ARKEN: Copenhagen’s contemporary art museum

Some pictures from a summer visit to ARKEN, a waterfront concrete museum that opened in 1996.

The entrance…

The regular collection is heavy on Damien Hirst…

More exciting… Benedikte Bjerre built an airport conveyor system out of IKEA bed parts (she says “the work addresses our dreams and hopes of the good capitalist life and social mobility across global borders”):

The museum was doing a big show of work by Australian Patricia Piccinini:

Does your dog like to jump up and share the bed?

Can you explain this traffic accident to Hertz?

Is it fair to say that not all concepts for Little Mermaid sequels are successful?

Miscellaneous:

Many of the artists claim to be concerned about “marginalised individuals and groups,” but how many of those folks will ever purchase or view a contemporary artwork?

Exit through the gift shop…

And then fold your big Danish frame into a tiny Danish car…

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Danish kids absent from school for a month

The two youngest passengers on our Northwest Passage cruise were 13 and 15, public school students in Denmark. I asked the parents what kind of bureaucratic obstacles there had been to taking the kids out of school for a month. “None,” replied the dad. “The teacher said that they’ll probably learn more on this trip than in school.” Hurtigruten’s promise of working Internet on the Roald Amundsen did not materialize due to (a) limited satellite coverage, and (b) inability of the ship’s antennae to point low enough. Had the disconnected children experienced trouble in completing their assignments? “They weren’t given any,” said the father. “The curriculum in Denmark is standardized at the federal level, which can be great, but for children who are stronger than average academically it means they have no trouble catching up if they miss a month.”

[I also learned from this family that Denmark has instituted a busing system for children of immigrants. If a born-in-Denmark child does not speak Danish well, he or she is bused away from the neighborhood school, which presumably will also contain a bunch of children who speak a non-Danish language, to a school full of Danes. Where are these folks from? “Syria, after four straight years as the biggest generator of asylum-seekers in Denmark, lost its crown to Eritrea last year, but this year it is back on course to generate the highest number. … Uffe Østergaard, a Danish university academic specialising in identity history who works for both Aarhus University and Copenhagen Business School, has suggested in a Politiken opinion piece that Europe should build a wall around its perimeter… ” (CPH Post)]

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Northwest Passage cruise begins

I’m praying for global warming to end… on September 11, on which date I hope to be stepping off the ship that I boarded this morning in Greenland (soon to be our 51st state? Atlantic says that citizens there consume roughly the same amount in aid from Denmark as Federal welfare $$ spent per resident of New Mexico, i.e., $10,000 per year per person).

Here’s our planned route (from Hurtigruten):

I will try to post a bit to Facebook and/or this blog, but Internet access may be tenuous. So that the site does not go dark, I’ve scheduled a bunch of non-topical postings to appear once/day.

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A fifth grader reviews Carnival Cruise to Bermuda

At a late June birthday party for one of my best 4-year-old friends, a fifth grader mentioned that she had just returned from a Carnival cruise from New York to Bermuda and back.

How was it?

“It got rough on the second day.”

Was anyone seasick?

“There was vomit everywhere,” she replied. “They didn’t have any bags, so people were throwing up on the floor, in the stairways. Everywhere.”

How about Bermuda itself?

“We were there for only 8 hours. The beach was nice.”

Related:

  • Tempted by the above to go farther south?“Why Waves of Seaweed Have Been Smothering Caribbean Beaches” (Atlantic): “In 2018, as seaweed piled up on beaches throughout the Caribbean, it began to rot. Already stinking and sulfurous, the thick layers began to attract insects and repel tourists. The seaweed—a type of brown algae called sargassum—had grown in the ocean and washed ashore in unprecedented quantities. It prevented fishers from getting into the water, and entangled their nets and propellers. It entangled sea turtles and dolphins, too, fatally preventing them from surfacing for air. It died and sank offshore, smothering seagrass meadows and coral reefs. Barbados declared a national emergency.”
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Meet in Washington, D.C.?

Dear Readers:

Because I like to do everything in the dumbest way imaginable, I will be visiting Washington, D.C. in July.

