THE GIMMICK TRAP
We were lazily perusing one of the latest cruise brochures from our eyrie on the Lido Deck (the promenade was just too darn drafty this week; plus the bar is nearer) when our eye caught something truly discombobulating.
For those who remember the classic film, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, think of the scene where one of the planes lands unexpectedly in the grounds of a stately home and the Colonel looks up from his morning paper to exclaim, “Muriel, there’s an outrage on the lawn!”
Well, colour us equally scandalised at the thought of the first go-cart track at sea, to go with bumper cars, “a multi-level sports complex” and more than 25 dining experiences.
On a ship? Sailing the good old briny? Are they mad? These are the kinds of things we join a cruise to avoid. Why on earth would we want Southend-on-sea at sea? It simply makes no sense.
Go karts and bumper cars are the stuff of seaside funfairs, not cruise ships, while any sporting prowess at sea should be restricted to a vigorous game of bridge and, very occasionally, shuffleboard on the prom.
And as for “more than 25 dining experiences,” who is going to remember any more than two or three on a typical seven-day cruise? What are you supposed to do with 25 (or more) – eat four meals a day? The mind positively boggles.
But then, in the big-ship world of cruising, we seem to be in an era when gimmicks, not quality, rule the day. It’s all about having 10 water slides that spin off the side of the ship and drop you into some kind of foaming torrent that rattles your fillings and threatens to remove your swimsuit.
We blame the government, of course. If they hadn’t made it so damn imperative to get out of the country these days, there wouldn’t be such a demand for cruising, and cruise lines wouldn’t be so quick to dream up such wild on-board ideas. Bumper cars. Really.
It is the logical conclusion, though, of a movement away from anything vaguely resembling tradition, a progression we can only lament as the latest signs of the Apocalypse, and those dreadful mobile phones that buzz, ring and even gyrate for their owner’s attention.
When we travel, it is to avoid the idea of the real world and people who insist on talking to us (or, worse, who want to sell us a timeshare in Outer Mongolia, or similar). Ships were meant to be isolated, cut off from the land and everything that goes with it. They are our haven, a retreat from the everyday world of 24-hour news and that other ghastly by-product of six bazillion TV channels, namely reality TV.
Next thing you know, someone from a reality programme will be president or something.
But we digress. With Tenny having taken his first cruise in 1969, a 21-day jaunt from Durban in South Africa to Southampton, there was always enough to do with shuffleboard, and deck quoits, and pool games, and ballroom dancing classes. There were zero bumper cars and just one restaurant, and that was plenty.
Meals were to be savoured, not treated like some sort of assault course where you have to fit in “25 or more experiences.” Ye gods, the very idea is enough to give us chronic indigestion.
No, when it comes down to it, if we want gimmicks and “activities”, we’ll go to Southend, or Blackpool. Or Las Vegas, as large parts of Las Vegas seem to have been transplanted on to cruise ships these days.
In all seriousness, it’s simply preposterous. When it comes to taking a holiday, our opinion is you should return from it completely relaxed, carefree and de-stressed. We have enough frenetic activity in our daily lives these days. Just going to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop can be tantamount to running the gauntlet of hyper-tension. It can be bumper trolleys in Aisle 7 just trying to find the bloody strawberry jam.
Therefore, when the captain says “Weigh anchor!” and we putter out of port, the last thing we want to do is take part in anything that reminds us of being back on land, which is what go-karts, zip-lining courses, ice-skating rinks and rock-climbing walls all do.
The only climbing we’re interested in is of the social variety, while ice should be confined to our drinks and zip-lines are what we get when we sit around in our Sunday best for too long.
As we’ve said before (and will no doubt be forced to utter again in future whenever confronted with this misguided idea of cruising as a theme-park-at-sea), ships were meant to be the ultimate getaway, not the Norwegian Getaway, or whatever is the sea-going gimmick of the month.
The only gimmick we can ever envisage is a sun-lounger that propels us from our cabin to the promenade deck, and back. With a built-in gin and tonic dispenser. Now there’s an idea to conjure with. Are you listening, cruise world….?
Treadwell & Tenny