So last week, I was on a luxury cruise. And sitting in a hot tub, watching the Pacific Ocean roll by, mulling over what flavor of margarita I should order next, I felt a tremendous sense of peace.
For the first time in years, I was safe from the living dead.
You see, I live in Manhattan. New York has many things going for it–world-class museums, vibrant nightlife, and a subway system that you are legally allowed to pee in (I’m pretty sure). But one major disadvantage to living here is that I will most likely be devoured by flesh-eating zombies.
Think about it. All pandemics hit the major urban areas first and hardest. That was true even in the days of the Decameron, in which the frame story involves young Florentines fleeing the Bubonic Plague to a villa in the countryside. But when the zombies hit Manhattan, the odds of me getting a Metro-North ticket out of here are pretty slim. I’m probably going to end up dashing across a bridge, carrying my son and my XBox on my back, trying desperately to escape the tristate area before it becomes the DIEstate area. But I might not even get that far – in the pseudo-zombie film I Am Legend, the government quarantines Manhattan and blows up the bridges.
I could, of course, just stay put. If I lock my front door, I’m pretty sure the zombies aren’t getting in. (I live in East Harlem, where we take front doors seriously.) I’ve got plenty of canned food, and I could get plenty of clean water out of the tap before that goes kaput. I figure I could make it a month or two, no sweat. But staying put is really gambling that the government will be able to turn the tide and fight back the zombie menace, or release some sort of airborne cure, or organize some sort of massive rescue effort. And although I’m a proud Democrat, and I believe in the government’s ability to accomplish many things, I don’t have much hope that FEMA can take on a zombie horde before I run out of Easy Mac.
Actually, the zombies may never have a chance to get be. I wouldn’t be surprised if the military panicked and fire-bombed the entire city. I’ve seen Outbreak.
So living in New York, I’ve gradually come to accept my doom. The cruise ship was another story.
It is universally accepted that zombies don’t swim. I gleefully imagined the ship parked in New York harbor, with me on the deck taunting the hordes with my juicy, overthinking brain (in the fantasy, I have shaved my head for maximum taunting). I watch a seemingly endless stream of the living dead pour out of the financial district, stumble across Bowling Green, and fling themselves into the ocean, like so many decomposing lemmings. The zombies wouldn’t die underwater, but many would get tangled in the muck/industrial waste that forms the bottom of the harbor. In time, the zombies would form a massive pile at the shoreline, so that the new zombies would have to crawl over the squishy, bloated backs of the old zombies before they too rolled into the cold surf.
I suppose eventually, the zombies might potentially fill in all of New York harbor, like a writhing, moaning landfill. I can see myself standing on the Pool Deck, calmly watching their mad struggles as I sip my drink, perhaps playing an idle game of shuffleboard to pass the time. And then, finally, when the accumulated mass of a million zombies has reached the ship, so that I can hear their gray fingers clawing across my steel hull, I simply fire up the propellers and move the damn thing another hundred feet out.
Am I enjoying this fantasy too much? Is this weird?
But let’s get serious for a moment: there are a lot of practical problems to living on a cruise ship indefinitely. For starters, fuel. The Queen Elizabeth II probably has one of the largest tanks of any ship afloat, since it has to cross the Atlantic without running dry. According to this fact sheet, it consumes an ungodly 18.05 tons of fuel PER HOUR. One gallon will take it 49.5 feet. Amazingly, the ship holds enough gas to sail at top speed for 10 days, traveling about 7,800 miles. But after that, not only can’t the ship move anywhere, none of its mechanical systems will work. No lights. No fresh water production. No ice for the drinks, and no heat for the hot tub.
Of course, you probably wouldn’t cruise at top speed for ten days straight. You could anchor offshore, and just run the engines occasionally to make fresh water. Assuming you could pack it with nonperishable food before you cast off, you’d be set for months, if not years.
Except for one thing: pirates. You think piracy was a problem in 2009? After the zombie apocalypse, EVERYONE with a boat is going to be a buccaneer, sailing the high seas in search of booty. But in this case, “booty” means “food.” (Ironically, Pirates Booty will be more valuable than doubloons.)
A luxury cruise ship, sitting at anchor within sight of land, is going to be an irresistible target. The boat is going to be absolutely swarmed with would-be looters, like an antelope carcass in the Serengeti. You’re going to have to spend all day picking off desperate refugees trying to climb onto the Lido Deck, which is really not in the spirit of a luxury cruise.
