The stacks and stacks of cabin windows make today's ocean liners look gargantuan enough from the shore. But the view from directly above gigantic cruise ships is even more startling.


Jeffrey Milstein, a former architect who specializes in photos of planes and infrastructure, recently finished a new project that focuses on cruise liners. "After 14 years of shooting up at aircraft I thought it was time to shoot down from above," he told me over email. He shot them while hovering a few thousand feet directly above their decks, capturing the details of their decks in diorama-style detail: Water slides. Golf courses. Dance floors. Basketball courts. Pools of infinite variety.

The images beautiful and terrifying. After all, no other man-made object is quite like the modern-day cruise ship. What other wonder of engineering can accommodate enough people to generate 21,000 gallons of human sewage every single day? Or the same amount of sulfur dioxide as 13 millions cars every single day, all in the service of serving up carefree good times to millions of people every year? This is what the Death Star would have looked like, if Darth Vader had been really into bottomless shrimp and shuffleboard.


David Foster Wallace famously described the mass-market cruise as despair-inducing, writing, "like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effect." That works as a way to describe these intricate photographs, too—beautifully complex and pleasingly symmetrical, with a deeply ominous vibe. Check them out below, and see more of Milstein's awesome work here.

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