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Norwegian Epic

Ever wanted to go rappelling on your cruise?  Apr 19, 2009

It joins rock-climbing, zip-lining, wave-surfing, bowling, boxing and countless other organized games as required features on the average cruise ship.

The soon-to-be-launched Norwegian Epic has just announced that "abseiling" will be added to various water slides and other excitements on its top deck.

"Abseiling," it turns out, is "rappelling," defined by the American Heritage College Dictionary as "the descent of a vertical surface, as of a cliff, by means of a secure rope that is passed under one thigh and over the opposite shoulder."

Admit it. You've been dying to go rappelling on your next cruise!

And thus the frantic, near-hysterical drive by cruise-ship executives to add more and more recreations to their cruise ships, continues without letup.

I envision the executives lying awake, dreaming of additional childlike challenges stuffed into their giant metallic amusement-parks-at-sea. My own free-of-charge proposals: NASCAR racing on a track circling the hull. Bungee-jumping into the sea (you're pulled back just in time). Deep-sea fishing from a boat tethered to the bow of the cruise ship.

So help me, the closest analogy I can draw to this wave of copycat additions to cruise ships is the similar collective plunge into buying credit-default swaps by bank executives or the headlong rush to invest in securities backed by sub-prime mortgages. It partakes of the same heedless hysteria, the same desperate imitation, the same dreams of easy profits by people we had thought to be wise.

Do you think that someday we'll see cruise-ship executives hauled before congressional committees to explain their destruction of the cruise-ship industry?

One other point.

For some time now, I've been suggesting rather facetiously that the cruiselines consider taking several of their massive, amusement-park ships out of international service and simply tying them up to various docks in seaside U.S. cities, there to stay fixed and immobile as urban resorts. Or they might save the port charges by anchoring the ships some 3 miles out to sea, there to stand motionless as watery resorts served by tenders. Who among the passengers would know the difference?

And think of the savings!

Companies like Carnival or Royal Caribbean would reduce their fuel needs by millions of dollars each month. They could dispense with hiring expensive Captains and First Officers. The low-salaried entertainment director would actually run the ship.

The line could fire the scores of personnel on board who serve as actual sailors, navigating the ship, performing various maritime functions, operating the radar, the radio room. They could reduce the engine-room staff to one or two engineers who would periodically oil motors that would be turned off. They would need no medical staff (sick passengers easily could be transferred to hospitals nearby), no nurses to administer seasickness remedies. They could advertise: No seasickness!

With the savings achieved, one-week stays could be offered for as little as $25 a day per person. Whole seven-night vacations could be enjoyed for under $200, on ships that already are so fully enclosed that passengers seldom know they are at sea. And for those passengers venturing onto the two top decks - the only ones open to the air - the massive entertainment facilities (water slides, zip lines, motion-picture screens, rock-climbing walls and the like) would cut off all outside views in any event, again making it unnecessary to actually go to sea.

I'm no longer certain that my suggestion should only be a facetious one. It appears more realistic with every passing month.

I invite the cruise-ship industry to consider whether several of their monstrous vessels might actually prove more profitable tied up at a dock than sailing out to sea. New York, Boston, Seattle and other ports would thus get their own Disney-like theme parks!

Ever wanted to go rappelling on your cruise?
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