A friend in Juneau, Alaska sent me this article, “Towns and businesses across Alaska brace for a second summer without cruise ship tourists” which states in part:
“[Alaska] saw more than 1.33 million cruise ship tourists in 2019. Last year, Southeast Alaska — the industry’s core region — saw just 48, according to figures compiled by a Juneau economics firm. More tourists arrive by cruise ship in Alaska than by any other means. This year, the expectation had been for something better than 2020, but the Canada decision [Banning all cruise ships in Canadian waters until 2022], coupled with a separate ban on cross-border land access, will block hopes for a rebound.”
The truth is that the cruise industry worldwide was a house of cards that was eventually going to collapse of its own weight. The industry was what the New Yorker used to call in snippets here and there at the end of articles, “wretched excess”; like a $5 million wedding or a $100,000,000 penthouse. Placing 5,000 people on what amounts to a floating hotel is a recipe for disaster. The cruise ships look like city block-sized icebergs that have broken off and floated away. These ships dump their shit, literally, and trash into the oceans. Even before COVID-19, patrons on board these vessels were getting terribly ill from food poisoning (norovirus for one) and other diseases (influenza, coronaviruses, salmonella, rhinoviruses, Legionnaires and hepatitis A) that were passed around easily due to the close quarters aboard. People drinking to excess and gorging themselves at the endless buffets has now ended in what my mother would have described as an “unmitigated disaster.”
Arrival of these enormous craft in a port brought an onslaught of insouciant and largely ignorant tourists buying souvenir junk and leaving with nothing more than full stomachs and not a shred of knowledge about where they had just been for the last 3 or 4 hours. Places like Key West, Florida, and Venice, Italy, have sighed in relief now that they are no longer plagued by these rabbit-warrens-on-water that loosed thousands and thousands of passengers daily to the detriment of any livable existence by the residents. Yes, some made money off the seagoing rubes but the contract was written on flimsy paper.
All over the world, even outside the areas served by these cruise ships, millions of tourists were dumped yearly into cities like Rome, Paris, Mexico City, Jerusalem, Cuzco, Bangkok or Zermatt, not to mention sites such as parks, ancient ruins and animal sanctuaries. Tourists were destroying the environment and made visiting sites all but impossible due to the volume of visitors who stomped about in their obliviousness and ignorance, taking photos they would probably never look at again or even understand why the photo was taken in the first place.
Local, formerly vibrant neighborhoods near tourists sites have been bought out by junk store owners, chain clothing or electronic gadget companies and real estate speculators (AirBnB, VRBO) thus chasing out local shops providing food sales, services and goods for the community. Rents go sky high and long term renters are put onto the street or forced to move to distant suburbs far from their employment. Those who do manage to remain in their apartments or homes are bombarded with constant noise from the streets filled with careless and drunken tourists. All this in the name of commerce and entrepreneurship.
And according to the song (The Party’s Over - sung by Doris Day), the pretty balloon has been burst and the moon has been taken away. Pre-COVID cruising and worldwide tourism are unsustainable industries.
“The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day
They’ve burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away
It’s time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up
The piper must be paid”
But will these areas and cities be recreated as places to live and not merely exist as someone’s piggy bank? Or as with the arrival of a tsunami that leaves the beach totally bare, will the waters of tourism and cruising suddenly return as a huge wave, only to flood the land yet again, destroying all in its path?