If you’d like to get together for coffee, perhaps Sunday afternoon, July 14, or Monday early(ish) morning, July 15, please email me (philg@mit.edu).

Venue will be the Conrad hotel near Chinatown.

(I would have preferred to meet at the Capital One café for Pride Month, but I fear that they may have removed their Pride decor (the issue is important enough to be focused on during June, but not for the rest of the year?):

)

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Titanic Museum, Belfast

Posted on Facebook under “Heard it might be a Boeing 737 MAX on way back from Ireland so decided to take a ship for safety.”:

Could this be the world’s most lavish museum devoted to engineering failure? The science turned out not to be settled, unfortunately. Folks in Belfast do like to point out “She was alright when she left here.”

The museum does disclose how badly the first voyage turned out for most people on board:

This was despite substantial government regulation:

Also despite the latest in wireless communication technology:

Yet the skill of management, engineers, and workers is celebrated:

Is it a bad thing when a country goes from being a world industrial leader to irrelevant compared to South Korea, China, and Japan? Barack Obama says “No problemo:”

Passengers were arbitrarily divided into only two genders:

Not every movie about the Titanic is an unimaginative derivative:

Then, as now, the migration industry was highly profitable for some…

A reminder to be humble…

… considering that the best humans could do lasted less than two weeks against Nature. From notes typed up by a shipyard office worker:

The building is a beautiful work of engineering in itself and includes a gratuitous Disney-style ride:

More: Visit Titanic Belfast

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Disney World Ticket Price Inflation

Supposedly, the cost of a Disney World ticket has gone up roughly 3.5X, adjusted for inflation, since 1971 (chart).

During a March 30-31, 2019 visit, however, the parks were so jammed that waiting times for popular rides were 90-150 minutes. Using the Disney World app, it was impossible to obtain a same-day FastPass for any of the popular rides. “They’re all sold out at least 30 days in advance,” said a Florida resident season pass holder. “People who are staying in a Disney hotel are able to book them 60 or 90 days ahead.”

I went with a friend who paid up for a Disney VIP guide. He told us that we weren’t seeing a particularly busy day. “The wait times can be 300 minutes on the busiest days.” How crowded would the main streets be? “You won’t see any pavement.” Was the park more crowded because we were there on a weekend? “There isn’t much difference between weekends and weekdays.”

Go early in the morning during the “Extra Magic” hours when only people staying in Disney hotels are allowed in? The line for the roller coaster in Toy Story Land stretched to more than two hours before the park had even opened to the general public. People who said that they got in line at 8:02 am (park opened at 8) were only about halfway through the line at 8:40.

Go in the evening after the kids have collapsed? The app showed that the wait time for the Avatar sim ride was 95 minutes… at 9:58 pm, just before Animal Kingdom closed for the night. Apparently people who are already in line when the park officially closes will get to ride, but only at 11:35 pm after enduring more than 1.5 hours standing in line.

With the guide we were able to get into the FastPass line at every ride, cut through side doors for a few rides, and cut the line for portraits with princesses and other characters. The resulting wait time for rides was about the same as during my 1991 trip to Disneyland, but the overall experience was inferior because the non-rides portions of the park were so crowded that it was tough to appreciate the atmosphere or architectural details. Want to get food or drink? Wait in a 10-minute line at a kiosk or a 1-hour line at an unpopular restaurant.

The guides cost $500 per hour and can tow up to 10 guests around, so figure this adds $320/day per person if the guide is hired for 8 hours per day and there are 8 people assembled in the group. Tickets in 1989 were roughly $60 per day in current dollars (source). With a VIP guide the experience is comparable overall. The wait times for the rides are similar while the rides have gotten better from a technical point of view. Meandering around the park, trying to get a meal, etc., has become far less enjoyable. Let’s say that these pluses and minuses average out. To have a basically comparable experience today, therefore, costs $109 for the park ticket plus $320 for a 1/8th share of a VIP guide = $429 per day per person. That’s 7X the 1989 price.

