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Publication Title | SKIMMING THE SURFACE Dislocated Cruise Liners and Aquatic Spaces

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Cashman – Skimming The Surface



Dislocated Cruise Liners and Aquatic Spaces


Southern Cross University <>


Modern, highly facilitated and luxurious cruise ships provide a highly particular type of environment and a very particular placement within oceanic and harbour spaces. In these regards they may be understood as floating entities effectively removed from their locales or, rather, as removed as they can be, barring issues of technological failure, accident and/or intrusion of extreme weather or geo-physical phenomena. Conceptualised as ‘floating pleasure palaces’, they are less like islands (with their complex gradations of connection to and social engagement with aquatic and sub- surface topographic space) and (increasingly) more like hovercraft that skim across aquatic surfaces. Indeed, in many recent examples, the access to and connection with the marine space that provides the medium for and rationale of ‘the cruise’ is marginalised. This essay begins to theorise the rationale implicit in such disconnections.


Cruise ships, floating, aquatic spaces, aquapelago

I. Introduction

In a recent article, French geographer Christian Fleury (2013) engaged with Philip Hayward’s work on conceptualising the integrated relationship between (some) island communities and marine spaces in terms of “aquapelagic assemblages” (Hayward 2012a and 2012b) and identified the antithesis of this approach as being that of “the latest generation of passenger cruise ships” (2013: 1). His principal example was the Royal Caribbean Line’s ‘Oasis Class’ in which, he identified, “a great number of cabins do not have a view of the sea but open on to an inside passage almost 300 metres in length and lined with shops” (ibid). As he went on to assert, the design of these ships is “above all concerned with the surface of the sea, with what is immediately visible” and such ships “bear witness, albeit very incompletely, to the issues and conflicts in a space that should be considered in its verticality” (ibid). This essay examines and evaluates Fleury’s contention through a detailed consideration of the design and conceptual bases of large, modern cruise liners. My focus on modern ships does not so much suggest them as a radical departure from previous major liners, their design and environments, bur rather points to them as highly advanced


Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures

Volume 7 Number 2 2013 -1-

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