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7 Reasons to Never Ever Ever Vacation on a Cruise Ship

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By Lauren Hansen

Cruises are often advertised as luxurious escapes from the grinding tedium of our everyday lives. These moving, all-in-one vacations boast entertainment, dining, adventure, relaxation, and a world of postcard-worthy sights. And of course, most cruises are terrific. But when the rare disastrous event strikes, those giant vessels of portable fun go from Jekyll to Hyde just like that, and can even become prisons of panic. Passengers can't easily leave their confined spaces, limited supplies dwindle far too quickly, and help isn't exactly forthcoming on the open sea. We may be more likely to die in a car crash than go down like Jack and Rose, but with the harrowing (if not utterly disgusting) stories emerging from Carnival's latest disaster, let's take a moment to review all the bad things that can happen while vacationing on a big boat.

1. Adrift and powerless

The Carnival cruise ship Triumph was hardly triumphant as it labored into an Alabama port on Feb. 14. After spending five fetid days adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, the 4,200 passengers and crew rushed down the planks, some even sinking to their knees to kiss the dry land. A fire in the engine room had knocked out the ship's propulsion, power, sewage, and heating and air-conditioning systems. So instead of lounging poolside, stocking up at the Asian-themed buffet station, or indulging in a relaxing massage, passengers spent four nights sleeping on sewage-soaked carpets, eating ketchup on buns, and pooping into plastic bags. Just making some memories, really.

2. Pirates (!)

In April 2009, The Melody set off from Durban, South Africa, with about 1,000 passengers and 500 crew on a 22-day luxury cruise that would end in Genoa, Italy. Early in the trip, while the ship passed through waters north of Seychelles, pirates surrounded the boat and opened fire. The cruise ship's security detail returned fire, which was enough to keep the intruders at bay. The Melody's distress call alerted nearby Coast Guards which, with the help of the Spanish navy, were able to apprehend the nine attempted hijackers and escort the ship to safety.

3. Run aground and capsized

The Costa Concordia suffered one of the biggest disasters in recent cruise-liner history when it ran aground in January 2012 off the coast of Tuscany. The ship eventually sank, and dozens of the 4,229 passengers and crew died. The ship was only three hours into its voyage through the Mediterranean when the ship first hit rocks. Survivors reported hearing a loud bang before the liner was plunged into darkness and shuddered to a halt. It wasn't until the enormous vessel began to list dramatically that its passengers erupted into complete panic, with people stealing life jackets from one another and opting to jump into the sea instead of waiting for lifeboats. One passenger compared the terrifying ordeal to Titanic.

4. A flu outbreak

Over the Christmas holiday, hundreds of vacationers embarked upon luxury cruises only to find themselves trapped with an unsavory bunkmate — a viral stomach bug. On the Emerald Princess cruise ship, for example, 5 percent of the passengers came down with some sort of gastrointestinal flu. The sick had to be quarantined in their rooms with the threat of "unnamed consequences" if they dared to leave. Those who managed to escape the virus' nauseating effects were asked to stay away from the buffet and eat only at the full-service restaurants. The sick did enjoy the comforts of room service, however. On the prestigious Queen Mary 2, 194 passengers and 11 crew members also came down with the suspected Norovirus bug, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person.

5. Going missing

Occasionally, passengers just vanish. In April 2011, John Halford was enjoying his last night of a week-long Egyptian cruise. His bag was packed, he had texted his wife, who was at home in Britain, to say he'd see her the next day at the airport, and went off to dinner. Passengers reportedly saw him have a cocktail later in the evening. And then he was gone. Worryingly, Halford's story is far from unique. That year there were at least 13 people who went missing and, as the Cruise Victims Association reports, some 165 people have disappeared while at sea since 1995. While some suspect accidents, suicides, and even sinister crime waves, in the end, most cases go unsolved, the families left in limbo.

6. Crime

Cruise ships are like floating foreign islands where laws shift like the tides. The way criminal matters are dealt with can depend on the ship's location in the ocean, its home port, or the nationality of its passengers. And prosecuting these crimes can be difficult. Crime scenes are often contaminated, since no police are onboard the ships. And if the ship is in foreign waters, it is often up to the captain to decide whether to incarcerate someone suspected of committing a crime. If a U.S. citizen is involved, the FBI will investigate, but some victims of crimes say that the action is often too late. In the end, some 16 percent of all murders and 7 percent of sexual assaults aboard cruise ships lead to convictions or plea bargains, according to FBI statistics. Lawyers for cruise liners maintain that crime statistics remain low, and are roughly equivalent to the chances a person has of being struck by lightning.

7. Collisions

In March 2012, a luxury cruise ship collided in deep fog with a container ship about five miles from the coast of Vietnam. Passenger Andrew Lock said he and his wife suddenly heard the ship's foghorn alarm. Startled, they looked out their window and saw a container ship appear out of nowhere directly in front of them. They braced themselves for the impact. "It was a horrifying moment," he said. Within five seconds of the ship appearing, their cruise liner collided into its side. The Silversea Cruises maintains the damage was limited, but passengers say it felt like a "major collision" and watched as the container ship rolled over at a 90-degree angle. Lock said it looked like the cruise liner had "crushed" the other ship.

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Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month
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Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."

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New Nap Pods—Complete with Alarm Clocks and Netflix—Set for A Trial Run at Airports This Summer
Courtesy of Airpod
Courtesy of Airpod

Sleepy travelers in Europe can soon be on the lookout for Airpods, self-contained capsules designed to help passengers relax in privacy.

For 15 euros per hour (roughly $18), travelers can charge their phones, store their luggage, and, yes, nap on a chair that reclines into a bed. The Airpods are also equipped with television screens and free streaming on Netflix, Travel + Leisure reports.

To keep things clean between uses, each Airpod uses LED lights to disinfect the space and a scent machine to manage any unfortunate odors.

The company's two Slovenian founders, Mihael Meolic and Grega Mrgole, expect to conduct a trial run of the service by placing 10 pods in EU airports late this summer. By early 2019, they expect to have 100 Airpods installed in airports around the world, though the company hasn't yet announced which EU airports will receive the first Airpods.

The company eventually plans to introduce an element of cryptocurrency to its service. Once 1000 Airpods are installed (which the company expects to happen by late 2019), customers can opt in to a "Partnership Program." With this program, participants can become sponsors of one specific Airpod unit and earn up to 80 percent of the profits it generates each month. The company's cryptocurrency—called an APOD token—is already on sale through the Airpod website.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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