Cruise Ships: The Inside Story


256 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-00-216837-5





Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is a Victoria-based communications consultant, Canadian
news correspondent for Britain’s The Army Quarterly and Defence, and
author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.


Reading Cruise Ships brought back for this reviewer a treasured memory of standing on the top deck of the “Queen Elizabeth 2” one warm starlit night off Barbados, some years ago. Uncharacteristically clad in a tuxedo, I gazed down at the glittering scene of dancing, laughter, and music, drained a glass of champagne, then turned to my beautifully gowned wife to get off the line, “For the first time in my life, darling, I don’t care what party Noel Coward’s going to tonight!”

Even if only taken once, an ocean cruise spoils one forever for any other kind of vacation. It provides all the elements of an ideal holiday — comfort, good food and drink, pampered leisure, the prospect of romance, constant entertainment, and a sense of movement to exciting new places every day. However, after the first desire awakens to experience a cruise (along with having the necessary wherewithal to afford it) not a few people are still held back from going by fear of not knowing what to expect. What really happens aboard a cruise ship? What does one wear? Will I fit in? How is one to act with all those shipboard social formalities?

All of these points, and hundreds more, are thoroughly covered in Gary Bannerman’s Cruise Ships. Being an unabashed enthusiast for holidays afloat certainly helps the author, whose own pleasure in the experience rings through on every page. He so sincerely wants you to sail away on that trip of a lifetime — and perhaps many more to follow — that he has written what can best be described as a cruise manual.

He first primes the reader with a history of the golden age of cruise ships, describes the modern-day options available from warmwater ports, then leads the tyro passenger up the gangway for a preview of life aboard. What follows is an hour-by-hour description of a typical “floating palace,” from breakfast on. Bannerman explains everything from the significance of different coloured rings on ships officers’ sleeves (engineers have purple, the doctor has red, and so on) to what the tour director does, ports of call, how to treat the maitre d’, tipping conventions, and what clothing to pack.

Disco or deckchairs, frantic or leisurely according to one’s own choice — everything that shipboard life can offer is presented here so clearly that even the most inexperienced traveller could plan his or her first cruise months before stepping on board. An additional practical benefit is that Nova Scotia-born Gary Bannerman writes from the Canadian vacationer’s point of view, rarely found in travel books.


Bannerman, Gary, “Cruise Ships: The Inside Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024,