THE DISABLED Carnival Triumph, carrying about 3,200 passengers and another 1,000 crew, was a visual slight to the carefully cultivated image of cruise vacations. There were no happy faces, only nautical imprisonment for five days without power. The stories of clogged toilets, scarce food, and potential viral outbreaks were captivating exactly because the doomed boat was close enough to shore to be photographed from helicopters but too far out to be rescued.
But this was not a disaster, however much it reached the “yuck” threshold. The questions about Carnival’s conduct and why passengers were not rescued by passing boats are the wrong ones. The lesson of the Triumph episode isn’t about the inconvenienced passengers. It is about the size of the boats, which are so large that evacuation becomes only a last resort. They are, literally, too big to bail.