I have never understood the appeal of getting on a cruise ship. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel, and as I pilot, I love to fly. I have lived in several countries over the years and many more cities. All have been interesting experiences and I would encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zones and live other experiences.

Traveling makes for interesting stories and experiences.

In all my traveling adventures, traveling in huge planes, backpacking, using small planes, rickety buses and small fishing boats, I’ve never wanted to get on a cruise ship and I never intend to. Cruise ships have no appeal to me.

If I wanted to eat a five-star meal, I’ll frequent a restaurant. If I wanted to gamble, I’d visit Las Vegas or Monaco. If I wanted to be catered to, I would check into a hotel. If I want to visit a port of call, I’ll fly, drive or ride a bus to one.

In other words, cruise ships have nothing to offer me, that I can’t get anywhere else.

Which begs the question, why do people take cruise ships? Is it the idea that you get exotic places, five-star hotels and meals all inclusive in one package? I am not sure if that is the answer, but it would not surprise me.

But the little I know about the cruise industry is enough for me to not want to take one.

The pandemic has cemented the underlining reason why I won’t be taking a cruise ship, ever.

But before I get to that, let me share with you why I’ve never been interested in a cruise ship.

Cruise ships are cattle drives. Passengers eat at pre-selected times, partake of the entertainment on preselected slots and visit exotic places in groups of people being herded from one place to another like cattle are herded through the food troughs.

That’s not taking in exotic locations. That’s pretending to have visited an exotic location through carefully orchestrated and controlled environments where all decisions are made for the traveler.

That isn’t traveling, that is just immersive experiences pretending to be the real thing.

However, through all that is the underlining problem with the cruise ship industry in general, accountability, more like the lack of accountability.

As a pilot, I understand how and why it is important that the pilot in command has the last authority in any decision making while underway. For cruise ships, the same holds true, passengers are just along for the ride at the pleasure of the ship’s master.

Passengers on cruise ships give up all their rights.

But how is that different from airlines?

It comes down to the flag of convenience. Many airlines fly and operate under the rules of their countries. American airlines fly under their national flag. Mexican airlines fly under the Mexican flag. For me, on either carrier, it means that the standards of the airline and my ultimate ability to defend my rights lays at the feet of the country under which the airline is flagged.

In my case, Mexican and U.S. airlines meet my accountability needs. For some Americans, only American-flagged airlines would meet their standards.

But travelers can’t find cruise ships flagged under the United States flag. Why?

It is simple. The U.S. flag would put the ship under the authority of the United States government. Authority over healthcare, crew wages, passenger safety and many other safety issues many travelers take for granted.

The cruise ship industry argues that the flags on their ships are for conveniences such as port of calls and access to crew members. However, a University of Florida paper by Caitlin Burke clearly makes the case that cruise ship operators flag their vessels under other countries to avoid U.S. law.

I’ve discussed this issue with several friends over the years, especially when they have wanted me to go on a cruise with them and their response was generally that I make too much about an issue that likely won’t affect them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved my fears about the cruise ship industry for me.

Even though it has been about a month since governments issued orders to keep cruise ships from leaving ports with passengers, today there are between 5,000 to 6,000 passengers still at sea on about five cruise ships. That is in addition to the crew members stuck with them.

The passengers are unable to leave the ships. They are being held against their will because of the pandemic. Many of them are stuck in small windowless rooms with nothing but a small bathroom, a television and a bed. For weeks, many of the passengers are locked in their rooms with meals delivered to their doors. In other words, they were prisoners of the ships, many far from home.

Some passengers may have died on the ships because they were unable to get medical care in their own countries. It is possible we may never know if this is true because it is difficult to sue a cruise ship line in a U.S. courtroom.

Many of the cruise lines are now asking for handouts from the U.S. government to weather the economic chaos. Although flagged in other countries, the owners of the cruise ships are U.S. companies. Over 70% of cruise ship passengers are U.S. citizens.

Whether they get access to stimulus funds is something that we will know in the coming months.

But the fact that passengers on a cruise ship can be held against their will on ships outside the reach of the American government should give many would be travelers something to think about before taking a cruise in the future.

As for me, I will continue to resist being cattle in the herds of the cruise ship industry.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...