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Behold, Royal Caribbean International’s new ship, Icon of the Seas. Well, okay, but icon of what, exactly, of the seas? Of the wretched excess that the cruise industry is sending forth to sail the oceans blue?  I remind you: societies build their most extravagant monuments just before they collapse. This looks like the perfect vehicle for partying at the end-of-the-world (that is, the world as we know it). This monstrosity is so huge — equivalent of a 20-story building — that the promoters say it has “neighborhoods.”  Below is the Royal Bay Pool in the new “Chill Island neighborhood.” Very posh, indeed. Excludes all the waddling, land-whales of the lower decks with their slushies and burritos in-hand.

Below: the ship’s Thrill Island Waterslide neighborhood, looking a little bit like the gastro-intestinal system of someone who subjected themselves to six days of round-the-clock, all-you-can-eat buffets.

This beast sets sail in January of 2024. Ask yourself: what sort of economy supports a venture like this? And what if it isn’t there anymore when this thing is ready to launch?

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

46 Responses to “September 2023”

  1. Freddie September 6, 2023 at 11:11 am #

    That’s amazing!
    And big enough to contain several different unique strains of Legionaire’s disease, no doubt.

  2. par4 September 6, 2023 at 11:18 am #

    Quite a target for pirates.

    • ron September 6, 2023 at 12:53 pm #

      I sure hope I’m wrong, but I’d bet there’s not a single rifle on that ship.

    • DaveO907 September 6, 2023 at 2:53 pm #

      Unless landing commando-style from helicopters, they could never get aboard—and if they did, they’d get lost.

  3. RD3 September 6, 2023 at 11:24 am #

    “I remind you: societies build their most extravagant monuments just before they collapse.”

    Yep. Look at Las Vegas.

    • ron September 6, 2023 at 12:53 pm #

      That collapse sure is a long time coming!

  4. Frankenstein Government September 6, 2023 at 12:45 pm #

    No doubt. This is a “jumping the shark” sort of moment.

    You couldn’t drag me onto that Wonka Chocolate Factory meets Las Vegas floating casino.

  5. stonned September 6, 2023 at 1:22 pm #

    Should be renamed….

    USS Goyim

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  6. JR September 6, 2023 at 2:02 pm #

    With 40+ years of service of the U.S. Merchant Marine and now retired, I will be the first to tell you that this ship and all like it are disasters waiting to happen.

    1st you have 8,000+ people confined to this small space with nowhere to run should an accident at sea occur.

    2nd you have 5,600 people with English as a primary language and a crew from the 3rd world who speak English only as a secondary language, if they speak English at all.

    3rd, think COVID or any other airborne virus, Ventilation is all enclosed with at best 15 to 20% air drawn from outside in any one air-handling room. They could never keep the inside air cool operating in the tropics if they didn’t limit the outside air intake. It only takes one passenger or crew member to spread a virus throughout the vessel. I’ve seen the same with a common cold on a Merchant vessel with a crew of 20 to 30 members and a good percentage catch it from one new crew member.

    I could go on and on but believe me, I’d never go on a ship like this.
    JHK’s instincts are right on, I think he may have been a sailor in the past!

    • DaveO907 September 6, 2023 at 2:38 pm #

      Hello brother JR. I too have been to sea, born into and on her with commercial fishing my mainstay, and 10 years merchant marine to finish it off.

      Even in port. Even in port…

      My comment from this article / video: “Britannia Breaks Free Due to High Winds in the port of Palma de Mallorca”

      This cracks me up, that is has me shaking my head. They have built a bridge too far in trying to cram so many onboard. First of all, they are obscenely grotesque, disproportional and intrusive on any scenic place, including ports. Having watched the cruise ship industry invade Alaska (and its legislature) for the past 50 years, I am strongly opinionated.
      Practically speaking: duh! they’re a big sail. At some point when an unexpected wind burst comes up another one will fly away. I don’t care how many lines are affixed, something will give at some point. Gayronteed!


