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Gary Horton: Incompetent staff make it a bad cruise

Posted: March 6, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 6, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Cruise ships have become popular vacation scenes over the past decade. A chance to leisurely enjoy freedom of the open seas as ship’s staff cater to whims and needs!

Yet, cruising may appear like freedom and fun — until it isn’t. Many have heard about the ill-fated Caribbean cruise liner last month.

A fire disabled the ship’s power systems and the “floating hotel” devolved into a “floating prison” as the hapless vessel floated adrift without engines or electricity for days. Ship’s staff wasn’t up to the task of repairs – which is pause for thought next time one considers booking the next cruise.

Competency, not food or shows, might be the most important choice when choosing your cruise company.

It wasn’t long before physics took control of the disabled vessel as poo literally flowed, as it does, downhill.

Guests on lower decks reported icky stuff seeping down walls into their suites. Folks below set up refugee camps on pool decks to escape the unmitigated purgatory happening below.

After many days the ship was finally towed back to port, but oh, were paying “guests” made to suffer, with no opportunity or ability to escape their capture.

One might think the management would think more of their paying captured… er, customers.

Carrie and I experienced our own cruise nightmare last year.

Like the addrift Caribbean ship, it seemed our ship was staffed without sufficient experienced staff to actually run a complicated vessel.

 Ships, it turns out, are not actually “floating hotels.” Hotels don’t crash into rocks.

Hotels can’t sink. Hotels don’t have engines that fail at your risk of life.

Ships pose greater peril than hotels, and staff therefore needs to be up to the critical tasks.

Our ship’s alarms went off one night at 1 a.m. They wailed for minutes with no word from the captain.

I ran up and down the halls and stairs to find no responding staff. Finally the alarm stopped and a voice came over our P.A. system explaining that “the alarm was an accident and “not to worry.”

An hour later, just as heart rates calmed and sleep returned, the P.A. system again fired up, but this time there was a loud microphone hum and buzz, but no voice.

The hum lasted for minutes, when the sound of hands fidgeting with the microphone humorously joined in on the chorus microphone noise.

Time passed, as foreign voices fretted back and forth about how to turn the public address system off. Finally, someone figured out to either yank the mic off the wall or simply unplug it.

The humming went dead and we never heard another word about it. Perhaps the Bell Captain or dish washer was running the ship that night.

Excrement didn’t run down the walls on our ship, but incompetence ran with abandon.

“Cruise” turns to “curse” once incompetence hits the props. And incompetence turns paying passengers into prisoners — and there’s no escaping the trauma or degradation until the ship’s operator finally lets you off the gangway to real freedom.

There’s an unsettling similarity between incompetently managed cruises and our incompetent malaise in Washington, as our “Representatives,” (think Titanic staff) and our President, (think band leader on the Good Ship Lollipop), fidget with political talking points while bedlam breaks out in the control room of our nation.

The national ship may be listing, but these guys remain content to drag us against the rocks with their self-made sequestration. There’s fire in our engine room and they say, “What We Worry? — The economic motors are STILL running, AREN’T THEY?”

All the while, our American quality of life sinks deeper in economic poo, as those in the mid and lower decks face an inequality that stinks.

Our lower economic decks reek, yet for all practical purposes there’s little paying passengers aboard Cruise Ship America can do to change the ship’s course.

Alarms clamor, unattended by staff, and there’s no apparent way for many or most to escape the troubled vessel.

You and I “get even” with a poorly run cruise line by never booking with them again.

Yet voting on Cruise America works only slightly the same in Gerrymandered America, as maybe votes can change things and maybe they can’t, depending on your district.

Still, we’re compelled to pay taxes like boarding tickets year in and year out, no matter how bad the ride. And there’s no disembarking — ever — and if you don’t pay for next year’s voyage you’ll be tossed in the ship’s brink, too.

Americans have become forced passengers on an incompetent cruise, with fires in the hold, bozos at the helm stations and the ship’s crew unable or unwilling to adequately respond to dangers ahead.

It can be a terrifying ride for those without economic helicopters to sprint them away.

And this, from cruise ship, “Land of the Free.”

This is pause for aggravating thought when you book your next mandatory ticket come tax time.

You “pay and pay, but have little say.” As always in these cases, it’s high time to again fire the deck hands.

Gary Horton is a Valencia resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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