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July 11, 2005

When you step onto the overwhelming splendor of a modern cruise ship, it's hard to comprehend that cruising had it roots in the dreams of a just a handful of visionary entrepreneurs. A new book by Kristoffer A. Garrin, entitled "Devils on the Deep Blue Sea", traces those roots and explains how the cruise industry evolved from a few leaky converted passenger liners into the vacation behemoth it is today.

Drawn from dozens of first-hand interviews with the key players themselves, the book is full of incredible anecdotes, like Carnival's disastrous first voyage (which included the ship running aground and Ted Arison's crew having to empty nickels and quarters out of the slot machines in the casino just to be able to buy enough fuel to make it home). It's all here: the personalities; the big risks; the corporate takeover battles with billions of dollars at stake--even how a campy TV show became the greatest product-placement of all time.

While Garrin clearly admires the industry, he isn't shy about describing the darker side behind the glitz: the sometimes-abysmal working conditions, the conflicts with Caribbean ports, and--perhaps most troubling--a history of environmental problems. All of these issues are tackled with the same flowing prose and spiced with stories and comments from the people on both sides. While very entertaining, this is a serious, thought-provoking work nonetheless.

If you think that an understanding of the history of cruising and the dynamics of the industry will increase your enjoyment of the experience, "Devils on the Deep Blue Sea" is currently available from for $16.47.

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