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Sibylle Berg

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But now it’s time for me to go back to my prison, and I’m ashamed of my inner voice. What’s so wrong about having a floating hotel waiting for us, almost like the rich-man’s yacht? The ship freshly cleaned, the sewage freshly and scientifically disposed of. This time, we stream frictionless back on board, and this time we all watch as the vessel casts off. A masterly performance. I start to think about all the bombastic damage some crazy bastard terrorist could do on such a boat, but luckily it’s dinnertime again. Now the people at the tables can talk even without alcohol. Groups have formed, likes and dislikes have been defined, and tonight a real tenor is performing in the theatre. The effort the travellers make to look good moves me; the performance of “Nessun dorma” is applauded, given a standing ovation. They have recognised something, these people. They have felt art. That night I almost feel part of the group.

Ports compete for the cruise ships, but it rarely pays off for them. Docks and other infrastructure are built for the mega-ships but often recoup only a fraction of the investment. The ships keep 50 percent or more of what passengers spend on shore excursions as commission. The trend is for companies to buy whole cruise ports, or build their own. And this eliminates any financial gain for the countries concerned. Here we see the creation of an outstandingly well-oiled, separate capitalist world. The concept of The World is already a few years old. On board this luxury liner, the very rich, who do not feel like owning a yacht or who cannot afford one that meets their requirements, can buy a piece of a yacht. There are 165 owner-occupied flats on board for 24,000 euros including one meal voucher. For price inquiries, contact www.aboardtheworld.com. Will this be the new world? Living on the water because we’ve destroyed the rest? Simply shifting mass tourism, vacation clubs, this concentrated all-inclusive crap onto the ocean because we’ve wrecked everything beautiful on land?

We don’t have to do this. We can say no, no matter how cheap it is. We can say, sorry, I’d rather not take a plane to get on a boat, clog the world with my shit, no thanks, you can keep your super special offer. If someone insists on dragging themselves around the sea in a prison, they can save up for a year and then go with a small local company, on a small ship, with a crew that’s paid properly. These mega-ships are human milking machines, environmental killing fields, and we don’t have to go along with everything just because it’s cheap. We could just keep quiet, stay at home, or go to a small hotel, somewhere in Italy: good grief, how hard is that?

And now. Checkout. After days of being completely high on round-the-clock extravaganzas, the masses are processed like lambs to the slaughter. Get your luggage to the door, get all those little slips of paper sorted, your bill will be in your mailbox, and you’ll find it includes a substantial “service charge.” Angry travellers line up and find out that they signed something somewhere, in the contract, at the bottom left. Presumably what they’re paying for with their little extra charges – in my case, sixty euros for three cups of coffee – are the wages of the crew from the developing countries. Outside is the sun, which we’ve almost forgotten about over the past few days in our dark monstrous box full of windowless bars, casinos and dancing, where you vanish and end up believing that this is the whole world, along with others who believe they are doing everything right, having fun, finally just having fun for once, letting themselves go, enjoying life, letting everything hang out, even their brains; and the sunsets, have you ever seen anything so beautiful? I am angry and there’s no point in that. Apparently I just need to get away. On a cruise. Endlessly travelling the world, the seven seas, losing myself in the entertainment programme, melting away in the jacuzzi, and going to sleep at night with my neon tubes.

Postscript:

In January 2016, for the first time, a cruise ship had to make for port because of suspected terrorists and explosives on board.