Sorry, Cruise Lines, Not A Single Penny In Bailout Money

Donald Trump is a big fan of the cruise ship industry. Last week, he said it was a “prime candidate" for a bailout, along with actual useful businesses such as airlines and hotels. We're not monsters here, though. If we let Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines ... er sink that would negatively impact countless Americans.

Oh, I guess we can count them, and it's 20,600 people. According to Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, that is 0.013 percent of total employment in the US. Put in perspective, that's half the people reading Wonkette on any given day. I confess that even though I wouldn't take a cruise at gunpoint, I have a soft spot for the industry because of the 1980s Carnival ads featuring Kathie Lee Gifford, with whom I was briefly in love for reasons I can't explain.

Carnival Cruise Lines Commercial (Kathie Lee Gifford)

Slate's Jordan Weissman believes that the "appropriate economic response to the coronavirus crisis" is bailouts for all impacted businesses, but we should exclude cruise ships because they suck (my less-polite wording, not his). The airline, hotel, and restaurant industries are “faultless casualties" of the coronavirus. Cruise ships, however, are not so innocent.

The luxury cruise industry is different. Cruise ships are notorious petri dishes for pathogens, prone to outbreaks of everything from measles to norovirus, and it was clear that they would be a vector for coronavirus transmission by February, when a terrifying outbreak stranded the Diamond Princess in Japan's Port of Yokohama. In early March, the Grand Princess sat marooned off the California coast with infected passengers as authorities debated where it should dock (eventually, it landed in Oakland). And yet the boats kept setting sail, often with minimal precautions.

You've might've gotten sick after stopping at some sketchy diners while on road trips, but how often did you leave with measles?During the start of this pandemic, cruise ships didn't always function as responsible actors. A Norwegian Cruise Line employee in South Florida reported that sales staff was asked to flat-out lie to customers about the coronavirus so they could keep their bookings. Leaked emails provided sample "one liners" to help “close" guests who were “on the fence" about love-boating in the age of corona.

"Mr Becker," the line reads, "due to the Coronavirus we have cancelled all of our Asia cruises on the Norwegian Spirit. This has caused a huge surge in demand for all of our other itineraries."

There was no “huge surge" in demand — quite the opposite, in fact. There were also more lies that would've given the salesmen from Glengarry Glen Ross pause.

"The Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise," one talking point reads.


"Scientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the Coronavirus," reads a second. Another line says coronavirus "cannot live in the amazingly warm and tropical temperatures that your cruise will be sailing to."

Same bullshit!

This has been your truth sandwich.

The Miami-based Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian sail under foreign flags (Panama, Bermuda, and Liberia) so they can avoid US taxes and labor laws. That's why there were all those Oompa Loompas working on the last cruise you took.

Norwegian's Pride of America is the "only passenger vessel in the entire world that has permission to sail between US ports." It even sails with an American flag! It's also legally required to have a crew comprising only US citizens and permanent residents. Let's make sure any coronavirus rescue package takes care of those employees, but their bosses and the cruise ship industry in general can go fuck themselves.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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