If you haven't yet completed your Christmas/Solstice shopping, you're probably considering getting a loved one the opportunity to spend a week on an unescapable cruise ship being talked at by professional talker-atters about politics. The release of The Weekly Standard's new video promotion for its 2014 cruise prompted us to take a look at which excursion will best serve as suitable punishment for your unlucky gift recipient. ("Oh, it's, um, a cruise with Bill Kristol. Uh, thanks.")
We've assessed each magazine's cruise on four metrics: the details of the cruise (cost, location, etc.), the strength of its YouTube pitch, the quality of its content, and its cruise website. As in the game of golf that many of these cruise participants enjoy, the lowest combined score of those things gives us our winner for Most Horrible Cruise™. (We also included each magazine's political leaning, in case you 1) didn't know and 2) wanted to use that information to make your gift especially painful for someone.)
The Weekly Standard
Cruise details: 4 points
- Length: One week, March 2014
- Cost: $2,976 to $12,834
- Destination: The Caribbean
The most expensive trip, going to the same place as the other two, for a week in a month when the weather isn't that bad.
2 3 points
This nearly three-minute-long ad includes zero people of color — none, except wait staff in a dining scene. (Update: Weekly Standard Senior Editor Victorino Matus notes that he is in the still frame shown in the video, and he is a person of color. So we added one point.) It is almost entirely older white people — which is fine! My parents are older white people! — but it should give a sense of what to expect. One couple praises the fact that they get to hear from the young writers on staff, none of whom is "young," exactly.
The past customers who offer their testimonials (in front of very poorly-executed green-screen images of "cruise life") praise the content, including getting to hear from Bill Kristol for longer than a 20-second clip. "I'm among 200 or so people who think, politically, exactly like I do," one older white man says. "There's no such thing on this cruise as a politically incorrect statement." So that sounds fun.
One guy says — and this is an actual, direct quote — that the cruise is "the closest thing to being a king, I think," presumably in the "British monarch subduing the Zulus" sense.
Cruise content: 7 points
The scheduled line-up for the cruise includes "William Kristol, Fred Barnes, Stephen Hayes" and, you know, other people to come! The downloadable brochure adds radio host Hugh Hewitt and various other writers from the magazine. But mostly the brochure shows spas and beaches and amenities and the sorts of things that might sound more appealing than sitting in a dark room in the middle of the ocean listening to a conversation about "entitlements."
Cruise website: 8 points
The site, TWSCruise.com, is nicely put together and has all the info you'd want. The photo at right, however, is the only one from the 2013 gallery that is taken outside. It features Bill Kristol, chilling.
Overall horribleness score:
21 22 points
Cruise details: 7 points
- Length: One week, December 2014
- Cost: $1,807 to $9,364
- Destination: The Caribbean
Cheaper than the other two, plus it goes to the Caribbean in December, which will appeal to New York City liberals.
YouTube pitch: 4 points
The video actually starts with a guy playing a mandolin, so it definitely knows its audience. (Update: As Ryan Kearney notes that it appears to be Steve Earle.) The song provides the background for the video, so you can mute it if you want.
While the Weekly Standard's pitch focused on professionally-lit interviews with old white people, The Nation's does exactly the opposite, with lots of footage shot in dark rooms of a much-more-diverse audience. There is an emphasis on humor, but the video doesn't contain any jokes. There is almost no footage of the fun parts of the cruise, because you are there to learn, dammit.
Cruise content: 1 point
There are two people signed up as speakers so far: the past and present editors of the magazine. Therefore, we gave the cruise content a "1" out of a possible "10."
Cruise website: 4 points
The funny thing about The Nation's cruise website — NationCruise.com — is that it is exactly the same as the National Review's, below. Only the logo and the speaker line-up really differs; we found the prices for The Nation's cruise by duplicating the URL from NR's. The cruises take place on different boats, though.
Anyway, the website is kind of crummy. The worst thing on it is in the photo gallery, which shows a "group sing-along," and can you imagine.
Overall horribleness score: 16 points
Cruise details: 8 points
- Length: Six days, May 2014
- Cost: $1,799 to $10,199
- Destination: Bermuda
Shorter than the other two, which alone is enough to make it better.
YouTube pitch: 2 points
We couldn't find a video for the upcoming Bermuda trip, so we used this one, from an August schlep to Norway. It's only 30 seconds long, which is nice, but, man! That line-up! We refuse to believe that's the best photograph they could find of John Sununu (right), but maybe it is. Also, Allen West is the headliner. The fjords look nice, but Bermuda doesn't have many fjords.
Cruise content: 8 points
The National Review's speaker line-up is the most fully-fleshed out. Bush torture advocate John Yoo! Moral crusader Kathryn Lopez! Someone named "Bing West"! Jonah Goldberg!
Cruise website: 4 points
Most of this was covered in the Nation's section above, but we will note the addition of this particular paragraph, which is on the first page of NRCruise.com.
Bermuda shorts were originally borrowed in the early 20th century from the British military's uniform for hot climes. Although often colourful - pink is a favourite - do not mistake shorts as informal. They take their shorts so seriously, the law reads: no shorts shorter than six inches above the knee.
The idea of older conservatives being hauled off to jail for showing a little knee is, unquestionably, an amusing one.
Overall horribleness: 22 points
Therefore, you should buy that Republican uncle you hate a trip on The Nation's cruise, given both the content and its winning Horribleness Score™. Christmas shopping, done.