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Nathan's column: Vacation at the end of the world

I've never considered myself a cruise person. Being confined for days at a time with a large group of strangers -- even on a structure the approximate size of Rhode Island -- has just never seemed appealing.

It's not for a lack of effort on the part of cruise companies. Modern cruise ships are like civilizations all to themselves. They are floating worlds where passengers can ride waterslides, take exercise classes or see a show. I've been led to believe some of the less reputable lines have even dedicated to hunting the most dangerous game. You know what I mean, right? Machine-gun squirrels.

Many lines offer theme cruises. Film critic Roger Ebert for many years hosted a cruise for movie buffs. The website themecruisefinder. com, which is an actual thing, offers cruises for conservatives, wine lovers, even Dancing With the Stars fans.

Actually, now that I think about it, there are several reality television shows whose fans I would like to send away in a boat.

If you enjoy music, there are cruises fans of genres from classical to rock. Or, if you're less picky, "miscellaneous."

Perhaps nowhere, though, is there a theme cruise more thorough than Zombie Apocalypse tour Carnival Cruise Lines recently offered aboard its Triumph, perhaps the most ironic name ever for a vehicle.

Admittedly, the whole life-after-the-collapse-of-civilization vibe doesn't appear to have been intentional aboard the Triumph. A fire left the ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. As they waited for rescue, passengers were asked to relieve themselves into red plastic biohazard bags. Toilets overflowed. People were driven out of their cabins to sleep in hallways.

"People were crying," John Bjornstad, an Osceola, Wis., native who was on board the ship, told the Pioneer Press. "You went from having a great time to survival mode -- you weren't expecting it."

Just like the zombie apocalypse. All around the ship, people found themselves suddenly craving brains. And shuffleboard.

I've experienced my share of rough patches on vacation. Once, during a heavy rain, my hotel room in the Dominican Republic flooded. It was on the second floor. On another trip, not long after college, I lost the phone number of the friend who was supposed to pick me up from the airport shuttle. I walked all over Monterey, Calif., trying to track him down. I asked at the police station. I asked at an Army base. By the time I figured it out, he had given up on hearing from me and gone out for the night. I found a hotel nice enough to let me camp out on their couch until he finally showed up.

Still, the worst vacation mishap I've ever been associated with didn't actually happen to me. It was on a big, family trip to Spain. I arrived later than some of the other people, and I showed up to find my cousin encased in a solid plaster cast, arms stuck straight out like -- well, like a zombie, I guess. Apparently he had fallen off a cliff into the sea. Then dragged himself back up the rock face with two broken arms to find help. There was a lot of driving around then looking for a hospital. Thanks to the language barrier, the first stop turned out to be a nursing home.

But at least he didn't have to relieve himself in a bag.