Plainly the mobs are buying a lot of hotel rooms, food, and souvenirs. But I wonder why Disney doesn’t have “Crowd-hater Days” in each park to capture the market of people who would be willing to pay a lot more to have the 1990s experience. There are four core parks within Disney World. Why not say that every Monday through Thursday one of these parks will be designated “Crowd-hater” and tickets will be sold at whatever price it takes to keep max line length down to 15 minutes? If ticket prices were doubled, for example, I think Disney would actually make more money in ticket revenue since demand should not be cut by more than 50 percent. By using a high price to limit admission to only one park at a time they should still be able to keep all of their hotels filled (tourists who don’t value the less-crowded experience will still go to the other core parks and/or the water parks).

Topiary from the Epcot garden event:

Travel tip: The Swan and Dolphin hotels are run by a competent hotel chain (Westin/Marriott) and are still technically “on property”. Here’s the view from our $215/night balcony room (rates are cheap if they can’t fill these monster hotels with a convention). It is a 20-minute walk to Hollywood Studios or 30 minutes to the center of Epcot. The boat service is loud and slow and was ultimately rejected by my 9-year-old companion. (She wondered why can’t they use battery-powered boats? They are never far from a charger.)

The most outdated structure in all of Disney (Nikon “Darkroom”):

Fair and balanced: Disney gives equal weight to Donald Trump’s favorite restaurant and Elizabeth Warren’s ancestral home.

Three years after a child was killed by an alligator, Disney still doesn’t have signs clearly explaining or depicting the hazard (there is a sign, but a non-Floridian might infer that the lake-related hazard was drowning and could be addressed by watching children):

(See “Disney knew its property had alligators. It caught hundreds before a boy was killed.” (Washington Post))

Readers: Is the Times Square-level of crowding something that should prompt Disney to change its pricing? Or do young people expect to stand in line for hours to get anything good?

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Empress of the Seas Cuba and Haiti cruise review

This review is based on a December 9-17, 2018 trip from Miami to Havana, Cienfuegos, Grand Cayman, and Labadee, Haiti.

See https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/01/03/cuba-tourism-cruise-ship-versus-hotels/ for some thoughts about seeing Cuba by ship versus land tours.

By virtue of having qualified as U.S. government-authorized providers of “people to people” tours, the cruise lines are able to operate in Cuba legally. Due to their scale and efficiency (world labor market!), the result is far cheaper than what land-based tour companies are able to offer. The basic rooms-with-windows on Empress of the Seas for our departure were going for less than $800 per person ($100/day) including all fees.

Empress of the Seas is the smallest and oldest ship in the Royal Caribbean inventory. Wikipedia says that she was launched in 1989 and holds 1,840 passengers. Piers in most Cuban ports circa 2018 were not capable of handling larger ships, which is why this smaller and less profitable ship was in use (see https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2018/12/26/cruise-o-nomics/).

The basic cabins on Empress are truly closet-sized. We paid $3,070 for a “suite” that is more like the size of an ordinary “room” on a new ship. The bathroom was tiny (way too small for a tub, for example). It was worth it for the balcony. We spent another $2,000 or so on shore excursions, Internet connectivity (intermittent and sometimes slow), drinks (not on the unlimited “alcohol misuse disorder” plan!), etc.

The crew likes to surprise passengers with decoration:

Shore excursions typically entailed 1-1.25 hours of “line up and wait” before we were actually on a tour bus and headed to the first destination. Passengers are called to the theater, check in with their tour tickets, are assigned number/sticker, and then wait for 45 minutes until the number is called. The guided tour of Havana was interesting and the guide spoke excellent English. The tour in Cienfuegos was struggling for reasons to exist, on the other hand, and our guide struggled with English and organization. We did enjoy the botanical garden, but it would have made more sense just to walk around the UNESCO World Heritage downtown on our own (may not be legal, technically, but there are no practical barriers to doing this; passengers self-certify that they will buy an organized tour of some kind, but there is no enforcement). Cienfuegos receives many fewer tourists and therefore has many fewer people hustling to make a buck off tourists. This makes it a more relaxing environment for sightseers than Havana.

