Adventure on the Cruise Ship “Splendor”—Really?

Candice Gaukel Andrews November 15, 2010 9

Writes Gide, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

When the Carnival cruise ship Splendor was towed into the San Diego Harbor late last week after being stranded off the coast of Mexico by an engine fire, many news reporters and bloggers commented that the 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew had endured an “adventure at sea.” As far as I know, however, none—during their short, three-day excursion—had scaled a mountain peak or swam with sharks or done anything else that usually conjures up the word adventure in our minds; or at least, would have called the term into play just a few decades ago.

It is true that those on the ship lived with no hot water, hot food, air conditioning or electrical power for several hours and some days. But have we become so drowned in comfort in recent years that doing without the luxuries of modern living for even 36 hours is cause for labeling an experience an “adventure”? Or is it because these inconveniences were suffered away from home that the incident took on the mantle of a heroic feat? In other words, is travel a necessary component for having an adventure? 

Hungry for adventure heroes

Does a rescue constitute an “adventure”? ©John T. Andrews

Much has been written about what the Splendor’s passengers were eating after the ship’s power failed. There were reports of hot dog salads, yogurt on bread served as dessert and the now-infamous Spam (although, Carnival staunchly denies that the Spam was ever served to the passengers). Yet according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, every day in America about 500,000 households suffer from hunger and more than a million of our children feel the stomach pains that come from not enough food to eat. More than 95 million Americans have no hot water, no electricity, no toilet, or no bathtub or shower. Yet no one would call the circumstances of their lives “adventurous.” The difference then, it would seem, between them and the Splendor’s passengers is that the hardships they suffer happen at home.

We saw the same sort of craving for far-flung stories of adventure—however flimsy—operating in the news media when 33 Chilean miners got caught a half mile deep underground for 69 days after their gold and copper mine collapsed. The deprivations they suffered—no electrical power, little light, small food rations and 23,000 feet of rock overhead—were dire to be sure. But does such an event qualify as an adventure?

It would seem today it does. A month after their rescue, the miners were being offered book contracts and movie deals for their “adventure” stories, as well as all-expenses-paid trips to see their favorite soccer teams in Europe. They demand—and get—thousands of dollars for interviews. Similarly, one passenger aboard the Splendor could be seen holding a banner that read “Next Stop: The Daily Show” as the boat was being pulled into port.

Is leaving home a requirement for adventure? ©Candice L. Andrews

The right stuff

For hundreds of years, poets and men and women of literature have pondered exactly what adventure is. Some have decided that leaving home is a requirement to having one, which would explain why the Splendor’s passengers and the trapped miners are regarded as adventurists and the poor, at home, aren’t. Author William Bolitho (1890–1930) once wrote, “Adventure must start with running away from home.” And André Gide (1869–1951), French writer, humanist, moralist and 1947 Nobel Prize winner for literature, once said “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Other thinkers, though, leave the necessity of being away from home out of any definition for the word adventure. Although he mentions travel, Wilferd Peterson (1900–1995) states that adventure may take many avenues: “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”

One relatively modern pundit and adventurer himself, Roald Amundsen (1872–1928), a Norwegian who explored Antarctica, doesn’t use distance from home as the ultimate measure for adventure. And with regard to the Splendor, especially, he may have hit the nail on the head when he said, “Adventure is just bad planning.”

Here’s to your adventures, in whatever corner of the world you find them,



  1. Judy Wheeling November 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    Adventure to me is classified as anything unknown. Life is an adventure. The miners in Chile certainly had an adventure considering most people that have ever been in that situation died. Hopefully despite the money and fame they are receiving they realize how lucky they are to have thier lives. The cruise ship simply turned into a camping trip but still, i’m sure, had a certain amount of fear and panic in the begining.

  2. Maggie D November 21, 2010 at 5:33 am - Reply

    I wonder if one actually sets out on an adventure, or is it rather that an adventure finds one when she set out in wonder. Maybe adventure, like beauty, is in the eye (or soul) of the beholder.

  3. Muriel S. November 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    I think I’ll take mine small, friendly, convenient and set for Nature’s adventures! I do question the mind set of someone who wants to go to sea with 3000 plus passengers. Maybe if it’s an aircraft carrier that would present a different adventure!

  4. Art Hardy November 17, 2010 at 8:05 am - Reply

    With true adventure a retelling of the experience usually sounds like, “I started off on my adventure…” or “My adventure began…”. There’s a certain amount of hope and planning involved in the expectation of adventure and it usually happens away from home. The vacationers on the cruise ship were expecting to float around in the lap of luxury and when their gourmet cuisine turned into Spam in a can it’s suddenly an adventure? I don’t think so.

  5. Carlyn November 17, 2010 at 1:45 am - Reply

    One of the definitions of adventure is “hazardous action of uncertain outcome”, so I guess one person’s adventure might be another’s ordeal.

  6. Rick Flores November 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    take me with, I’m ready for a good adventure !!!
    Love is all that matters !!!

  7. Sandy Gunderson November 16, 2010 at 7:50 am - Reply

    I personally don’t think it was much of an adventure. There was no risk, they had food, music, sunshine and the company of friends. I call it more of an inconvenience then an adventure. There are others much worse off then they were for those few days.

  8. Travis November 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Maybe they met some new people and had some measure of fear. That sounds like an adventure to me.

  9. NineQuietLessons November 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    I tend to agree with Wilfred Peterson’s view; you can have an adventure in your home city if you do something you wouldn’t normally do or go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Conversely, you can go halfway around the world and never set foot outside your comfort zone. Having an adventure is a state of mind more than anything else.

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