Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A 3-Hour Tour, A 3-Hour Tour

The Professor will be there, obviously. And some Gingers and Mary Anns. So, just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...
In the Port of New Orleans it's move-in day on the 1,076-passenger, Israeli-owned cruise ship, which Tulane University has leased this semester to house about 200 professors, students, and staff members. But anyone who has visions of sipping piƱa coladas on deck after a dip in a crystal-clear pool is in for a reality check.

The pool is drained, the bars are closed, and the slot machines will be draped with tarps. The spa, whose signs feature a woman receiving a blissful massage, is not operational, and the beauty salon has been cleared out. One lounge, the "My Fair Lady" room, may be used as an Internet cafe -- that is, once Tulane's technicians figure out how to translate the ship's technology documents from Hebrew. The theme of the ship's decor is classic musicals. But its overall motif comes across as faded 1980s glitz, with common areas heavy on brass and what feels suspiciously like pleather.

Staterooms are small, the bathrooms minuscule. One shower stall measures about 2 feet by 3 feet, and the twin berths are a mere arm's length from each other. No perishables are allowed in the cabins, none of which have TV's, and booze is banned.

But so far, the few dozen new residents of the ship, preparing for classes to begin next Tuesday, seem to be taking it all in stride. This is not about a luxury vacation, after all. This is New Orleans, where people are happy to have shelter and a university to go back to four-and-a-half months after Hurricane Katrina swept through the city.

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