The Cruise (for those of you fortunate enough to have missed it) is ITV’s recent attempt at a reality show in the style of Channel 4’s The Hotel. Whereas Channel 4’s take on the formula provides a dismal, scrambling look at the state of a failing hotel and its owner, ITV has opted for a monument to excess in the form of a cruise ship. The programme follows a largely unlikable cast of staff and the spoilt, “more-money-than-sense” (a friend’s words, not mine) guests which frequent the ship. This post is a slightly random part Marxist-fuelled rant, part review for my own sanity more than anything else. Hopefully other people agree that The Cruise left them them feeling despondent at the world in general (as some of the people I’ve discussed with did).
The documentary takes place on the colossal and bizarrely named Regal Princess ship, filled almost exclusively with abrasive individuals with far too much free time and even more money. The first episode introduces us to Rusty and Martha, two ‘frequent floaters’ (their own term) who spent about half of last year on the ship. The audience follows the pair as the entire ship is mysteriously abuzz with ecstasy at the upcoming “award ceremony” for most frequent passengers. Wealthy guest after wealthy guest talk about this event in terms similar to the olympics, all of them confidnent in some odd ability they seem to have invented when in reality all they need to do to “win” is spend money on tickets. The competition is almost explosive as the chosen few guests make their way to a hall where the ‘ceremony’ is to take place. Glares are shot about the room from passenger to passenger as they become visiblity frantic at the prospect of winning a bottle of champagne (which it would have been far less expensive to just buy and skip all of the pomp). None of the other privileged passengers stood a chance against our Rusty and Martha, who went to such odd lengths as to order themselves custom name badges in the style of the crew. This event really encapsulates the sort of privilege which the ship houses, as wealthy passengers compete with one another to prove who is the most wealthy. It was really bizarre to watch. Not to be too unkind, but these aren’t really the type of people I’d like to be locked on a ship with for weeks.
Following episodes echo this sense of pride in privilege. The most extreme is when certain “special” (read: rich) passengers are selected for the abolute honour of sitting at a different table at dinner time. I know what you’re probably thinking; what the devil could be so special that people would want to pay extra to sit at a different table with a load of other rich (probably not too pleasant, no offence) people. The secret is that what is essentially a curtain descends around the table. Encasing the excited diners in a veil through which they can see the shock and positive awe of the envious paupers looking on. The chosen ones revel in this spectacle and say how magical it is that they are the envy of the dining hall without any irony at how elitist and frankly, weird, they sound. “What I really enjoyed was the look on the other passengers’ faces” crows ones of the diners. Increasingly, being on a cruise holiday appears as a constant war for status with others. Between fighting for a hollow title and wanting to flaunt wealth in front of others, it must be hard work to keep up the ‘rich and obnoxious’ act for weeks.
There’s something about this show that is mesmerising. It’s a bit like how I watch horror films, my eyes are glued to the screen – but I definitely hate myself a little bit for sitting through a full half hour of The Cruise. If it was four hours long I probably would sit in horror and watch it for its entirety, and really question my life by the end. From the slight tragedy of the crew seemingly willing to step over each other to win employee of the month (“capitalism has everyone so ballsed up” was my initial reaction to my mother during this scene), to furious passangers exclaiming that they spent over £10, 000 on the cruise holiday so their luggage just shouldn’t have gotten lost for 2 days (apparently the two things are linked in some way). The staff on the ship do seem to take pride in their job; it’s just a total mystery to me how they manage to look at the excess and privilege of the often abrasive passangers on a daily basis without being tempted to sneak a backpack flamethrower on board . I do not envy them their job, but I’m thrilled they’re busy doing it so I won’t have to.
After watching four episodes, I really felt I needed a rant so congrats if you managed to make it all the way to the end of my tirade. Maybe I’m just reading too must into the vapid programme, but I feel like it really highlights how spoilt some people are, being able to sit at a table with a decoration that cost around £70, 000 just doesn’t strike me as something that particularly needs celebrating.