Topic: USA & World (235)

Cruising And Tourism: Wretched Excess

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.

Enormous Crowds Jostle to See the Mona Lisa
Enormous Crowds Jostle to See the Mona Lisa

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?

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Comments by Readers

David A. Swanson

Feb 10, 2021

Brings back memories of the  Prinsendam, when some 300 passengers along with the crew went over the side in a dark and stormy night after the ship caught on fire some hundred+ miles off the coast of SE Alaska in 1980.


Ruth Fruland

Feb 10, 2021

Rabbit-warrens-on-water is nicer than my opinion of cruise ships as abominations from hell. Who knew The Love Boat would create such a many-pronged disaster? I saw one parked in Galveston Texas a few years ago and it made the small, quaint, coastal town look like a minature lego set. 


Jim Kyle

Feb 10, 2021

Unfortunately, the cruise ships will probably return full force to Alaska in 2022.  Many of the smaller towns have sold out, with large portions of their downtowns dedicated to serving cruise ship visitors during the summer.  Those towns will want them back, and the cruise ship companies’ deep pockets will enable their survival.  

Covid permitting, there is another story here.  Absent cruise ships, this summer will be an ideal time to visit Southeast Alaska, as well as more distant destinations if you have the time.  Board the ferry in Bellinghanm.  Staterooms are available, or you can camp out on deck.  Plan your itinerary around scheduled ferry stops in the various ports.  You will be welcomed with open arms and visit fascinatng towns, all without fighting the hordes of trinket-buying visitors.  


Nicholas Sotak

Feb 11, 2021

I had the opportunity to visit Juneau a couple years ago (via aircraft) in December.  My wife’s aunt, a local, showed me around town.  When we got downtown near the docks I was surprised to see what looked like many upscale stores.  I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it was along the lines of, “All these shops are owned by the cruise companies and they sell stuff to people on the cruise ships.”  If this is true, other than relatively low wage employment and possibly some tax benefit, what good are the cruises doing for the local economy?  It’s almost certainly out-weighed by the cost to the environment and culture.

To comment, Log In or Register

Cruising And Tourism: Wretched Excess

By Dick ConoboyOn Feb 10, 2021

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 [...]

4 comments, most recent 2 weeks ago

Political Pretzel Logic without Cognitive Dissonance

By Guest WriterOn Feb 09, 2021

Ray Kamada guest writes. Ray is a retired atmospheric physicist from NOAA/DoD, and is now mostly involved in climate change and renewable energy studies. - - - - - [...]

5 comments, most recent 5 days ago

State’s Telecom Standards Full of Loopholes

By Jon HumphreyOn Jan 27, 2021

Some say Senate Bill 5511 is a big leap forward for new Washington state broadband standards. However, after analyzing the bill, I suggest that it does what our leadership consistently does [...]

Satpal on Insurrection

By Guest WriterOn Jan 14, 2021

We rarely post statements from officials, this being a venue for local residents and citizens. However, Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu released this statement and, considering the dangerous time in [...]

2 comments, most recent 1 month ago

Letter: Culture Wars

By Letter WriterOn Jan 10, 2021

Trump will be remembered for corruption, incompetence, mass death and a failed coup but it didn’t start in 2016. Culture war has been cultivated by the Republican party for decades [...]

Yes, Now You Know - An Open Letter To Congress

By Dick ConoboyOn Jan 08, 2021

An open letter to Congress: Yes, now you know. Now you know what it is like to be under assault like the governor and legislature of the State of Michigan. [...]

13 comments, most recent 1 month ago

The Same Door - Six Hours Apart

By John ServaisOn Jan 07, 2021

​This is the main entrance to the House of Representatives of the United States Congress. When I saw the photo of this door, closed, yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, January 6, I wondered [...]

10 comments, most recent 1 month ago

Pandemic Continues To Hit Military Veterans Hard

By Dick ConoboyOn Dec 23, 2020

About two months ago I wrote here about the pandemic and the heavier toll it was taking on our veterans. The casualties were often those with pre-existing conditions that were [...]

Nervous About the Vaccines? Don’t Be

By Deb GaberOn Nov 28, 2020

Are you a little anxious about how they’ve rushed some vaccines through at the fastest rate in human history? Maybe concerned about whether less than a year was enough [...]

4 comments, most recent 2 months ago

The Big Lie of Republican Environmental Values

By John ServaisOn Nov 21, 2020

This article in today’s Huffington Post, Trump Swiftly Blows Up His One Decent Conservation Action, is both stunning and devastating. Last August, President Trump signed a multi-billion dollar public [...]

2 comments, most recent 3 months ago

Stop the Lying, Doug

By Michael RiordanOn Nov 17, 2020

LEST WE FORGET, a certain state senator from the northern reaches of Whatcom County played a bit part in bringing the current excuse for a president into the White House. [...]

8 comments, most recent 3 months ago

Did Trump Help Democrats take the 2020 election in Washington?

By David A. SwansonOn Nov 15, 2020

This article is co-authored with Eric Tyberg, a retired IT executive and consultant residing in Lincoln, California. Originally from Falun, Wisconsin, he rose through the ranks at IBM and formed [...]

2 comments, most recent 3 months ago

Armistice Day

By Dick ConoboyOn Nov 11, 2020

Yes, today is Armistice Day, November 11, 2020. It was established to commemorate the day the armistice was signed in 1918 that ended World War I. As it has morphed into what is [...]

13 comments, most recent 3 months ago

Did Trump Help Democrats take the election?

By David A. SwansonOn Nov 07, 2020

This article is co-authored with Eric Tyberg, a retired IT executive and consultant residing in Lincoln, California. Originally from Falun, Wisconsin, he rose through the ranks at IBM and formed [...]

1 comment, most recent 3 months ago

Veterans’ Heavier COVID Casualties

By Dick ConoboyOn Nov 05, 2020

[This article has been written in anticipation of Veterans Day on November 11th, next Wednesday.] Just as they did during their military service, our veterans are carrying a burden of [...]

Coronavirus and Community

By Michael RiordanOn Oct 31, 2020

One of the more pernicious aspects of the novel coronavirus pandemic is how it attacks not just our bodies and minds but also our sense of community. It tears at [...]

6 comments, most recent 3 months ago

The Last Stand

By David A. SwansonOn Oct 17, 2020

Beneath this mask is more than flesh. Beneath this mask is an idea, Mr Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof [This article has a co-author, Eric Tyberg, a retired IT executive [...]

15 comments, most recent 4 months ago

The Pandemic and Our Erratic Leader

By Michael RiordanOn Oct 10, 2020

With regard to the ghastly coronavirus pandemic, President Donald J. Trump is a colossal failure who just cannot admit failure and therefore needs to create his own alternative reality to [...]

Damn It!  He Ain’t My Commander in Chief

By Dick ConoboyOn Oct 06, 2020

And he isn’t yours either, if you are among the 99% of the U.S. population who are not in the armed forces. But I see and hear the expression [...]

10 comments, most recent 4 months ago

The Pandemic and the Presidency

By Michael RiordanOn Sep 25, 2020

In early January 2018, Bill Clinton’s science adviser Neal F. Lane and I published a New York Times opinion column titled, “The President’s Disdain for Science,” which began, “Since [...]

11 comments, most recent 4 months ago