Shoreside power to the cruise ships!

That variation on “Power to the people!” won’t generate a rallying cry for Charlestonians demanding that cruise ships use shoreside power when docked here.

But that contentious issue is still sparking hard feelings.

As plugged-in colleague Bo Petersen reported on our front page Wednesday, getting electricity to a cruise ship that “switches off its engine in port to keep from burning polluting fuel” requires an “outlet that zings enough juice to light up several thousand homes.”

However, the venerable Carnival Fantasy, which home-ports at the State Ports Authority’s cruise terminal on the south end of Union Pier, isn’t equipped for shoreside power.

Our story also reported that what “started this whole mess and continues to drive it is toxic black exhaust from the cruise ship smokestacks at dock as the engines provide the ship’s electric power.”

And that powers much of the opposition to the proposed new $35 million SPA terminal at the north end of Union Pier.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is on board with SPA President/CEO Jim Newsome for that plan, which includes an extensive — and expensive — waterfront redevelopment beyond the new terminal. Both men stress that you can’t have one (that grand redevelopment) without the other (that swell new terminal).

The Coastal Conservation League and Preservation Society of Charleston are among the groups challenging the terminal construction permit in court.

Some folks see the new terminal and its accompanying redevelopment as needed economic-engine boosters in what is, after all, our Port City.

Some folks question why the city gives cruise ships a virtually free regulatory ride — and why those massive motors should keep belching unhealthy emissions while those vessels are docked.

Some dignified downtown folks are aghast at the unseemly spectacle of cruise passengers clad in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops roaming freely about our Holy City.

Hazardous voyages

Enough about that divisive power debate for now.

What powers cruisers our way in the first place?

From Carnival’s web site:

“Give in to the genteel feel of the old South on Carnival cruises from Charleston, South Carolina. This is a gracious city of antebellum homes and sprawling plantations, best appreciated from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. The city’s unique Low country cuisine and dozens of delicious restaurants make it a southern foodie destination.”

Gee, and we genteel types lucky enough to live in these parts can do all of that without packing ourselves like sardines with strangers on a big boat (actually, a ship).

Most of us who live here even know that Lowcountry is one word.

Anyway, regardless of your present location or desired destination, why risk the ordeals endured by far too many cruisers?

Three months ago, Carnival figuratively threw co-founder Micky Arison overboard from his 35-year job as CEO.

From an Associated Press dispatch: “Arison came under fire during Carnival’s bad publicity earlier in the year when a string of its cruise ships suffered through mechanical problems and fires. The most dramatic of them was the Carnival Triumph where passengers were stranded at sea for five days as toilets backed up and air conditioners failed. There were media reports of raw sewage seeping through walls and carpets.”

We non-cruisers drew fresh validation from those gruesome plumbing details.

Fortunately, though, you can vicariously savor high-seas romance without smelling any broken-down cruise-ship stench.

Just watch vintage reruns of “The Love Boat” online.

Exciting and new

That 1977-87 ABC diversion features a future U.S. House member (Iowa Republican Fred Grandy as ship’s purser Burl “Gopher” Smith) and guest-star rosters of show-biz has-beens (including future California Republican House member Sonny Bono as a rock singer who falls in love with a deaf woman).

Despite a generally breezy tone, the series’ subtle subtexts frequently explore expanding social consciousness.

A DVD synopsis of my favorite episode, from 1978:

“A beauty contest on board ship divides a couple (Maureen McCormick, Bobby Sherman). A reporter (Vicki Lawrence) falls for a disgraced congressman (Dick Van Patten).”

They don’t make TV shows like that anymore.

But they do still make disgraced congressmen.

And they make cruise ships that can use shoreside power.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.