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Floating Buffet Carnivals – Bad For Venice, Okay For the Planet

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

I thought the antique god of seas was Poseidon, not Dionysus...

But before we torpedo these floating monsters … let’s start with their environmental and psychological benefits.

Yes, these temples of gluttony do some good!

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Environmental benefits

Let’s say that there are, right now, 100 cruise ships scarring our oceans - a conservative estimate. The average cruise carries around 3,000 eaters.

That’s 300,000 people whose eating, drinking, all movements (however minimal), energies, waste generation, “adventures”, and direct interaction with the outer world take place within the white walls of the eathedral.

That’s 300,000 fewer people treading on coral reefs; picking rare plants, butterflies, and lizards; walking off-path in fragile forests; dropping plastic wrappers, bottles, wipes and nappies on beaches, mangroves and rivers; and fuelling the coastal resort-style developments that are replacing mangroves.

If you are a greenie, don’t blame cruise shippers for that ^^ because they’re enjoying themselves in the middle of the ocean, in a form of –

Self-contained hedonism

Now, you may counter that by NOT holidaying in the “real” world, the cruisers are making the locals in poor countries worse off by not spending their tourist dollars there (but on a cruise instead) … and that as a result, the poor locals are more likely to fall back on their limited sources of income, and even engage in some environmentally harmful activity, such as cutting the rainforest or poaching.

Your concern is noted but dismissed because you need to consider rising incomes — and with it, demand for tourism — in many developing countries, especially in Asia. There are enough tourists as it is, supporting locals, and 300,000 fewer on the reefs, beaches and mountains is better, not worse, for the environment.

Plus, 300,000 floating people aren’t 300,000 flying people …

so their overall environmental footprint is likely better than that of your friend Karen who flies from Melbourne to Costa Rica … even if Karen stays in Escondido Eco Lodge, drinks from coconuts grown overhead, and munches on mung beans grown by her hammock...

Even though Karen looks down on gluttonous aliens, who have just been temporarily released from their mother ship, now collecting souvenir samples during their short invasion.

“I’m different” mutters Karen, sweeping beach sand off her yoga mat … “I’d never do that (spend holidays on a cruise), I care for the environment, unlike THEM, those dumb, ugly, loud, fat, ignorant hordes.”

Karen may be wrong about the footprint of the floating carnival (and yogicly wrong about her own), but she’s right about her mung beans…

Environmentally speaking, the blind spot of cruises is food

Food, drink, water, and consumables must be transported to the cruises; this doesn’t support locals in would-be-visited countries. Where does the cruise food come from? I bet it’s from monoculture farms and piggeries of Nebraska rather than backyard patata farms and bays of Escondido.

The methane emissions produced by food waste, as well as the carbon emissions produced by transporting, storing, and distributing food for 300,000 buffet hoppers must be of Titanic proportions, frowns Karen. Here, her frowns are justified, because hosts at her eco-lodge grow, breed, and catch their patatas, chooks, and fish on their small farms and in local bays…

Bays that are now overshadowed by a giant sea slug

Now, let’s look at some Psychological benefits for these three groups of cruisers:

1) Families with young kids - they don’t have to worry about kids getting lost, run over, kidnapped, bitten by a snake, or falling off a cliff

2) Less mobile retirees (obviously)

3) People who’re lost, insecure, weak, direction-less, lazy, ice cream and Karaoke addicts

The first two groups are obvious, but what about the third?

These are people who need to fit in and be accepted by their social bubble or family, who go on a cruise because their peers do it, so they tag along, for fear of being left out or for a genuine lack of ideas or direction. They’ll have group photos for social media and for the Christmas party, to show others that they too “have life.”

These people will be turning the Ferris wheel of gluttony for a week, before jumping back into the hamster wheel of life

The ‘Queen of the Seas’ may actually help them.

It’s low energy, low expectations, low pressure environment, which balances out the high energy, high expectations and high pressure of the hamster wheel, a wheel that must keep turning but also requires constant polishing and careful Insta-presentation.

Why not disembark the curated world and inhabit the buffet for a week?

You’re in the middle of blue somewhere, inside berth #318 on the 12th deck of a Titanic, far from your street, car, park, carpark, boss, mistress/lover, shopping centre, café, gym, and traffic.

Without your familiar reference points, whilst constantly encouraged to eat and drink IT ALL, LOOK HOW MUCH THERE IS, you can drop the ball for a week, take the edge off, and just eat, drink, be a seal on the deck, have 15 ice creams, then champagne, then breakfast, or dinner? What time is it … who cares!?

That, to some people, may actually help, although I wouldn’t underscore it.

It’s a benefit on crutches; but on the wide ocean horizon, I can’t see other benefits.

The invasion of Venice

These oversized, overweight monsters scar the oceans, temporarily landing in coastal towns unfortunate enough to have a deep harbour to dock them.

In Sydney, Vancouver, or New York, the impact isn’t that bad, because these modern cities are built differently, on utilitarian principles. The white monster in the Sydney Harbour almost matches its surrounding Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and skyscrapers.

But the picture is very different in Venice, Naples, or Lisbon.

As far from Gondolas as you can get

Before Covid, on average, ten Godzillas sailed into Venice each day, damaging the wooden foundations of local buildings. 20,000 people per day went ashore, as this doco shows.

Contrary to my recent belief, they don’t help the local economy. The aliens clog the tendril-like streets of medieval old town during the day, get ice cream and a souvenir, take an “adventure” selfie, and then back to the buffet'n'berth.

Plus, some tour operators report their earnings in Panama and other tax havens.

These 21st-century invasions of historic towns are devouring the landmarks, blocking the sunlight by their sheer size, and clogging the labyrinthine streets.

In my totally prejudiced opinion, the cruises are the embodiment of human mediocrity, depravity, laziness, tackiness, tastebud attachment, gluttony, and herd mentality.

It’s another form of mindless mass entertainment.

But at least it’s contained, out of sight, out of reefs, out of forests. Sure, it’s not out of old towns, but there it’s spilling over only in short — although intense — bursts.

And then … the floating carnival leaves town…

Which means that the streets of Venice can breathe again, there’s sun on the Piazza again, and the forests, reefs and mountains elsewhere are freer.


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