Instead, I’ll go with lessons learned from last week’s Carnival Cruise fiasco, nicknamed the USS Poop.
Just because a cruise is organized by an American company, does not mean that the ship is sailing under an American flag with American safety standards. Both of the recent, ill-fated Carnival ships, the Triumph and the Costa Concordia, sailed under foreign flags.
I experienced this tricky factor on my last—and only—ocean cruise. Because our ship sailed out of Stockholm, I assumed that it was a Scandinavian Cruise line. But the ship’s name, Anna Karenina, should have been a clue that all was not as assumed.
Danger began as we boarded. At the very top of the escalator a crew member threw a life ring over passengers and snapped photos. Doing anything at the top of an escalator is risky, and it took my son by surprise. He pushed the ring off. They put it back on. He pushed it off. They forced it back on and demanded a “Smile!” He snarled. Meanwhile, the people behind him—like me—were stacking up on the escalator and listing backwards. Could have been a disaster.
Strangely enough, the ship had no common area except the restaurant, which was locked most of the time. So passengers sat in their rooms and drank vodka from the duty free shop. By evening a lot of people were smashed and puking on the stairs. The carpet became slick and treacherous. Could have been a disaster.
At dinner the couple in the booth ahead of us got into a fight. She lost her temper and threw her wine glass. He ducked. I didn’t see it coming. A close call. Luckily neither my son nor I got cut, but glass went everywhere. Our dessert was ruined. That’s okay. It was just gray gelatin with a pink dot—less interesting than the luncheon fare, pink gelatin with a gray dot.
By nightfall, the ship’s purser, SS Bichkoff, morphed into an Elvis impersonator with an accordian. We stayed only because we’d already spent too much time in our room. A dilemma is when you have two equally painful options, and you don’t want to choose either.
The next morning we looked forward to reaching St. Petersburg, Russia and getting off this ship. “What’s our hotel like?” I asked my husband. “I hope it’s better than this.”
“Hotel?” he replied. My kids’ eyes grew teary. They hated the maid, and Olga hated them. They wanted off.
It’s really important to know under what flag your ship is sailing—especially if you have a low tolerance for gray gelatin and scary maids.