Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sailing Close To The Wind

On the subject of cruising, shortly before our departure Today Tonight did a hatchet job on Brisbane-based Pacific Star.

Although Nicky and I didn't see the story we were keenly aware of the affect it had on other passengers and the crew.

From what we learned, hidden camera footage was taken of young people drinking and partying.

The story inferred that Pacific Star was little more than a floating hellfire club.

First time passengers we spoke to were understandably nervous after seeing the report, more experienced travellers were angry - what was shown on screen bore no resemblance to their previous journeys. Indeed Today Tonight acknowledged that some of the footage shown was faked.

For the crew, this was the first cruise since the story broke. Tentative jokes made by the cruise director at the sail away party were met with enthusiastic shows of support and from there the mood lightened.

After a little further investigation by the redoubtable Nicky discovered the extent of ill-feeling towards Today Tonight and the depths to which the show plunged in order to get its piece of sensation.

First of all, the self-selecting nature of the cruise means that the standard behaviour of the guests is generally higher than the typical nightclub. Indeed despite reputations as bon vivants, staying out after 2am is a novel experience for Nick and I. Yet despite this, there was no air of hostility or underlying violence that one recalls from youth.

The truth of the matter is events on cruise ships are carefully organised.

Yes people imbibe, certainly more than usual, however they are on holidays and they are certainly not short of food to eat. Contrast this with a typical night on the town of your average twentysomething.

In fact if a staff member feels that a person is drunk, their cruise card (their onboard ID and 'cash card') is restricted to non-alcoholic purchases only for 8 hours. Highly visible security staff are attentive and friendly yet we did not see them have to use their authority at all.

Everyone onboard, including the rather engaging skirt-chasing young men whom we befriended, were uniformly well-mannered.

What we did learn is security had their eye on the Today Tonight cameraman. The unnamed male, aged between late 30s to early 40s, had been noticed hanging around people 15 to 20 years his junior until 5am each night of the cruise. This man did not drink but spent most of his time filming the youngsters.

Certainly suspicious behaviour but nothing which can be done without a complaint.

Of course pleasure cruising is newsworthy particularly in the light of the Dianne Brimble inquest and from all account P&O have put a number of procedures in place since the woman's unfortunate death in 2002.

The question is what procedures do the media have in place to ensure fair, honest and accurate reporting?

M&M cocktail recipe
1/2 oz hazelnut liqueur (frangelico)
1/2 oz creme de cacao
Serve straight up in a shot glass.
For a longer drink blend ice, milk and M&Ms, add frangelico and creme de cacao. Finish with whipped cream and some whole M&Ms.
-- Nora

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