December 5, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if your trip on the Love Boat turned into a 48-hour tryst with your toilet? Hundreds of people have had this problem in the past month as three separate cruise liners have had to return to port after serious outbreaks of a gastrointestinal virus have swept through their passengers.

Can you imagine, waiting all year for your wonderful getaway, cruising through tropical islands, only to be stuck on a boat with hundreds of people with the stomach flu? I bet those boats had to pull over at the nearest cruise liner convenience store to restock the toilet paper supplies.

I have to admit that I had been looking into possibly purchasing a cruise vacation package as a Christmas gift for my wife. But after we spent our honeymoon in Jamaica and all she would eat was pineapple and bread all week, I don't guess she would ever forgive me if I sent us on a cruise on the Pepto-Bismol Boat.

I'm making myself sound old, but I can remember the doctor on the Love Boat. He was the Casanova of the crew and never practiced any medicine that I can recall. Wonder how he would have handled all of this? Probably would have spent a lot of time with Isaac the bartender.

It seems a little odd that three separate cruise liners have experienced this problem in recent weeks. In our world today, when anything goes wrong like this one of the first questions is - is this terrorism? While two days of vomiting and diarrhea are a far cry from the typical devastation brought on by terrorism, there are always the underlying financial effects. Look, the terrorists have devastated the airline industry so maybe shipping is the next target? These ships not only have had to deal with the medical issues, they ultimately have had to cut short their trips and return to port. So I assume they are giving refunds to all the customers while likely getting stuck with additional settlements and medical expenses for the passengers actually suffering from the problems. All of that costs money. Then these ships have to deal with the negative publicity. If you could choose between seven sunny days on board a trip to the Bahamas or seven days imprisoned in a tiny bathroom with the stomach flu topped off by the effects of sea sickness, which would you choose?

It seems a bit too passive to me to be terrorism. If they are going to poison the food or water supplies why wouldn't they use some fatal component? Besides we have all dealt with stomach issues like this at some point in our lives, so it's not like the threat of Bin Laden giving us the stomach flu is going to scare us away from boats. There's a big difference between terrorist hijacking your plane and terrorists locking you in the bathroom for 48 hours.

I suppose there is one reason for all of this happening, but I would like to use a line from one of my favorite movies, the "Shawshank Redemption" when the main character explains why he, an innocent man, has spent most of his life in jail for a crime he didn't commit - "Bad Luck. It floats around. Gotta land on somebody. Guess it was my turn." I guess it was the cruise liners turn.

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