Grand Cayman has the strip malls and traffic jams of Greater Miami, but without the art, architecture, culture, and music. The local museum is interesting (the history of the Caymans is mostly the history of killing all of the sea turtles) and Seven Mile Beach is a nice walk and perfect for swimming. Snorkeling and Sting Ray City strips were canceled the day that we were there due to several days of high winds and associated heavy surf.

It was nice to see a strip mall sign feature the Chabad center next to a tattoo and piercing parlor (see “Why Does Judaism Forbid Tattoos?” on the Chabad.org site). However, I would be much more enthusiastic about returning to Cuba than going back to Grand Cayman. (Luca, on the beach inside the Caribbean Club hotel, was a great place to hang out for a long lunch and swim before or after.)

We loved Labadee, Haiti and I wrote about it separately in https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/01/21/labadee-port-guide/

Out of our 7 full days on the ship, 3 of them were spent entirely at sea. Cruise lines love sea days because they pay no port fees and collect revenue from their shops and casinos, which cannot be operated except when in international waters. I got a high-quality reasonably-priced haircut on one of the sea days and managed to get in 10,000+ steps/day walking around the promenade deck.

The Serenade of the Seas (see my Baltic cruise review) had a beautiful spacious gym with wonderful sea views. Unfortunately, the Empress of the Seas has a small gym that feels like an afterthought. It is tucked up in a balcony above a lounge/bar.

As on Serenade of the Seas, the kitchen cannot make a donut, roll, or loaf of bread with anywhere near the competence of an average American supermarket. I ended up eating no bread for the entire journey and came back having lost a pound or two. Coffee is not up to the usual Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks drip standard. Food in the main dining room is mediocre. The specialty steak house food was excellent, as was the service and the ambiance. As described in https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/01/01/new-years-wish-national-and-global-unity-via-more-cruise-ships/ the lack of assigned seating in the main dining room led to a lot of interesting mixing among passengers. Royal Caribbean’s main strength seems to be HR. Nearly all of the staff were friendly and seemed happy to be helping tourists enjoy their vacations. The restaurant folks were strong on hospitality and presentation.

The bridge tour was awesome. Maybe it would have been better if one passenger hadn’t asked whether a screen was dedicated to avoiding collisions with U.S. Navy vessels…

On-board entertainment was at least pretty good on about half the nights, though you have to like pop, ballroom, and Broadway. Olga played the piano for us in the dining room:

Security screening never caused a delay of more than 2 minutes and usually less. At Cienfuegos we got in and out of the port via the ship’s tenders, of which there are two. This resulted in a 20-minute line to get back on board. At Grand Cayman we used 200-person tenders run by the port itself, but they didn’t go very often. I got to the tender about 40 minutes before the “last call for a tender” time and ended up sitting on the tender for 40 minutes before it cast off. (First two photos below show one of the ship’s tenders in Cienfuegos and also that you want to be reincarnated as the Purell salesperson for the Royal Caribbean account. Second two are from Grand Cayman and show the port’s tenders.)

Returning to Miami involved 45 minutes of “hurry up and wait” followed by an astonishing U.S. Immigration and Customs experience. Having come from Cuba and Grand Cayman, potentially with suitcases stuffed full of contraband materials, we merely showed our passports to a smiling officer and then walked out to the pier.

Recommended hotel in Miami: Hyatt Centric, South Beach.

Recommended art museum in South Beach: Wolfsonian, for its Art Deco collection.

(Before deciding to abuse shareholders with looting via stock options and decades of stagnation in stock price, GE sold light bulbs to honor Ahura Mazda, the God of Zoroastrianism!)

Summary: It was a great trip, a good value, and a nice introduction to Cuba.

Related:

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New Zealand 1993 versus now

I was buried in work yesterday so missed the news about the shooting in New Zealand.

I was there only once, back in 1993 (my travelogue and photos), and it seemed decades removed from any of the world’s disputes. The population was 3.5 million back then (about 5 million today), fewer than the greater Boston area. In a lot of places there were only two kinds of cheese available. I met a 21-year-old who had never seen a U.S. dollar bill.

Readers: Who else wants to share a fond memory of the country?

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