Douglas Ward’s authoritative Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships—whose 2015 edition celebrates its 30th anniversary of publication on Nov. 1—reflects a career that has seen him log more than 6,000 days at sea and participate in more than 1,000 cruises. As such, the 30 editions of this enduring cruising bible encompass the growth of the modern cruise history into the travel-industry juggernaut it is today (13.5 million American passengers in 2013).
The first edition, evaluating 120 ships, appeared in 1985, when, he says, cruising seemed to most people an expensive and rarefied experience. Since then, “some of the romance surrounding ocean travel seems to have floated away and along with it various traditions (like, for example, a more formal elegance in dining rooms, bon voyage sail-away festivities, everyday contact between senior officers and passengers, and, thankfully, the midnight buffet).” Plus in those days, he writes, “there were no lines for security checks, and immigrations checks were minimal. Today it’s a different story.”
And that story, he says, is that as ships have become increasingly more sumptuous as self-contained resorts, the choices and standards have all increased dramatically. “A vast range of destinations and accommodations, more lavish entertainment, a burgeoning number of theme cruises, more sophisticated dining choices, top-end sports and fitness facilities, high-tech (and, alas, far too high cost) onboard digital communications and of course, stringent safety regulations. Of course,” he says, what was true back then and is still true today is “that is a huge difference in terms of quality depending on the specific ship and the consumer’s price point. And that, if I may say so, has for 30 years been the book’s central objective—helping consumers pick the right cruise for the right price and with the right expectations.”
The anniversary edition would not be complete without Ward reflecting on 30 of his most memorable cruise experiences, and they could, he says, “serve as an ocean-going bucket list for cruisers who seek the trip of their lifetime.” They’re not listed in a particular order, but two have particular resonance:
Standing with outstretched arms, just like Kate Winslet in the movie “Titanic”, at the very front of Braemar as the ship glides through the Swedish archipelago towards Stockholm.
Happily Ever After
Looking for a partner? I met my future wife aboard a Japanese cruise ship some years ago, and we married several years later. You, too, could meet the person of your dreams aboard a cruise ship—it happens all the time.
Fully updated and revised, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2015 ($25.99, 704 pages, with hundreds of color photographs) is published in the U.S. on November 1, 2014. Also forthcoming will be the guide in e-book.