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Enhancing your Cruise with a Series of Good Reads

Written By:
Helen Worthington
February 11, 2016

What do you plan first when you are starting to pack for your cruise holiday?

For me, its reading matter!!!

I like nothing more than sitting on my balcony, enjoying a good book or finding a quiet, shady spot on deck (with or without a blanket) to get on with my Kindle.

Most cruise ships have a library (even river cruise ships will boast a few volumes) featuring multiple copies of travel guides to places along the itinerary. A selection of modern (and not so modern) best sellers, as well as audio books and translations in other languages are often available.

Queen Elizabeth Library

It is true that some libraries are better than others – particular mention has to go to the ones on Cunard’s ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and Holland America Line’s ‘Prinsendam’ which are both superb. The one on ‘Queen Elizabeth’ is a two deck high, beautiful, light-wood-panelled area with a spiral staircase in the middle. It houses more than 7,000 books (7,400 in English, 400 in German, 100 in Spanish and approximately 50 French books) and has two full-time librarians working there.

As a matter of interest, Cunard’s other ships also have a lot of tomes: there are 10,000 volumes on Queen Mary 2 – 8,400 in English and 800 in German. The rest are in Japanese, Spanish, Italian and French.

‘Prinsendam’ is Holland America’s Elegant Explorer ship, which carries only 835 passengers at any one time. The library is part of the Explorations Café and is quite large for the number of passengers on the ship. You can grab a coffee and a book before snuggling down in a welcoming leather chair in front of the fireplace.

HAL Prinsendam

What do you like to read on your cruise?

Do you take the opportunity to read that old classic you have been promising yourself to read for ages (‘War & Peace’ here we come!). Or perhaps opt for the latest best seller from ‘Richard & Judy’s Book Club’? Maybe you have been lent a recommendation!

Some cruise lines, like Voyages to Antiquity and Crystal Cruises, will send a ‘suggested’ reading list of fact and fiction offerings, which are designed to enhance your cruise experience (but it is by no means compulsory). Other lines will offer pre-cruise links to check out destinations or host Book Club type sessions whilst on board.

Let’s say you are sailing in the Mediterranean this summer. Over the course of a 14-night cruise, you may be lucky enough to visit ten ports of call. Here is my personal list of ten books you could get through - mainly fictional reading matter - with each one based on a different port:


Marina – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (A gothic tale of Oscar and what happens when he witnesses a macabre ritual in a cemetery in 1980’s Barcelona).


The Corfu Trilogy – Gerald Durrell (Autobiographical account of Gerald Durrell’s childhood on Corfu, including ‘My Family and Other Animals’).


Murder in Mykonos – Jeffrey Siger (The first in a series of books featuring an ex Athens detective, Andreas Kaldis, with each book set in a different Greek city).


The Vesuvius Isotope – Kristen Elise (Naples’ answer to Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, is a treasure hunt through Italy and Egypt, from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum).


The Riviera Set: From Queen Victoria to Princess Grace – Lita-Rose Betcherman (A social history of the French Riviera featuring stories of the rich, famous, and infamous).


Secrets of the Tower – Debbie Rix (Historical fiction versus the present day).


The Feast of Fools – Bryn Kanar (A mystery novel set during the time of the late Roman Empire).


City of Sorrows – Susan Nadathur (Gypsy life in Seville and how the lives of 3 male protagonists interact).


The Kapillan of Malta – Nicholas Montserrat (A classic novel set during the siege of Malta 1940-1942).


The Venice Project – Philip Gwynne Jones (Autobiographical chronicle of a year in the life of two Brits who up-sticks and move to Venice).


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