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“Cruising for a Bruising”
By Bill Hoagland
Maybe you heard about this on the internet last week. It seems that at roughly 2 a.m. on June 30, a brawl broke out on the dance floor of a cruise ship known as the “Carnival Magic.” Apparently, there had been an unauthorized “three-some” or “four-some” in the vicinity of the dance floor and several non-participants were unhappy about being excluded. This revelation by the excluded led to an all-out brawl on the dance floor and included about 60 people pulling hair and throwing punches for over an hour, proving once again that nothing good happens after midnight, even on a romantic-themed cruise ship. Under normal circumstances, the “moves” on the dance floor for that hour would have been regarded as epic, but not when you are actually ducking and jiving to avoid getting cold-cocked. The good news is that no one got shot or stabbed.
Here’s my question: with so many idiots coming out of the woodwork these days, why in the world would you want to book a sea cruise right now? Do you think things are safer 100 miles off-shore with 4,000 strangers all crammed together on what could become a floating sardine can? Yes, I know that millions of people love cruise ships and they remember those trips as an event of a life-time, but not me. In fact, if you are asking “what could possibly go wrong” with a cruise these days, let’s just review some of the newsworthy cruises that occurred just within the past 45 days.
On July 1, the “Norwegian Sun” hit an iceberg in Alaska, tearing a hole in the hull more than 10 feet in length. A piece of steel was temporarily welded over the hole so that the ship could limp back to Seattle at half-speed. On May 26, a portion of the “whale tail” exhaust caught fire on the “Carnival Freedom,” while docked at Grand Turk, requiring the passengers to disembark and board another ship to go home. That fire, which you can find on YouTube, looked pretty impressive to me and you have to wonder about the outcome if it had happened while at sea. Also in May, the “Carnival Princess” continued to operate on the open seas despite ongoing engine problems—sort of reminiscent of the “Carnival Triumph” in 2013, also known as the “Poop Cruise,” that floated aimlessly in the Gulf for four days without power with over 4,000 guests aboard, some of whom found out how memorable it is to be without flush toilets on your honeymoon.
These are just the well publicized situations. But there are hundreds more episodes most people never hear about because those claims are settled out of court, and the settlements usually include strict confidentiality agreements for obvious reasons. The dance floor brawl got me curious about cruise ship disasters so I found a website for a law firm that specializes in litigating injuries that occur on these cruise ships. According to that website (www.lipcon.com), there have been over 200 rapes on these cruises (many of which apparently involved a member of the crew as the perpetrator); more than 70 people have fallen off cruise ships with about 50 of these airborne passengers never to be seen again; and there are an assortment of other claims, such as medical malpractice claims, norovirus infections involving a quarter of the guests on one cruise, and so on. It is a rather extensive list.
Then we have my favorite: an attack by Somali pirates on a luxury cruise ship 100 miles from shore off the coast of Somalia. Those Somalia pirates sound like real party animals—getting close to the ship in two dinghies in a choppy sea, firing off some rocket-propelled grenades and AK 47s, and demanding that they be allowed to board so that they could take prisoners. Yes sir, fun times on the high seas.
So I will pass on the cruise of a life-time. It is hard enough these days just being safe on shore.
■ Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.