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
I didn’t expect that spending a week with a couple thousand lesbians on a cruise ship would push me to radically reconsider the future I’d planned for myself.
BONUS READ: Travel alongside another cruise passenger, this time on a “Gone Girl” themed voyage via Slate.
The beauty salons, swimming pools and even wireless communications of today’s huge cruise ships all got their start with the “floating palaces” of a century ago.
BONUS READ: Get the case against the modern cruise industry, from disease spread to environmental destruction, at Vox.
When passengers boarded the MS Zaandam in March 2020, they were preparing for the holiday of a lifetime. Within days they would be confined to their rooms on a liner that no country would let dock. How long would their ordeal last?
BONUS READ: Read the distressing story of cruise ship workers who took their own lives while stuck onboard during the COVID pandemic via Bloomberg.
The cruise industry promises to make zero-emission vessels and fuels widespread by 2030, while environmental groups cite its record on pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and over-tourism.
BONUS READ: Discover Antarctica’s efforts to balance cruise tourism and sustainability in a fragile ecosystem at The Conversation.
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.