Ah – not a prologue! We’re into the novel! Great!

PART ONE

Inferno

Clip art. Damn it.

OKAY. Imagine, if you will, a small toy boat, floating in your bathtub, with a rather ostentations circular dinner plate balanced on top of it, overhanging the comparatively tiny hull on all sides in what, this humble not-an-engineer would assume, is not a particularly stable way for a luxury cruise ship to attempt. And then, on top of the plate, five progressively smaller plates. Okay, you’re there.

There’s a plan view too, just to underline the concentric nature of this ocean-going marvel. It’s called “Emerald Dolphin”. Presumably the christening ceremony involved not just a champagne bottle but the use of a twelve-sided die and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Your Majesty?

“I dub you the good ship…” [rolls] “…Emerald…” [rolls again]

Moving on. We are now halfway though 2003, not to mention the South Pacific Ocean, and following the news in sentence one that the ship is utterly doomed we are treated to several pages of clunking description detailing just what a damn impressive ship she is and no mistake.

The luxurious cruise ship Emerald Dolphin was on fire and no-one on board had an omen, a premonition, not even the slightest trace of suspicion of the danger. Yet flames were slowly devouring the interior of the ship’s wedding chapel, located amidships just forward of the sumptuous shopping village.

That’s not line one there either. Already the trend towards the needlessly repetitive is firmly entrenched, alongside the laboriously over-detailed. The second paragraph cuts quickly to the point, that the ship’s emergency systems have failed and none of the crew are aware of it – good good – but the pages following read like they were pasted straight from the celebratory brochure, listing dining rooms, bars and lounge areas, ballrooms, nightclubs, a casino and a (thousands of miles off) Broadway theatre, plus that “two-city-block long” shopping avenue. And –

The sports deck featured a short four-hole golf course read “all par 2”, Olympic-sized half swimming pool, quarter basketball court and a huge workout gym treadmill.

Actually, a treadmill is probably the only thing they don’t have in there, since –

Except for the outside promenade decks, there was little demand for walking. Escalators, moving ramps and walkways spread throughout the interior of the ship. Glass-enclosed elevators were spaced throughout the decks within a short stroll.

And old people. I bet there’s lots of old people.

Not to mention seventy-eight million dollars of fine artworks by Jackson Pollack, name check, name check and name check, plus bronze sculptures by name check…

The marine architects of the Emerald Dolphin had gone over the top creating ultramodern glitz … Glass in wildly different colours abounded throughout the ship. Chrome, brass and copper swirled on the walls and ceilings. All the furniture was created by contemporary artists and celebrity interior designers. Unique lighting created a heavenly atmosphere, or at least the designer’s comprehension of heaven as described by those who’d died, gone there and were then revived.

So, a heavy emphasis on tunnels of light and, coincidentally, dead relatives it would seem. Now imagine all that pitching in the ocean swell for hours on end, if you will. Urp. Could I interest you in a raw egg, sir? Arp. Clean up on Moving Ramp Twelve, please, Moving Ramp Twelve.

What about the passengers, though? All this luxury, but I bet the rooms are poky little things, miserable cells with narry a porthole…

The staterooms were circular, with no sharp corners well, duh. They were all spacious and exactly alike – there were no small inside staterooms or penthouse suites on the Emerald Dolphin. The designers did not believe in class distinction.

Sounds like it. No doubt they’ve learned all the lessons that Titanic had to offer.

The furniture and decor looked like something out of a science-fiction movie. The beds were raised, with extremely soft mattresses, beamed with soft overhead lights. For those on a first or second honeymoon, mirrors were mounted inconspicuously in the ceiling and for those not, tough. Fake it. The bathrooms had built-in chambers that dispersed mist, spray, rain or steam amid a jungle of flowering tropical plants that looked as though they’d been grown on an alien planet. Sailing on the Emerald Dolphin was an experience unique among cruise ships. The designers did not believe in class distinction.

The ship designers also understood where their future passengers would be coming from, and fashioned the ship in the image of the affluent young. The designers did not believe in class distinction. Many were well off doctors, attorneys and entrepreneurs of small and large businesses. Most brought their families. The designers did not believe in class distinction. The single passengers were in the minority. There was a fair-sized group of senior citizens who looked like they could well afford the finest money could buy. The designers did not believe in age distinction, as long as you had class. Or, at least, Money. And I told you there would be…

And yet this tasteful and understated gem (and presumably all the salt-of-the-earth types aboard her) is fated to die. Farewell, Emerald Dolphin. Apart from in all these vital specifics, we hardly knew ye. Fortunately, there’s still her sister ships though. The… [rolls]

Gypsum Porpoise. [rolls again]

And the Amethyst Manatee.

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