Call me a landlubber, but recent disturbing news stories about cruise ships have me reconsidering my vacation plans. In January, the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground in Italy, leaving more than 30 passengers dead or presumed dead. Today, another vessel from the same company, the Allegra, is being towed into Seychelles after a fire left the cruise ship inoperable and over 1000 passengers stranded for about three days. If these horror stories on the high seas aren’t enough to make you reconsider your next cruise vacation, these literary tales of very un-smooth sailing surely will.
“The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen
Just as the TV commercials promise, your family might start acting entirely out of character.
One of the most cringe-worthy storylines in Franzen’s 2001 National Book Award–winning novel, which is currently being adapted by HBO, follows aging Midwestern parents Enid and Alfred on a cruise to Nova Scotia. The couple encounter some insufferable fellow travelers, while Alfred’s dementia leads to hallucinations of talking turds, and Enid experiments with a drug called Aslan. Staying landlocked never sounded so good.
“Bossypants” by Tina Fey
Your vacation can go from romance to fire drill in two seconds flat.
The “30 Rock” star devotes a whole chapter of her bestselling memoir to her honeymoon cruise from New York to Bermuda. Unfortunately, the romantic getaway was ruined when the ship caught fire. The fire was contained, but what newlywed couple wants to be confronted with a “women and children first” situation right after their wedding?
“A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” by David Foster Wallace
The luxury doesn’t last, and can leave you feeling lonely.
Originally published under the title “Shipping Out” in Harper’s magazine, this travelogue by the late novelist David Foster Wallace reflects on a weeklong lavish cruise in the Caribbean. Wallace looks at all of the indulgences aboard ship, and warrants that in fact, this type of luxury vacation is rather a sad and depressing escape from reality.
“Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline” by Brian David Bruns
What happens below decks might not stay there.
Frequent cruise travelers know that there are plenty of crew members who are married to each other or dating. What the staff does in their personal time, however, is best kept secret. Bruns tears open the curtain and shows readers what goes on in the restricted areas of the ship. If you do choose to go on a cruise vacation, this book will stoke your curiosity about what’s happening below decks.
“Devils on the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams, Schemes, and Showdowns That Built America’s Cruise-Ship Empires” by Kristoffer A. Garin
Corporate greed can make things risky on the high seas.
If cruises have such a bad rep, how do they stay in business? Garin presents the history of cruise lines back to “The Love Boat,” as well as documenting how these big companies have thrived and dived over the years. The scariest bits include reports of these companies’ skirting many U.S. laws and taxes and of sexual assaults on passengers by cruise line employees.
“Santa Cruise: A Holiday Mystery at Sea” by Mary Higgins Clark
Living in close quarters with thousands of strangers can be murder.
If you weren’t already wary of traveling on an isolated vessel with thousands of strangers, Mary Higgins Clark has a book for you. In this waterlogged adventure by the mystery doyenne, two couples set aboard the “Royal Mermaid’s” first voyage at sea, only to find out there are criminals loose on the ship. Thanks, but I’d rather travel sans stowaways.