I recently received my copy of this new book, the latest by Andrew Sassoli-Walker and Sharon Poole. It follows their earlier books on Artemis, P&O 175, and Oriana/Aurora. I don’t have the first of those but I do have the other two. The new book is the same format as the Oriana/Aurora book – about A5 size, landscape format, and 128 pages.
There are twelve chapters, each titled after a month of the year. The first is for April, and the months follow in order finishing at March. Each chapter has a theme which in a number of cases has a connection to the month. So for example the August chapter is about Mediterranean cruises in high summer and also has a lot of content about the arrangement and organisation of on-board children’s activities, the relevance being that August will be the when children’s activities will be at the peak. Similarly December is about Christmas on board, January deals with world cruise departures and gives some insights into the challenges of provisioning the ships at long distance, and September gives a lot of information about the bureaucratic requirements, for both passengers and ships, of sailing to the USA (September is when P&O has often done one or more long-ish cruises to the USA and Canada).
Other chapters don’t have an especially close link between their title and their content. May, for example, is mainly about the responsibilities held by the captain on a ship and how he or she organises themselves to meet those responsibilities; clearly this would be applicable to any month. Similarly October is mainly a description of on board and shore-side operations at Southampton during a ship turnaround, and again this would apply year-round. But I can see that these non-specific topics are important, and it’s not unreasonable to attach them to months that didn’t have any other obvious connections.
A lot of the written content takes the form of quotes from interviews with various crew members e.g. captains, executive pursers, chief engineers and also more junior staff, although I’m not sure I remember any specific quotes from waiters and cabin attendants. The book is also lavishly illustrated – typically, about the half the page space for each month is in the form of images rather than text. This did mean that I was able to get through the book in a couple of hours or so, and I have to admit that as a result of that my first impression was that it was rather slight. I’ve since been back through it a couple of times, both to examine the images in more detail and also to cherry-pick some nuggets of information, and I’m beginning to revise my opinion. But it’s not a wordy or technically complex description of cruise ship operations, so anyone looking for that will be disappointed.
Given that the images take up so much of the book, it’s worth commenting on them. There are a lot of images, many of which are three or four to a page, and given the page size that means they’re often not big. On the one hand I can see why this has been done – they want to include the images to illustrate the content e.g. pages 71 to 74, in the October chapter, contain 12 images showing various aspects of the work that’s done, often behind the scenes, during a cruise turnaround at Southampton, and as such they’re interesting. But because of the size and number of the images you can find yourself skipping over them – as I mentioned above I went back through the book specifically to look at the images, and that was worth doing. But they’re different, both in intent and execution, from those in the P&O 175 book in which a number of the images grabbed my attention on first reading and have stayed with me. So the images complement the text; they wouldn’t necessarily be great images if they were removed from the text and they need to be viewed with that in mind. (On glancing again at the P&O 175 book I can see that there are many examples of three or four images in that book as well; perhaps it’s just the fact that the P&O 175 book is in a larger format that makes them more memorable.)
Overall I enjoyed this book, and I’m glad I added it to my library. But if you haven’t got any of Sharon and Andrew’s books then I would suggest getting the P&O 175 book first – I reviewed it here.
“A year in the life of the P&O Cruises fleet“: pub. Amberley Publishing, ISBN 978 1 4456 1360 4
“P&O Cruises celebrating 175 years of heritage“: pub Amberley Publishing, ISBN 978 1 4456 0596 1