Splendor is cruising for a legal bruising

Every once in awhile you’ll hear about a group of average, ordinary people who, facing adversity, bravely unite in that “can do” spirit of survival and tackle their challenges without complaint, overcoming obstacles and exemplifying the American spirit.

This is not one of them.

I’m talking about the story of the Carnival Splendor, the cruise ship that broke down off the coast of Mexico last week, stranding passengers on the luxury liner for three days and making national news. Here’s a sampling of actual newspaper headlines:

“Passengers reveal horror stories.”

“Travelers Disembark Nightmare Cruise.”

“Passengers Tell of Holiday From Hell.”

This sounded so frightening that I decided to investigate this tragedy further, and was disturbed at what I discovered. It turns out these cruise ship passengers had to suffer through (stop reading right now if you’re squeamish), nearly 72 hours without cell phone service.

That’s not all. The power outage forced the closure of the pool and casino. That’s right, no 25-cent Wheel of Fortune slots whatsoever. In addition, the elevators were inoperable, forcing passengers to exert themselves by lifting their legs in an upward motion and placing them onto things called “stairs.” (If you can imagine.)

It wasn’t all bad news. The passengers did catch some lucky breaks during their three-day ordeal. For example: the Carnival Splendor Dance Team’s production of “A Salute to Broadway” was canceled. In addition, food, including cans of crab meat, was airlifted in from the USS Ronald Reagan. And at one point, after tugboats began hauling the ship to shore, it was announced that while they were still at sea, all the beer would be free. This is when I imagine passengers began cutting ropes to the tugboat.

I can somewhat relate to these folks stranded at sea. Once at Escalante Canyon on Lake Powell, three friends and I were stuck on a small broken boat. Unlike the Carnival Splendor, however, we didn’t have a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier escort us back home while supplying us with crab feasts. All we had on board was a bottle of Jack Daniels, bologna and some lighter fluid. To be honest, it was probably the best day of my life.

This leads me to my main point, which is that people complain too much these days. The situation aboard the Splendor doesn’t appear to be as nearly horrific as the media made it out to be. Passengers casually tossed around words like “nightmare” and “gruesome” to describe the trip, as if they endured great suffering. During World War II, my Great Uncle Link survived the infamous Bataan death march, withstanding the disease, starvation and barbaric cruelty inflicted upon him and his fellow soldiers by their heartless Japanese captors.

Now that was “nightmarish” and “gruesome,” especially compared to vacationers whose biggest complaint is not being able to use the pool on the Lido deck.

The Associated Press did find at least one happy passenger. An 11-year-old girl said she passed the time dancing, and playing miniature golf and board games. “It was fun,” said Kiara Arteaga, who, afterward, had to be reminded by reporters how horrible it was.

Eventually Kiara and the others made it back to San Diego, where hundreds of people lined up on the dock, eagerly awaiting their arrival. These were people who had been trying to get in touch with the passengers for days. People who loved them, who wanted to hug them, and help them recover: Yep, the dock was crawling with trial lawyers.

Which you can understand, this being America 2010 and all. Helen of Troy’s face may have “launched a thousand ships,” but Carnival’s ship will launch a thousand lawsuits. The legal maneuvering will begin soon, with passengers suing Carnival for emotional distress. (“Furthermore,  Your Honor, the defendant had the audacity to serve my client a crab dinner devoid of any Bearnaise sauce.”)

They’ll probably win their lawsuits, too. Because let’s recap what these passengers/victims had to endure: three days of balmy weather on the sea, national attention, worldwide sympathy, a Naval escort, full vacation refund plus an additional free cruise, complimentary beer, wine and crab.

Yep. Life can be hell.

E-mail Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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