The Unofficial Guide to Cruises

We all love books with titles like these. They are going to tell us the "real" truth behind the corporate line. How well does this book live up to its promise?

First, the basics of the book. The first 130 pages holds background information - why cruises are cost effective, maps of key cruising regions, and so on. The rest of the book - which is about 660 pages total - is a ship by ship review of the main ships that you can choose to cruise on.

I bought this book, so obviously I was keen to hear the "secrets" :) But unfortunately, even though this version of the book came out only a year ago, I already see a large number of inaccuracies in it. It's not really a surprise - as much as they claim to be "unofficial", there is no way a group of reviewers (or especially the 2 who claim primary credit for writing this book) can go back and visit every ship listed, every year. But that means that either 1) the information is therefore inaccurate, or 2) they fall back on what the company reports, meaning they are no longer an unbiased 3rd party.

In addition, just what information are they giving you? I turned right to the Norwegian Majesty as I am looking to cruise with them shortly. They give stats like cabin count, draft, beam, etc. Undoubtedly they got those from the cruise lines, and didn't measure them themselves :). They list the decor colors, the names of the restaurants, the items in the cabins (desk, TV, etc.)

Really, the entire review (which is about 2 small pages long) is a transcript of information found on corporate pages. It says things like the Sky Deck has lounge chairs, rest rooms and showers. It really doesn't have any subjective information at all.

With the thousands of reviews available online, from people who DO go into the good, bad and ugly of each cruise line, I have to admit I was disappointed. Let's say I wanted to choose between the several cruise lines running to Bermuda, I don't know that these write-ups would really help over the official information found on the cruise ships' websites. With the information in the book not necessarily being accurate or up-to-date, even what they do show isn't something I could rely on fully. And given how much the price is for this book, it's really not very price-effective given how few pages are actually applicable for a given person.

That's not to say that the book is "bad" in any way. The beginning section is quite helpful, if basic. It talks about planning ahead, making sure you're in town a day early so that you don't risk missing your ship. It gives general advice on what to pack.

But again, you really do far better with web offerings - because instead of giving general advice on packing for "all cruises everywhere" (which has to include both Alaska and Jamaica), the web can give specific advice for specific lines going to specific destinations. Even two ships both going to a single island can have vastly different dress codes.

If someone doesn't have a web connection, and wants a general quick-reference book for scanning (say in the waiting room of a travel agency), this might be a good book to have. But if you're a cruiser who has a destination in mind, or a specific cruise ship in mind, this information is really far too brief.

Rating - 3/5

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