Why Odyssey is a Terrible Name for a Ship

Why Odyssey Is a Terrible Name for a Ship

If you’ve studied any Greek mythology, you know that odyssey is a terrible name for a ship. Really, I personally wouldn’t name any vehicle “odyssey,” but specifically not a maritime vessel.

I will also admit that our expanded household owns two Honda Odyssey vans that we love and don’t plan to replace. I still don’t like that they’re called that, but my concerns are primarily around ships.

My husband has been trying to plan a vacation, and he is especially excited about Royal Caribbean’s new cruise ship, Odyssey. I told him that I would not get on any ship, boat, or other seafaring vessel with that name under any circumstances.

After four years of Latin, a Greek mythology course in college, and Rick Riordan’s books, do you want to tempt fate—or the gods of Classical mythology? I don’t. I’m surprised, honestly, that a huge cruise line would be willing to risk such an ominous name.

To reiterate, Odyssey is a terrible name for a ship. It’s like being on a cruise and watching Jack and Rose, or listening to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” or following a documentary on the Lusitania, or catching reruns of “Gilligan’s Island.” Do it on your own time, man … Why you gotta do it on a ship?

OK, so maybe you don’t have my particular background. You’re thinking, oh, NBD, an odyssey is just an adventurous trip. I want one of those on my vacation.

My friend, you would be very wrong.

Origins of Odyssey

The term odyssey comes from the name of the Greek hero, Odysseus, (Ulysses for the Romans), who fought in the Trojan War. Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships … the Trojan horse … Achilles and his heel … yup, that Trojan War. 

Odysseus was very clever and actually disguised himself as a young girl to avoid conscription into the Greek military forces when the high king called for assistance. His disguise failed and he ended up going off to war, leaving behind his wife, Penelope, his dog, his servants, and a son.

The Trojan War lasted ten years, at the end of which the Greeks destroyed the Troy and killed off or enslaved all the Trojans. Meneleus returned home with Helen, as did most of the surviving Greeks.

Odysseus and his soldiers attempted the return trip, but he managed to tick off Aeolus, the god of the wind, just before arriving in Ithaca. This turned into disaster.

Sure, Odysseus ended up on a lot of interesting adventures. He heard the sirens sing … met the witch Calypso and possibly fell for her … tricked the cyclops who complained to his friends that “‘Nobody’ is killing me” …

But he was the lone survivor of all his men to actually return home to Ithaca. And when he got there, his equally clever wife was being forced to remarry.

All told, it took Odysseus a full decade to return home, just in time to watch his faithful dog die. Add in the Trojan War, and he made it home a full twenty years after leaving. His son grew up without him. Penelope held off greedy suitors for about a decade, and she honestly didn’t recognize her husband when he finally revealed himself.

A lot of people might consider Odysseus’s quest to return home a series of adventures that may or may not have enthralled them (or defeated them—I’m not judging) in World Literature.

But his epic tale is fraught with danger and tragedy. He watched people die—managing to rescue part of his crew the witch Circe turned into feral pigs. He left behind a(nother) woman/goddess—Calypso—that he loved. His return home wasn’t some triumphant voyage. Odysseus turned up shipwrecked and bedraggled to the point that almost no one recognized him. Then he had to fight for the right to his own kingdom against a bunch of suitors who wanted a rich wife and a wealthy kingdom.

Seriously, don’t name ships after failed voyagers …

Yes, Odysseus may have gone on an adventure the likes of which no one else has ever seen. Still I can’t help but think that he didn’t want to leave home at all. He loved his wife and didn’t want to fight another king’s war.

But he had to do his duty. Then his unwitting odyssey continued to separate him from his loved ones for most of his lifetime.

When I go on vacation, I’m looking forward to a little adventure and some good memories. I’m not planning for ship-eating whirlpools and angry gods when I make my packing list.

And that, my friends, is why Odyssey is a terrible name for a ship.

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