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Titanic Income Inequality: Outraged at the Cruise Ship Caste System

Norwegian Escape

Income inequality, the civil rights issue of our day, has finally hit us where it hurts.

It represents a degree of economic and social stratification unseen in America since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, J. P. Morgan and the rigidly separated classes on the Titanic a century ago.

— Nelson D. Schwartz, reporting for The New York Times, April 23, 2016

Mr. Schwartz speaks, of course, of the shameful inequities visited upon the masses aboard the vessels of several well-known cruise lines. The New York Times, ever the champion of the little guy, brings this outrage to our eyes like a latter-day muckraker unveiling the horrors of early 20th-century immigrant wage-slavery in unsanitary Chicago meatpacking plants.

Dubbing our day “the Age of Privilege,” The Grey Lady harkens back to the deep societal divisions illustrated by the iron gates that separated passengers on the ill-fated Titanic -- a ship whose maiden voyage cost more than 1,500 lives, but whose namesake ultimately earned millions for Leonardo Di Caprio and Celine Dion, so one might consider it a net gain.

Today, the upper crust finds seclusion on the upper decks of even more massive cruise ships that embark with 4,200 passengers on board, just 275 of which revel in ultimate sea-going glory. For their premium fare, the elite enjoy…well…premium fare, and white-glove service. It’s “the right crowd and no crowding” as my favorite parody of all time declared (National Lampoon, RMS Tyrannic). Private swimming pools, secluded dining areas, attentive service, access to express elevators and front rows at shows — all of these exclusive benefits rain upon the rapaciously wealthy by dint of their elevated social status — and tickets that cost three-to-10 times what others on board pay.

High above, at the very cusp of heaven -- we are led to believe -- the one-percent dine upon unpronounceable delicacies arrayed on starched ivory linens, as they're attended by obsequious butlers and pretentious chefs de cuisine.