact that both the Chilean Air Force and Argentine rescue teams were involved. (Not to slight the Chilean and Argentine forces, mind you, it’s just they’re usually rescuing copper mine executives from rioting miners and extraditing tinpot dictators, not actually throwing inflatable rubber rafts out of helicopters.) I’m sure some of the passengers on the cruise were excited about the crash—they were going to Antarctica, after all, and certainly weren’t expecting to lay around playing Magic: The Gathering and watch Air Bud: Golden Receiver the whole trip. But one has to assume that the next trip most of these individuals will desire somewhere that will be less wet, less cold, and less of a change to capsize after hitting an iceberg. Like, for instance, their den.

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