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CruiseCompete Currents
Cruise News and Information
December 12, 2005

New Cruise Guidebooks on the Shelf, 2006 editions make a nice holiday gift for cruisers

We spoke to the author's of several 2006 cruise guidebooks this fall and, after an in-depth review of each, the following are CruiseCompete's recommendations for the most useful books on the market:

The Unofficial Guide to Cruises, Kay Showker, John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Showker has covered the cruise industry as a journalist for more than 30 years and has written 13 travel guidebooks. Her book is divided into three parts: the first section is for people new to cruising and discusses how to plan a cruise, plus the ten most common myths about this type of vacation. Part two focuses on the cruise lines and their ships, highlighting strengths and weaknesses and the types of passengers one is likely to meet on any given sailing. Part three covers alternatives to traditional cruises, including river and barge sailings, adventure and cultural cruises, ferries and freighters and sailing ships. The book, updated annually, provides plenty of tips on getting the best deal, using the Internet, buying insurance and working with a travel agent. It does not cover ports-of-call. "This book is the easiest guide to use on the market. Our readers and travel agents tell me that all the time. It was written to be simple to use. We tell it like it is," Showker said.

Frommers Cruises and Ports of Call, Matt Hannafin & Heidi Sarna, John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Hannafin is a former editor at Frommers who teamed up with longtime writing partner Sarna for this annual guidebook. Both began taking cruise assignments in the 1990s and share the belief that virtually every line has its own "best" attributes depending on what a cruiser wants in a vacation. Their book focuses exclusively on cruises originating in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It evaluates all the U.S. ports of embarkation plus ports-of-call in the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, the Mexican Riviera, New England, Bermuda and along U.S. river-cruise routes. The ship reviews are divided into categories, including small ships and niche operators. "One of the most unique features of our book is that we include both retail pricing for cruises, plus samples of the actual discount prices that are out there. This gives people a sense of what to expect price-wise when booking a trip," Hannafin said.

Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, Douglas Ward, Berlitz Publishing
Ward held several positions with major cruise lines and, for the past 21 years, he has typically spent more than 200 days each year aboard the world's cruise ships to evaluate them for his annual book. Ward uses a comprehensive 400-point system to rank the cruise ships he sails/visits. The cruise lines use his observations as part of their quality control process. Some 70 cruise lines are featured in his book, which does not accept advertising or sponsorship. In addition to the larger players in the industry, he also evaluates small ships, tall ships and expedition cruises. "My book is targeted toward all cruisers, but those looking for an unusual cruise opportunity will find it most useful," Ward said.

Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises, Linda Coffman, Fodor's
Coffman, an admitted cruise-aholic, is publisher of Her work has appeared in many travel and cruise magazines, as well as newspapers and on The Travel Channel Web site. She says the key to a great cruise experience is to carefully select the ship based on your personal tastes. Her book tries to provide consumers with the tools needed to evaluate what they want in a cruise and select the best ship. Experienced cruisers who want to cruise on more expensive lines will benefit from the book's insights on the value of their luxury amenities. Half of the book focuses on Caribbean ports-of-call. "Knowing what to expect on a cruise really helps the consumer make intelligent travel decisions. We provide detailed, honest information, so they can choose the cruise line that suits their needs the best," Coffman said.

CruiseCompete highlights three more great guidebooks in the next issue of Currents!

Each of these books are available at

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