      • JR September 6, 2023 at 9:19 pm #

        DaveO, Great point, the sail area on this beast has to be huge! Even with bow thrusters coming into port and docking has to be a white-knuckle operation. I bet the various Pilot Associations along its’ port of calls would decline to pilot it in when there is more than a stiff breeze blowing.

        Took a closer look at the illustration and it looks like navigation bridge is behind some kind of greenhouse structure. I wonder how well they manage to darken that at night while underway. I remember crossing paths with the QE II leaving Columbo one evening in the late 1970’s. It looked like there was a sun rise coming up on the horizon and once in view it looked like daylight had arrived 8 hours early. I’d hate to be a Mate and have my Ticket posted in the license rack and be forced to command a watch when I had next to no night vision underway.


        • RobRhodes September 12, 2023 at 1:48 am #

          You can see the wings of the bridge way forward and below a lot of the light.

  7. DurangoKid September 6, 2023 at 2:16 pm #

    If there isn’t a sci-fi horror script in progress, I’ll start one.

    • JackStraw September 8, 2023 at 11:06 am #

      It cries for a disaster version ala Towering Inferno, etc.

    • Hated American September 27, 2023 at 10:52 pm #

      “Deep Rising” with Treat Williams was close.

  8. nclaughlin September 6, 2023 at 2:24 pm #

    Plus, embarking and disembarking. When I disembarked from a much smaller ship, we had to do it in shifts!

  9. DaveO907 September 6, 2023 at 2:51 pm #

    Good eye, Jim. These behemoths are obscene and eyesore is not a strong enough word. They dominate any land and seascape, they blot out nature and with this one they missed out when they didn’t name ‘it’ (not her) The Tower of Babel.

    The fact it has been allowed to be built at all is bearing witness to regulatory agency capture by the cruise industry, not only for stability viability, (my personal opinion,) and having port infrastructure capable of holding all of that mass securely. It can’t and won’t be done!

    Then we come to firefighting and I’m just left (based upon my 50 + years at sea and various merchant marine captain / mate licenses AND engineering too,) this thing could only be foam-blanketed from a wildfire-type aircraft, but that would not do anything for internal ship fires.

    Yes. This ‘thing’ is a bellwether for terminal grotesquerie, very dangerously so. Aesthetically speaking?
    McDonalds goes to sea.

    • hobnob September 6, 2023 at 3:02 pm #

      I did not know Hieronymus Bosch designed cruise ships.

    • pyrrhus September 7, 2023 at 10:22 am #

      All I can think of is that this monstrosity looks like it could capsize in any heavy weather and set a record for marine casualties…

      • SW September 11, 2023 at 12:49 pm #

        I don’t know anything about how they’d manage a ship this size but I’ve heard of rouge waves and what would happen if one hit this ship?

    • BackRowHeckler September 24, 2023 at 12:33 pm #

      I wonder what the tonnage on that ship is? Also, how much did it cost to build? I wonder if it could be used to transport troops to Europe if the need arises like the Queen Mary was used in WWII? Altho, what a target it would make for enemy submarines.

  10. Teufelhunden September 6, 2023 at 3:03 pm #

    There’s not enough alcohol on that grotesque behemoth to get me aboard. It just doesn’t look very seaworthy. A bit frail and very vulnerable I say.

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    • MaryQueen September 6, 2023 at 7:18 pm #

      Yeah there is not enough money in the world to pay me to get on that thing.

  11. FGB3 September 6, 2023 at 3:05 pm #

    Maybe it’s like the optimistic plans some governments have for continuing their support for Ukraine. But when the ballyhooed F-14s finally arrive, will they still find a functioning Ukraine?

    I had reckoned Covid-19 psy-op had at last killed this industry but apparently not.

    Maybe the people behind this idiocy have already gotten their money out of it, which is how it got built. Now the people who have to operate it for a profit are behind the 8 Ball. They’d better have the talent of a Willie Mosconi.

  12. ATZ942 September 6, 2023 at 3:35 pm #

    This boat is as grotesque as Don tRump’s toupee and orange skin. No doubt he’s Invested in it.

  13. TLH September 6, 2023 at 3:50 pm #

    Can’t wait for the movie!

    Where do you suppose they hide the life rafts for 8000 people?

