Beauty, it is often said, is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe so, but I don’t derive any aesthetic pleasure from looking at mega cruise ships. I consider these multi-storey floating hotels to be eyesores. At best, they look like stodgy assemblages of Lego bricks; at worst, monstrous structures of steel and glass. The following photographs will illustrate my point.

(Click on images for a larger view)

Cruise ship cabins viewed from outside

A block of city apartments

A mega ship may sail to far-flung regions, but it is really an extension of the city. The passengers are housed in cabins like urban dwellers in a high-rise tenement. The difference is that the latter usually live in a poor section of the city, whereas cruise passengers (retirees, middle-class youth and well-heeled folks) have money to travel. On board the ship, the passengers do what city residents do. They dine, drink, dance, shop and even gamble.

Row of Alcatraz cells
Photo credit: Michael P. Barbella
Image licence: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Cruise ship cabins remind me somehow of prison cells — utterly uniform and cold. Prisoners, of course, don’t get to have a view of the ocean (inmates at Alcatraz had that luxury until the island prison was closed in 1963). The prison analogy is not really far-fetched. The coronavirus pandemic turned cruise ships into virtual prisons, their passengers barred from disembarking and left to twiddle their thumbs inside their cabins during long periods of isolation.

Colourful hull of a cruise ship

As part of their marketing strategy, some cruise operators paint the hulls of their ships with bright-coloured images. The artwork is like make-up that a dowdy woman wears to make herself more attractive. However, it transforms the ship into a giant floating billboard, which, to my romantic eye, is so unromantic.

A question of personal taste

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas docked in Labadee, Haiti (2016)
Photo credit: Trevor Webb
Image licence: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication

The Royal Clipper at sea with sails unfurled (2018)
Photo credit: Joe Ross
Image licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the final analysis, it all boils down to personal taste. John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, said in his 1864 lecture, ‘Traffic’: “Tell me what you like, and I’ll tell you what you are. Go out into the street, and ask the first man or woman you meet, what their ‘taste’ is, and if they answer candidly, you know them, body and soul.” Some people are impressed by the sheer size of mega cruise ships. They may associate it with grandeur, power or luxury. As for me, I will go for sailing ships any time.

~ Barista Uno

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