However, there’s another type of vessel that solves both these problems: a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier. The 10 Nimitz boats are nuclear powered, capable of running for 20 years without refueling. Think about that – you could stay out in deep water for two DECADES, enjoying electricity, hot water, and whatever DVDs the fine men and women of the US Navy had brought with them before the zombie apocalypse. And as for potential pirates, first of all, you can stay out in the very most remote parts of the ocean. Most would-be looters aren’t even going to be able to make it that far away from shore. And for those who do try and start something, you’re on a goddamned aircraft carrier. That thing is armored plated, and probably full of assault weapons. I’m not saying that determined pirates won’t give it the old college try, but you will be a match for pretty much anyone, short of other military craft who really really want those DVDs.
However, I have to dismiss the Nimitz plan for one simple reason. There is no way you, me, or any private citizens are going to be able to seize control of an aircraft carrier. I’m pretty sure those things are well-defended. And when civilization starts crumbling at the seams, security is going to be of the “shoot anyone who comes within 200 feet of the pier” variety. Actually, what few carriers are actually on US soil at the time are probably going to cast off pretty quickly, sticking around just long enough to take aboard the President, Congress, and Meghan Fox.
So a cruise ship isn’t prepared to support itself for long periods of time, and an aircraft carrier is too hard to come by. Are you ready for my brilliant solution?
We prepare our own zombie survival cruise ship. Call it the HMS Romero.
I just wish to point out that googling for “amortization” and “zombies” produces nothing the least bit interesting.
The only problem with a boat is that you really have nowhere to go if there is an outbreak on board. Sure, you can have lifeboats, but unless there is someone out there to do a search and rescue, you’ll just float around until you die of exposure.
Not going to lie, i would be all over this if i could afford it. Blast poor student life. That and i would have a very hard time convincing the others to put the ship anywhere that I can get to it. I’ve got the remote location down pat but the whole US centric idea is kinda debacling me.
It would make the most sense for the first person to make it to the boat, preferably a volunteer to live less then a kilometer away, to take it out immediately and have the rest of us take smaller boats out to meet it. The chances of pirates organizing before were at a capacity to defend ourselves is slim and really this is an east coast plan so the chance of getting a boat is pretty good.
Also, in Knights of the Dinner Table, the local game shop had posters for a new RPG game featuring a zombie outbreak on a cruise ship.
Its a great place, right up until the first person gets infected.
OK. So assume 500 people get on the boat alive (I assume we’re saving a spot for T-Pain even if he doesn’t buy in…how could we not?), we set sail, we successfuly screen out any infected from boarding, we successfully fend off pirates, and we have enough supplies to sustain ourselves for 20 years.
20 years pass. NOW what do we do? Obviuosly, the insurance doesn’t guarantee anything past that, so it’s less of a problem with the business model and more of a problem of…the long term survival of the human species.
At this point, it seems like there are a three possible scenarios:
1) All of humanity has been taken by the zombie plague. There’s literally no one left outside of the survivors on the boat. Shore reconnaisance reveals that the infection isn’t dying down–even after 20 years, the zombies show no sign of “dying,” as it were. Do you try to land on some deserted island and try to live off the land? Or do you just give up and committ mass suicide?
2) Same scenario above, but the plague shows signs of tapering off. Do you risk going back to the mainland, cleaning up the mess, and rebuilding?
3) Humanity successfuly fights back and contains the plague, a la World War Z. All of the cruise ship survivors were away for all of the action. If you come back ashore, everyone is PISSED at you for running away and hiding at humanity’s darkest hour. Do you say “screw you guys” and try to get on with your life?
@Adam: assuming that just one person gets infected, you could just throw them over the rail and quarintine everyone it came into contact with to make sure that they didn’t get infected and if they are, ditch them over the rail as well. The same could be said for more but (worse-case) if it’s half of the people on board then I agree with you; you’re pretty much screwed.
And I would so buy in if I could swing the funds, curse the life of a college student.
