The ‘Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships’ series of books celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Written by Douglas Ward, the book claims to be “the world’s foremost authority on cruising”. I was sent a copy of the latest book in the series, and you can read my review below.
My first impression was amazement at how loud it was as it landed on my doorstep! I had imagined a guide of around 200 to 300 pages in length, but this huge book totals a whopping 704 pages – it is less a book and more an encyclopaedia!
Douglas Ward has worked within the cruise industry for over 45 years. The book claims he spends up to 200 days a year onboard ocean and river cruise ships, so it is clear that he knows a thing or two about the industry.
The book broadly splits into two sections. The first is just shy of 200 pages and contains editorial content. Here you can find an introduction to cruising, a brief look at the history of the cruise industry, a look at the ships launching this year, frequently asked questions, and a guides written to help specific groups of people (such as families, spa-addicts and foodies). A guide to the different types of cruise holidays follows, as does a guide on picking the right aspects of your cruise holiday for you.
The remaining 500 or so pages are cruise ship profiles, listed in alphabetical order by ship name. I wouldn’t call them cruise ship reviews per se as they are more like a synopsis of what to expect onboard. As far as I can tell every passenger cruise ship currently in service by late 2014 is included in the book.
Each page starts off with a “Top Trumps” style table of facts and figures. Buy a couple of these books for the kids, and they will have a great time comparing cruise ship statistics such as tonnage, build cost, passenger capacity, the number of swimming pools, and more!
The figures are followed by an overview of the ship, with details of notable features, the accommodation options, dining and entertainment venues, plus the spa and fitness facilities available.
The commentary about each cruise ship is very objective. While it would have been nice to see a little bit of personality injected into these descriptions, the lack of such flowery language means the text is easy-to-read and concise.
- I loved the depth of the cruise ship guides. Each one is short and succinct but at the same time very concise. By the time you get to the final paragraph, you can be confident in knowing what is good and bad about each ship as well as knowing what you can expect to find onboard.
- Due to the size of the book I expected there to be restrictions and so, I wasn’t sure if there would be hints and tips from Douglas’ experience onboard included here. Thankfully you can glean some gems from the ship descriptions, covering the good and the bad onboard. It would have been a shame not to put Douglas’ 45 years of experience to good use!
- I also liked the breadth of the content. Douglas could have easily focussed on just the mainstream cruise lines, but instead, he has focussed on as many cruise lines as possible. The mainstream cruise lines make up the bulk of the content due to their fleet sizes, but there are a plethora of smaller cruise ships designed for a much more intimate cruising experience.
- I liked the fact that Douglas focused on the main areas that are relevant to many readers – the cabins, the dining, the entertainment, the family-friendly facilities onboard, and the spa and fitness facilities. Each section offers enough information to make an informed decision on whether it is a ship suited to your needs.
The not so good
- Due to the sheer size of the book, and the fast pace of the cruise industry, it is inevitable that some minor factual errors appear in the text.
- I think the rating system is problematic. Each ship can receive a score of up to five stars based on what seems like an arbitrary rating system. While each profile denotes the high-level scores for the six key areas (“ship”, “accommodation”, “food”, “service”, “entertainment”, and “cruise”), it is sometimes difficult to work out how a ship scored the points the way it did. A little extra explanation as to why each ship scored what they did for each of these six topics would help give the reader more context.
- I would like to see a fleet list serving as an index. While all the cruise ships appear in alphabetical order by name, it would be handy to have a page that displays all of these grouped by cruise line. For instance, I know I can find Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas on page 566, but what if I didn’t know what their other ships were named? It would be handy to have an index that I could refer to so as to compare sister-ships or event fleet sizes.
Who the book appeals to
Thanks to its straightforward layout, this book is perfect for anyone with any interest in cruise ships.
It is a great choice for those who have never cruised. It takes the legwork out of visiting multiple cruise line websites as you can easily compare facilities offered onboard each cruise ship.
For avid cruise ship fans, it becomes less of a holiday planning guidebook and more of a ship spotters handbook. It contains detailed facts and figures about each cruise ship together with the facilities on each. It is a guide to the best cruise ships in the world and a record for marking off ships you have come across on your travels. It is also a useful resource when you are docked alongside another cruise ship and want to know a bit more about the vessel next to you!
Is it worth buying?
Yes! With a cover price of just £18.99, it represents excellent value for money for 700+ pages of content. The book contains facts, figures, and in-depth details about the facilities available onboard hundreds of cruise ships in service worldwide in 2014.
It is a large book that you will go back to time and time again. Whether you are curious about ships, planning your very first cruise holiday, planning your next cruise ship holiday, or simply just a cruise ship buff, this ought to take pride of place on your bookshelf (or in your Kindle library).
If you are interested in river cruising, Douglas Ward has also written a second book called River Cruising in Europe.
UPDATE: The 2017 edition of Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships is available here and the 2016 edition of River Cruising in Europe is available here. The ocean ships book is available in paperbook and Kindle formats. The river cruise book is in paperback only.
Have you flicked through this cruising bible? What is your favourite aspect of the book? Leave a comment below.
Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of the book by the publisher. My opinions are my own.