There were eight shore excursions in fourteen days. For two weeks in July my mom and I depended on a cruise ship for our well-being, and the captain and crew delivered. So much could have gone wrong, but it was a well-oiled machine. They fed us, kept us healthy and entertained, organized everything, and provided space for us to do nothing if we wished. I have confidence that plans were in place for any contingency, to keep all three thousand of us alive and as comfortable as possible. The camaraderie I felt among those sharing the ship seemed mutual.
The veil of civilization may be as thin on a ship as it is on land, but it felt a little thicker as we could plainly see we were far out at sea, pretty much on our own, and we all just wanted to have fun. We weren’t the only ship on the circuit, however. There was an even larger ship not far behind us, which we saw at the ports.
For me it was a relief to be out of the dry, smoky heat of the North Valley and out on the humid, warm Caribbean with just the sea all around and occasional islands in sight. During the shore excursions I got a sense of what it’s like to live on an island. St. Thomas didn’t get the media attention or recovery funds, I was told, that Puerto Rico received, but they were slowly recovering from last year’s hurricane. St. Maartin, not a U.S. territory, fared worse and may have been hit harder. There the devastation to the homes and hotels from Hurricane Irma has many people living in open ruins still. The beaches remain gorgeous, and the people living there are doing the best they can. They seem to appreciate the arrival of the cruise ships.
Back in Paradise for a week now, I find our ridge is like an island, or else we’re all cruising, all 27,000 of us in Paradise, plus those in the upper decks, Magalia and Stirling City.
With smoke all around, our sister ship Redding is besieged by fire, devastation, and loss of life. We know we could be next, but I have faith that the help showing up for Redding would be there for us too. There are plans, mechanisms in place to keep us alive and as comfortable as possible.
It is with that confidence that I continue to live in Paradise, knowing that the professionals – the firefighters, police, national guard, and others who safeguard us – stand ready to assist. I don’t know how many more fires California and the West in general can take; yet, firefighters are well-connected, helping people regionally, even around the world. I see so many organizations and individuals doing everything they can to help those in Redding that my faith in humanity has jumped up a couple notches this past week.
That’s a good thing, to depend on one another for support, especially as we realize there may be no place safer to go. We must ride out each storm, whatever kind, and help each other deal with the outcome.
Maybe it has to do with getting older, but I get the notion from a growing number of academic sources that an Armageddon will happen in my lifetime. There could be a post-civilization, even post-human era starting in just a few years. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine global dystopia when I see how beautiful the world still is and how nice most people are to each other. We’re all voyagers, shipmates in a way, whether on land or at sea.
Cruisin' on Sea and Land was published in the Paradise Post on August 4, 2018.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.