The death drive, Freud theorized, operates alongside and in conflict with the pleasure principle. We seek to reproduce. We want to preserve our own skins. But we are vexing creatures, and sometimes we do other things, like join the military or go on cruises even though they are like floating greenhouses for viruses. If you feel like indulging your death drive, you’re in luck: Carnival Cruise Line has announced tentative plans to reopen some routes on August 1, and many of you appear thrilled by the news. A travel agency that specializes in cruises told TMZ that bookings increased by 600 percent after Carnival’s announcement, which is itself “a 200 percent increase over the same time period in 2019.”
In a statement quoted by the New York Post, Carnival itself says it is “taking a measured approach, focusing on the potential for sailing from a select number of homeports where we have more significant operations that are easily accessible by car for the majority of our guests.” There is no guarantee it will actually reopen on August 1, it added. But for some eager consumers, hope springs eternal.
Reality really should temper their enthusiasm. Sick passengers languished on Holland America’s MS Zaandam for weeks; four people died. (Fun fact: Cruise ships have morgues!) There are cruise ships still wandering the deep with crews who have no way to get home. Does this sound fun to you? Does it sound like a risk worth taking? It doesn’t to me, but perhaps that’s my fault. Perhaps I am just not made for cruise ship life.
But I would argue that facts are on my side. Cruises made little sense even before the coronavirus. Remember the norovirus outbreaks? That happened last year. Hundreds of people suffered bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. Then there was the Good Ship Measles, which sailed out last year. I will grant that the measles boat was something of an unusual case because it belonged to the Church of Scientology and because most people are vaccinated against the measles, despite the hard work of Jenny McCarthy. Nevertheless it is a useful example of what can happen when you are at sea in a confined space with lots of other people.
Sometimes murder happens. A man killed his wife onboard the Emerald Princess in 2017. Another man pushed his girlfriend off a cruise ship balcony and killed her in 2018. Children have drowned in cruise ship pools; occasionally, so do adults. People go missing on cruise ships, every now and then. Even if nothing violent happens to you, you are still on a cruise ship, surrounded by loads of strangers in questionable polo shirts. I have heard there are conga lines and Baked Alaska and, troublingly, weddings.
None of this is for me. Why is it for you? You should ask yourself. Maybe Freud can help.