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Books on Boats: The Best Cruise Guidebooks

Books on Boats: The Best 10 Cruiseline Guidebooks

With so many options available, choosing the right cruise can be a real challenge. Where do you want to go? How much do you want to spend? Which cruise line is best for you? Some of the best resources to help answer these questions and many others are the latest cruise travel guidebooks available at bookstores and online.

"Cruises are available to meet every taste and budget," says Bob
Levinstein, CEO of CruiseCompete.com, a Web site that allows consumers to compare cruise quotes from multiple travel agents.

"Cruise guidebooks are a fun, inexpensive way to help you make the choice that's right for you."

After in-depth reviews of the new 2006 guidebooks, here are CruiseCompete's most entertaining recommendations:

Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships
Author: Douglas Ward, Publisher: Berlitz Publishing

Having held several positions with major cruise lines in the distant past, this author is a cruise expert. 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 book, which is updated annually. Ward uses a comprehensive 400-point critiquing system to rank the cruise ships he sails/visits. The cruise lines use his reviews and observations as part of their quality control process. About 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
Author: Linda Coffman, Publisher: Fodor's

Coffman is publisher of CruiseDiva.com and an admitted cruise-aholic. 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 select the ship carefully based on your personal tastes. Her book tries to provide consumers with all the tools needed to evaluate what they want in a cruise and then 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.

Cruise Vacations for Dummies
Author: Heidi Sarna and Matt Hannafin, Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

The authors' book is geared toward cruisers of all ages who are young at heart. It is written in a light, conversational style and the authors' sense of humor comes through as they try to dispel a number of common myths about cruise travel. The book provides a great overview of the industry and all of the popular cruise regions around the world. This book also lists many of the authors' favorite cruise ships, including smaller, more intimate vessels.

"Our book is a humorous, quick read with an irreverent slant - perfect for younger cruisers," Sarna said.

Econoguide Cruises
Author: Corey Sandler, Publisher: Econoguide Travel Books/ Word Association Inc.

Sandler comes from a newspaper journalism background and approaches his job as author from the perspective of a reporter rather than cruise enthusiast. He has been on more than 100 cruises during the past several years, from ultra-luxury sailings to simple ships touring the Erie Canal. His book focuses on how to get the most cruise for your money by taking advantage of all discounts and other promotional items available from the cruise lines. Each edition of his book features special discount coupons.

"In addition to a great amount of details on the ships, our book features exclusive cruise diary entries to help the reader secure a feel for the flavor of the cruise line," Sandler said.

Frommers Cruises and Ports of Call

Author: Matt Hannafin and Heidi Sarna, Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Hannafin is a former senior editor at Frommers who teamed up with longtime writing partner Sarna for this annual guidebook. Both began taking cruise assignments in the '90s 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.

"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.

Insight Guide North American & Alaskan Cruises
Author: Lesley Gordon, Publisher: Langenscheidt Publishers Inc.

Gordon, a 10-year travel publishing veteran, said this book contains detailed coverage of a large number of North American ports, including Alaska and Hawaii. Written for both the novice and experienced cruiser, it is full of "how to" tips and images of what ships and destinations look like.

Experienced cruisers will find the information on big ship and small ship experiences useful, as well as the narrative history of North America's waterways. The book provides colorful and detailed coverage of virtually every major North America port-of-call. These include stops on the west coast to Alaska, across Canada and eastern seaboard, through the Deep South. Great Lakes ports and stops on many of the major rivers crisscrossing the country are also covered.

"Insight Guide North American & Alaskan Cruises includes details of what to see and do in each port. This is particularly useful if you only have a few hours in town. There's also plenty of advice and suggestions for people spending a few days in a port before or staying on after a cruise," Gordon said.

The Unofficial Guide to Cruises

Author: Kay Showker, Publisher: 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 guide is intended for anyone interested in taking a cruise. It 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.

Steven Gelfuso, president of CruiseBrothers.com, one of the largest family-owned cruise travel agencies in the country, strongly encourages his sales staff to read the latest editions of the above books each year (as well as three cruise experiences per year) and use them as reference guides when working with customers.

"Our customers have all kinds of questions about specific cruise lines and ships," Gelfuso said. "Our sales team finds these books valuable when answering the toughest questions and consumers should find them very useful too. There are so many options available for people who want to go on a cruise vacation - these guides help everyone make sense of what cruise will be best for them and how to maximize their vacation budgets."

CruiseCompete.com saves consumers time by enabling them to secure quotes for cruise deals from multiple travel agencies without having to contact each one separately. To date, more than 250,000 customers have accessed CruiseCompete.com to request cruise prices from more than 150 member travel agencies around the country. Cruise Compete, LLC, is an independent company not owned by or affiliated with any travel agency.

(Source: Cruise Compete)

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