18 June 2016

Sailing into a Good Read

A link from the Washington Post caught my eye, its article lamenting the demise of libraries on cruise ships. It paraphrased Linda Garrison, travel writer for About.com: “Oftentimes, the bigger the ship, the smaller the library.”. 

'Marco Polo' and 'Regal Princess' berthed at Tallinn, Estonia
Maybe so. Having not sailed on a big cruise ship, there being no desire to be penned into a balcony cabin – sorry stateroom – or share a confined space with over 3,000 other people, I can’t comment. However, of the two ‘comfortable’ size ships I have holidayed on from the UK’s Cruise & Maritime line – Marco Polo 850 passengers; Azores (now Astoria) 550 passengers – I can recommend both for their libraries, though a passenger needs to be in there fast to grab the guidebooks to the next port of call.

I found Marco Polo, especially, was well appointed for its clientele with thick carpeting and comfortable wrap-around chairs and, more importantly, one wall of floor-to-ceiling fiction and another of non-fiction, including some beautifully illustrated coffee table tomes that started a covetous itch in this reader. The ambiance was missing only an open fire, but of course there was a wall of windows with an ocean view so no one was complaining.

By mutual understanding it also ran a Silence regime which I – who should have known better – fell foul of in my exuberance. There may have been no actual tutting, but it was inherent in the sudden turn of heads, wonderfully refreshing when compared to modern dry-side public libraries where it can sometimes be difficult to hear myself think.

Kindle and tablet readers held their own alongside paper readers, seen on deck and in the lounges no matter the time of day, inspiring to a writer considering what else was on offer: lectures, craft workshops, bridge and Scrabble groups, deck and lounge games, show, cabaret and nightclub, quizzes and demonstrations, to say nothing of the port excursions. Despite there being hardly time to sleep there was always time to read, and to discuss a title with a fellow passenger over coffee or lunch.

C&M’s cruises are child-free, their ships small enough to sail from regional UK ports. Perhaps that’s why the experience is so relaxing, a lounger and a good book preferred to a climbing wall or a multi-level shopping experience. And to find your fellow passengers such interesting people.

On my recent twelve day cruise of the Baltic I read two novellas and a novel, and there’s my cue to upload the reviews. And yes, I did donate one of my own titles to the ship’s library. It’s called soft marketing.

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