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Cruises: trials

     My lifelong concern has been the vision any country has of the world. Among the sources of that vision are the visits of foreign travelers. A remarkable modern phenomenon is that, liners no longer being used for trans-Atlantic passage, ever more luxurious ones are catering to the tourist trade. What does that do to the image of the United States?
     Most cruises are expensive and attract the affluent. Some, like those organized by the Stanford Alumni Association, target the educated. Those who go with biologist Donald Kennedy and geologist Frank Rhodes on a cruise to Patagonia next year will see some of the most primitive people in the world. In 1831 Charles Darwin went through the same area as the unpaid botanist-geologist of the tiny HMS "Beagle." We shall know what the alumni thought of the natives. More important is: What will the natives think of the alumni? We trust they will be properly awed.
     Unfortunately not all cruises bear such enlightened cargo. The man in charge of cruises is a director, an impresario whose task it is to keep the guests entertained. One eminent WAISer was recently lecturer on a cruise liner whose director acted like a mad lout. The cruise company put out travel literature full of schoolboy howlers.
     Some cruises are little more than floating casinos and brothels, arousing indignation and greatly harming the image of the United States. The major cruise lines, which had discouraged passengers from complaining to authorities, recently agreed to report to the FBI any crimes involving U.S. citizens. That covers just crimes, not loutish behavior. The Caribbean islands are a favorite cruise haunt. Despite the money they bring, the islanders are generally envious and resentful.
     Moral: Stick with Stanford Alumni Association cruises.

Ronald Hilton - 07/28/99