@Lee – You know, I actually started to consider the long-term scenarios, but I decided that such an analysis really deserved its own post. Forget the boat for a second. I can’t really think of a single zombie movie that shows what the long-term zombie future is. I guess in the 28 Days Later world, the zombies are really just infected humans, so they starve in a matter of weeks. Piece of cake. More traditional zombie films show the undead as nearly immortal, still wandering around aimlessly months or years after infection. To address your scenarios…
1. Let’s say the zombies can go on forever. First of all, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t live on a boat indefinitely. They did it in Waterworld, right? Maybe you get a barge, and use it to plant fields of crops floating in the ocean. If you start needing supplies from the mainland, you find a place that looks relatively zombie free and send a raiding party to land in a lifeboat (always quarantining them afterwards). And yes, I like the idea of landing on a deserted island. You’d have to live in treehouses, of course. But personally, I don’t think it’s likely that zombies will come strolling out of the ocean. Have you SEEN the bottom of the ocean? It’s full of muck, deep hole, twisted coral, etc. The idea that a zombie is going to walk hundreds of miles across the bottom of the ocean without getting stuck somewhere seems far-fetched.
2. I like the island plan here. Find a place that ALMOST free of zombies, build a bunch of treehouses and walls, and take lots and lots of precautions. Honestly, those conditions aren’t much more dangerous than most of human history has been.
3. Okay, let’s say that President Obama, or whoever the hell is in charge, is on every radio frequency, trying to organize a counter attack at a specific location. Anyone on the zombie boat who wants to go and fight is welcome – take a lifeboat and go. The cruise ship is not a prison.
Personally, I’d listen to the radio broadcasts, and see if the counter-attack seemed to be working. If the army is successful at pushing the zombies back hundreds of miles, then yeah, maybe I do go and volunteer. I’m probably pretty pissed at the zombies for, you know, killing everyone I’ve ever known and loved.
And sure, when the zombie war is over, there might be a stigma against those who sat it out completely, the same way that a young American man in the 1940’s might be ashamed he didn’t join the army. But they certainly won’t be alone. the majority of the human race is probably going to be bunkered down, not actively looking for zombies to fight.
And Lee, you’re forgetting about all the old people and the children. No matter what, we need the zombie cruise ship for them. Maybe when a child of the HMS Romeo turns 18, they have the choice of going off to fight, or staying aboard and caring for the young.
“I’m probably pretty pissed at the zombies for, you know, killing everyone I’ve ever known and loved.”
I love how this plan of yours is based on a cruise ship holiday with a bunch of strangers, rather than, say, a plan to get everyone you’ve ever known and loved to safety. I know I’d just love to spend 20 years on a boat with the kind of people who are paranoid enough to take out zombie insurance!
I’m assuming we Aussies will have to get our own boat… we’ll surround it with “guard crocs”, trained to attack zombies…
WOW. For someone so in love with pop culture, it appears you haven’t read “World War Z” by Max Brooks, same dude who wrote the Zombie Survival Guide. Now, because its an “oral history” the narration jumps around the world, but there is a decent amount of story, or a least one that sticks out in my mind, about people living on boats off different shores or in the middle of the ocean in pseudo-communities.
@Ryan – Dude, I ADORE World War Z. I not only read it once by myself, my girlfriend and I literally took turns reading chapters to each other. It was probably the most romantic thing I’ve ever done. And I actually consulted the Zombie Survival Guide while writing this. Brooks is very down on boats, basically because it’s so difficult to survive indefinitely on the open seas. He tells some great yarns about people starving in massive numbers, or boats being overun by zombies and then drifting into other boats. But I think my plan could overcome his objections. I’m not suggesting a bunch of people pile into an old freighter and cast off. That would be crazy. I’m suggesting we spend years and tens of millions of dollars creating something that is equipped for the task at hand. Without that preparation, Brooks is right: the sea is a harsh mistress indeed.
Incidentally, I hear the World War Z movie is still slowly chugging forward. Fingers crossed!
WWZ is a great read, and i’m glad that someone has put this much thought into this as i have. the Ocean is a perfect escape route, assuming that floating Zombies dont kill off all the sea life, then the idea of doing a lot of fishing is kind of (pardon the pun) dead in the water.
I want to add the suggestion that who-ever organizes this insurance plan figure out at what number of policy subscribers/payers a second, third, fourth, (and so on) boat can be prepared. Because the more people and boats you have the better your tactical advantage against pirates and the Hoard. Not to mention that the larger the society the more stable it will be if some form of democracy or republic is established.
