A luxurious petri dish

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A luxurious petri dish

The author is the head of the sport team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

On April 9, 2005, the port of Busan was in a festive mood as the biggest cruise ship made a port call. The 115,875-ton Sapphire Princess was 290 meters (951 feet) long, 50 meters wide, and 62.5 meters high. The ship has a sister named Diamond Princess. The Diamond Princess cruise ship made a port call in Busan in October 2005.

Wait, the name sounds familiar. It is the ship berthed at the Port of Yokohama as the passengers and crew were quarantined due to the new coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Among 3,700 people onboard, nearly 400 have been tested positive for Covid-19 as of Feb. 17.

Since the Age of Discovery, demands for transporting people and goods between continents have surged. In the 19th century, the age of ocean liners began. RMS Titanic was a passenger liner that sank during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912. The age of ocean liners ended as jumbo passenger jets appeared in the 1960s.

In the meantime, shipping companies looked for a new business angle and changed the paradigm of sea travel from transportation to entertainment. And cruise trips began. Ships like Queen Mary, which undertook its maiden voyage in 1936, were halfway between ocean liners and modern cruise ships.

As cruises became popular, American broadcaster ABC began airing “The Love Boat” in 1977. Cruise ships are equipped with hotel-class guest rooms, various restaurant options, shopping malls, theaters, casinos, sports and entertainment facilities. Passengers can enjoy 24 hours without getting off at the ports of call.

The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that 30 million people traveled on cruises last year worldwide, and there are over 300 cruise ships in operation by more than 50 companies. Nearly half of the cruise lines in the world are concentrated in the Caribbean (32 percent) and the Mediterranean (17 percent). The largest cruise line in the world is Carnival Cruise, which owns Diamond Princess and had 42.8 percent market share as of 2018.

Cruise ships are categorized into “casual, premium and luxury” based on the number of crew members and tonnage per passenger.

The Diamond Princess is a premium cruise ship. In Korea, cruise trips used to be associated with luxury travel. Now, a petri dish comes into my mind first. Luxury is useless when it comes with the virus.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 18, Page 29
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