  14. Dr. Coyote September 6, 2023 at 3:56 pm #

    Two thoughts:

    (1) When I glanced at that first picture my eyes ignored the Icon because it didn’t look anything like a ship. Instead they locked on the Titanic and I thought “huh, kind of retro, but at least it looks like a ship.” Then I looked again.

    (2) I don’t want to go to sea on anything that references the Titanic. Not something that floats, that goes underwater (intentionally or unintentionally), or even stays tied to the dock. And after this past Burning Man weekend, not even out in the Nevada desert.

  15. docmartin September 6, 2023 at 4:09 pm #

    The horror

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  16. Zoltar September 6, 2023 at 5:13 pm #

    When visiting some of the destinations of these monsters its very important to know when they one will be in port, to avoid a sudden glut of thousands of cruise ship passengers in scenic towns not designed for such numbers.

  17. John September 6, 2023 at 5:41 pm #

    Smelling a handful of well composted horse manure. Is a far greater pleasure than spending a week on the SS Apocalypse.
    Actually well composted manure is one of life’s great pleasures with few comparables.

  18. MaryQueen September 6, 2023 at 7:19 pm #

    It looks like a floating Smart City.

    Big pass.

    • Blackbird September 7, 2023 at 11:05 pm #

      It’s just about the last place, on this planet, or off, I’d want to go…

      But we Americans don’t want to leave the U$ behind as we travel abroad. In fact, we distill our hedonistic, narcissistic, and solipsistic “culture” to toxic levels in order to smuggle it in with our carry-on baggage.

      Why not just stay at a Motel 6, next to a casino, with a tanning and massage parlor across the street?

      “Yeah, I was in… Cancun/Ibiza/Tibet/Mars… It was a lot like Orlando.”

  19. tom clark September 6, 2023 at 8:47 pm #

    My little rowboat is looking more comfy every day. I’m proud to be an Amerikan.

  20. Chris at Fernglade Farm September 7, 2023 at 7:30 am #

    Hi Jim,
    The thing is so tall, I’m wondering how stable it would be and perform during extreme weather? Or what about one of those monster rogue waves? Whatever else, you can say about it, the thing is big.
    Cheers. Chris

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  21. izzy September 7, 2023 at 9:51 am #

    Next port of call: Davy Jones’ Locker

  22. tucsonspur September 7, 2023 at 4:26 pm #

    One wonders how many ‘whales’ or high rollers or big spenders would usually be on board this craft of cushy conglomeration, this dazzling dreamboat, this lavish and louche oversized ‘Love Boat’.

    No, it is absolutely, definitely not the ‘Essex’, meant to hunt and kill whales rather than pamper and coddle them like this vessel while they indulge themselves in waterfalls of frivolity and other high seas hi-jinks. Oh, there’s an ocean out there?

    To those with some sense of the history of the old whaling days and while in a more reflective moment, consideration just might be given to how much blubber was presently on board this ‘Icon’ and how many actual ocean dwelling whales it would take to achieve such tonnage.

    I think of Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ and the inherent indolence of this so called ‘Icon of the Seas’. I think of Magellan’s ‘Trinidad’, of Drake’s ‘Golden Hind’, and the caravels of Columbus. I think of Darwin’s ‘Beagle’ and the USS Constitution. The ‘Amerigo Vespucci’. Warships and freighters. Each ship with a goal and a purpose and sometimes that purpose is pleasure and/or adventure, but here we have the usual puerile pleasures and maybe the adventure of finding the poker room in the casino.

    Take the SS United States, the Titanic, as examples. Having pleasure and comfort while crossing the oceans is one thing, but frolicking in an oversized, juvenile, showboat playground on one of these bacchanalian behemoths is another. While the Titanic may have been opulent, it wasn’t frivolous or gaudily flamboyant like this beast.

    It really is a cargo ship from stem to stern, carrying society’s excess and reckless indifference about as far as they can go while needing no navigational aids, since its course is already dead set directly into the Die-Centennial.

