WASHINGTON DC-Representatives of Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruises, Disney Cruises and other cruise services are reportedly bidding for the U. S. Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, for use as a flagship cruise ship.
While the idea of a warship---much less one with a landing deck over 1,120 feet long-might not like the ideal vessel for any company which specializes in cruises to warm-weather destinations, along with on-board water parks, five-star restaurants and cabarets, the USS Enterprise would be able to solve many of the current problems which have plagued the cruising industry in recent years.
"If we get another outbreak of norovirus or some unknown malady, at least we'll have the sick bay facilities on board to treat almost everyone," said Ann Cient-Mariner, speaking for one of the companies. "If we have too many casualties, we'll be able to take them away with a borrowed Lockheed C-130 Hercules which can take off and land on the flight deck."
The flight deck would also serve as a place for a floating amusement park. Among the rides would be inflatable bounce houses, water slides, a roller coaster and even a laser-tag game. But the primary attraction would be the catapults and arresting gear.
Turn such equipment and aircraft into a ride-"and you've got a trip on a trip which you'll never forget," Cient-Mariner said. "There's nothing like being shot off an aircraft carrier, pulling some Gs, going supersonic, doing loops, dives and spins and making a sudden stop upon catching the right wire! As they said at the old Western Airlines, it's the only way to fly!"
Aside from the catapult and arresting gear, the USS Enterprise has another advantage for cruisers-eight nuclear reactors. Unlike the Carnival Triumph, which lost power due to an engine room fire last year, the chances for passengers and crew doing without lights, working toilets, air-conditioning and freshwater showers would be practically nil, noted Cient-Mariner. "We would have backups for backups," she said.
There is the problem with the reactors, however. Cient-Mariner noted there was always the chance passengers and crew could be exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation. Were that to be the case, passengers might leave a cruise with diarrhea, convulsions, fever or in a coma. "Then we'd be worried," Cient-Mariner said.
Another problem for any cruise company which succeeds in buying the USS Enterprise, along with any other surplus nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, would be how to make ports of call. Given the size of the USS Enterprise, along with the nuclear reactors on board, finding a place for the carrier-turned-cruise liner will be far more difficult than with the Oasis of the Seas or the Royal Princess.
"Whoever obtains that ship will have to stick to places which are familiar with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers-such as San Diego, Norfolk or Pearl Harbor," noted Audie Bahn, a spokesperson for the GreenFirst! Environmental organization. "GreenFirst will not allow a nuclear-powered cruise ship to be docked wherever people, homes and endangered species would be present."
Cient-Mariner said that the cruise industry would confirm with the requests of organizations such as GreenFirst! "But we'd be willing to give them a discount to watch some killer whales, great white sharks or dolphins, if they ask," she said.
A couple of things remain to be worked out, in addition to the problems with the nuclear reactors. First of all is cost. Employees have all been asked to buy Powerball® lottery tickets and go to Las Vegas, Nassau or Atlantic City and try to strike it rich. The winnings would go to fixing up the USS Enterprise. Investor Warren Buffett has also been invited to participate as well.
The ship would have to have to be modified as well. Portholes and picture windows would have to be cut into the hull of the ship. "We don't need to be dealing with cases of claustrophobia," Cient-Mariner said. "Our passengers, crew and management will have enough to worry about."
"But hey, the prospects of a giant aircraft carrier turned cruise liner-I can't stop thinking about the novelty of cruising on a carrier, the thrill of danger, the rides, the Tom Clancy and Stephen Coonts fans booking passage, the stories in USA Today and the money. Especially the money!!!! Oh and whoever wins only has to buy fuel every quarter-century or so."