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Why We Love (And Love to Hate) Cruises

Go deep on the cultural and environmental impact of the cruise industry—including a glimpse at life onboard from every point of view.

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Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Few vacations are more polarizing than a cruise. Prized for its aspirational allure, condemned for its environmental harms, and loved (or hated) for its packaged fun.

In the stories below, sail along with a host of writers as they explore the great cruise divide. Some embrace cruises’ banal pleasures (“Cruises Are So Uncool They Are Cool”), while others experience them as “an enormous primordial stew of death and decay” (“Shipping Out”). A few even discover their unexpected potential for transformation (“The Time I Went on a Lesbian Cruise and It Blew Up My Entire Life”).

You’ll also meet many cruise ship inhabitants, from rich retirees skipping winter for months at a time to Filipino crew members whose working conditions are anything but luxurious.

Whether you’re a “cult cruiser” or a cruise hater, these are stories you’ll want to save—for reading en route, onboard, or at home on dry land.

Image by Carl & Ann Purcell/Getty Images

Below Deck

Lizzie Presser
California Sunday

Filipinos make up nearly a third of all cruise ship workers. It’s a good job. Until it isn’t.

I Saw the World on Cruise Ships

Devin Murphy
Outside Magazine

High school didn’t serve up much adventure, so Devin Murphy signed up to do grunt work on expedition ships that sailed to Alaska, Iceland, Antarctica, and other far-flung places. Turned out to be a pretty great idea.

Another Night to Remember [2012]

Bryan BurroughJosephine McKenna
Vanity Fair

When the Costa Concordia hit a rock off the Italian coast on January 13, 2012, it became the largest passenger ship ever wrecked, supplanting the Titanic in maritime history. From the moments when the captain made the first in a series of incredible blunders through a harrowing night of mindless panic, Bryan Burrough reconstructs an epic fight for survival—in which all too many would perish.