    • tucsonspur September 11, 2023 at 6:19 pm #

      …. this colossal craft of cushy immoderation

  23. Eric in MD September 8, 2023 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi James!

    I’m remember nded of Toontown in who killed Roger rabbit. Except it is not a real organic place. As you wrote about decades ago how suburbia is a cartoon town with fack shutters etc.

    This is just the “logical”, for lack of a better word, endgame of the cartoon in which we live.

  24. Chris September 9, 2023 at 4:05 am #

    I remember being an Ensign on a WW II amphibious ship (the kind that supported the landings of U.S. Marines on islands like Iwo Jima) during a typhoon (what we call a hurricane in the Western Hemisphere) in the Philippine Sea in 1962. The ship was kept headed into the sea (or wind) and no one was allowed out on the main deck for over a day. Very scary! No mistakes allowed. Imagine this cruise ship caught in a similar situation and one of its main engines fails. It begins to turn broadside to the wind (and sea) before the engineering department can restart the engine. You engineering types out there might say that this is unlikely, but I’d prefer to be somewhere else.

  25. John K September 9, 2023 at 8:57 am #

    To paraphrase the great Bill Burr: I don’t understand how something that big, made out of metal, can float. How can you have a pool on a boat? You dug a hole in the boat, you filled it with water, you have fat people going in it — that’s game, set, and match!

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  26. My Point of View September 11, 2023 at 5:13 pm #

    Why doesn’t one of our glorious free enterprise corporations use one of our many abandoned shopping malls to build the equivalent experience here in the USA rather than spend billions on floating factories? Not enough tax breaks?

    Phoenix or Las Vegas would be great locations where people could get away for a week of escapism. There’d be dietary excesses, drinking, gambling, shows, movies, pools, waterslides, shopping, pistol range, bumper cars, climbing walls, gyms, running tracks, hair – nail – skin salons, massages, etc. Anything you can stuff into a ship’s hull you can put in a building on dry land. The trick is putting it all in one spot, along with the hotel rooms, to keep visitors from going out in traffic.

    I did a couple of cruises back in the 1980s, nice, but won’t go again, especially on one of these floating cities. I didn’t like that these operators are foreign firms using 3rd world labor and paying little if any taxes here while we spend a fortune building port facilities. Many of the shore excursions delivered people to shopping opportunities like the straw markets. It reminded me of Disneyworld in Florida, the exit doors from the show you just saw dumped you into a souvenir shop themed on that show. Disney is about the greediest corporation we have.

    Like most other stuff I see going on in the USA, we’re the biggest suckers in the world, paying through the nose to make others wealthy. For a case in point, know that Saudi Arabia has large land holdings here in Arizona where they pump our aquifers dry to grow alfalfa which they ship back to Saudi Arabia to feed their dairy cattle. Suckers? You betcha.

    I could go on and on. Essentially we’re doomed unless we overhaul congress to get Citizens United money out of our politics. Until then, money talks and the rest of us can go eat mud and die.

  27. RobRhodes September 12, 2023 at 1:56 am #

    When some inventive sailor first installed a simple steam engine on his sailing ship he might have thought “What could possibly go wrong?” This ship is the punchline.

  28. holdfastspike September 13, 2023 at 3:54 am #

    wow so much negativity for the best way to end civilization by experiencing the most extravagant thing an average american can do.i went to Europe last summer aboard the Queen Mary 2 New York to Hamburg, 9 days of genteel decadence floating across the Atlantic in the last great Ocean Liner, no cramped jet lag for me thank you. i spent June gracefully traveling by train through Germany to Prague then within minutes i was in Venice for the month of July boating and walking through the melting ruins of a gorgeous sinking city then on to Florence in the fastest train I’ve ever been for the month of August eating and drinking the Renaissance while brushing off begging African pests as i purchased a magnificent 300 euro bottle of parfum from aquaflor, drinking wine, and gazing upon the greatest marbles and paintings of human endeavor. do not bemoan the end of western privilege, revel in it! cry havoc! and unleash the end of it all !!!

  29. Chippenhook September 15, 2023 at 4:55 pm #

    Admittedly I know nothing of ship design but when I look at these mega cruise ships they look so top heavy that I envision them a Poseidon Adventure waiting to happen.


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