@Marinus – Ah, interesting! A network of boats! I’m assuming you suggest they stick together, in general. Pool resources, watch each other’s backs. When things got bad, however, wouldn’t there be a tremendous urge to screw the other boat? I mean, if THEY’RE getting attacked by pirates, and YOU’RE not, and your children are onboard, do you really want to steer your boat right into the fray?
Here’s something to consider – any survivors in this world are going to have to become very comfortable with watching innocent people die horrible deaths. There will be adorable orphans on makeshift rafts, begging to be let aboard. And sure, maybe we DO let some aboard. But we can only carry so many. I think a lot of people are not going to be psychologically prepared to abandon so many screaming, crying people to horrible death. And maybe one of the side effects of conditioning yourself to that life is that you get really good at stabbing people in the back. You just stop caring about morality. I’m not sure we can count on a general spirit of fraternity to make sure all the boats stick together as a fleet.
I think an armada is a pretty sweet idea. The size of those things in close formation offers pretty good deterent value against pirates. If we can get a fleet going, we can not only keep ourselves completely safe, but we can pull a little offense of our own. I’d love to see the kind of bombardment weaponry that we could cram onto the Lido deck of the ‘Carnival Pride!’
Nicely done, Belinkie. A few hours before you posted yours, I posted one kind of similar on my own blog about how Hummers are bad after a zombiepocalypse and concluding that airships are the best way to go (for many of your reasons for preferring boats- self-sustaining capabilities, distance from the zombie hoard, renewable energy, etc.). Your piece is much better, though, I’ll admit fully. Still, I find it terribly, close to painfully, coincidental, the timing. I clicked “post,” went to bed, and saw the notice about this piece in my RSS feed the next morning while checking it before work… But anyhoo, this isn’t about me.
Awesome work here. So long as it didn’t become an exercise in Poseidon Adventuring, I’d say you’d be pretty set on a cruise ship modified to your specifications. And I dare say, you could do things to its shape and paint job to make it look more like a military gun ship than a cruise liner in order to scare off the smaller pirate groups, too.
For some reason, this nugget popped into my head, probably because of the vague discussions about who will be on the ship. We see stuff about the arks and whatnot in these apocalypse movies, and we sometimes get allusions to the myriad professions secured, doctors being emphasized. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard of obstetricians or OB-GYNs being a priority. And this bothers me, not just because I’m a woman, but because of the sheer fact that these survivors are going to be doing it with each other, so some babies are going to be made. And if babies are going to be made, they’re going to need to be delivered. Wouldn’t securing the future of the human race depend, at least partially, on having people skilled enough to bring them into this world close/safe at hand?
So, Mr. Belinkie, would you make sure there were some OB-GYNs aboard, or would you risk the women die in childbirth? ;p
@Gab – As usual, G-Dog, you raise some good points. In my mind, I’m kind of hoping the people who buy the zombie insurance have useful professions, like doctors, engineers, or pastry chefs. That way, you not only get $400/mo from each subscriber, you get their skillset. But let’s get real (I do love saying things like that in these kinds of posts). We’re going to wind up with a lot of people on the boat that don’t have any useful skills. I am one of them.
So yes, I suppose we’d have to have an OB-GYN onboard. (Also, about 100,000 condoms.) To make this work, I’d have to make a list of certain indispensable professions – people whose skills are indispensable. For instance, a boat captain might be nice. And a dude who actually knows how to handle guns and can teach the rest of us. Ideally, these people would be on staff – that is, we pay their salaries, in exchange for them helping to get the boat ready. The OB-GYN is a weird case. We don’t actually need her skills until the boat launches. However, we want her within 10 miles of the boat at all times, so we’re relatively sure she’s going to make it onboard. Maybe she can stay in private practice until the zombie apocalypse, but we pay her some sort of retainer to live close to the boat and to carry a zombie beeper.
Anyway, this is the kind of thing that just destroys your budget. For each indispensable crew member you need on staff, you have to pay not only their salary, but you’re sacrificing all the thousands of dollars their stateroom would be worth if you sold that extra insurance policy. And certain highly educated positions, like Solar-Panel Engineer, might be expensive to fill. A lot of your staff members may very well think the job is crazy and a waste of time, which is fine as long as they do their work. They’ll see. Oh yes, they’ll see.
This is a wonderful, brilliant idea in the sense of escaping the virus. I do admit you almost have to be filthy rich to ever pull something like this off. For that kind of investment you better be damn sure the outbreak is going to happen.