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Article from TNU OCTOBER 2023

+ Cruising & Cruise Ships 2024 - The first review

It has not seen the light of day since October 2019.  Cruising & Cruise Ships, Douglas Ward’s mighty cruise ship annual review is back again.  This will be the 36th issue.  It was first published in 1985. 

Regular purchasers will find it completely different.   

Nothing is the same except the title and what it offers!  

This review is by TNU’s Editor-in-Chief Malcolm Ginsberg who has been on ships even longer than Ward, his first “cruise” to Australia and back as a “ten-pound Pom” on Asturias and Orion in 1951.  With Ward it was RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1965.  Both gentlemen are of similar vintage.

“To really appreciate Douglas Ward’s “Cruising & Cruise Ships 2024” the one thing is you need time. If you have not cruised before it is essential reading.   

River cruising is totally different and is covered by the Insight River Cruising in Europe & the USA.

What has been the standard reference work on cruise ships for decades, this latest version has 376 pages against 754, and comes in at 7” x 10” as against the rather typical book size of 6” x 9” of the previous editions.  There is an e-version provided gratis with the book, but that is not really practical unless you want to search for a certain key word.  It looks good on the screen mind you!

This from Insight Editor Rachel Lawrence:  "We changed the format as part of the relaunch under the Insight Guides brand (instead of Berlitz). The page size was made bigger so we could better accommodate the growing number of listings as well as increasing the font size to make it more user-friendly. The paper is slightly thicker than it used to be for the Berlitz brand, making it a more premium feeling product."

The volume is divided into two sections, with the first half essential reading for prospective newcomers to cruising.  It is very detailed but worth the time if you are considering a deep-sea cruise and not been to sea before.  And something of an eye opener even for those with plenty of cruising experience.

Part One begins with an introduction “New to Cruising” and takes the reader through the essential things to know.  In fact it complements my own “Cruising is a Complex Business” covering such items as the very important initial safety briefing and the use of digital when on board.

“Cruising Uncovered” starts by answering many of the questions that first timers query beginning with “Is cruising good value?” and “Isn’t cruising expensive?" and totals, mostly in detail, some 100 headlines, finishing with smoking, the dos and don’ts!

The ”Chronology of Cruising” is an 18-page most informative history of cruising but I challenge Ward‘s comment that 1960 was the start of modern cruising.  In April 1954, SS Chusan departed London for a world cruise lasting 92 days, a first for the P&O Line.  North African cruises followed, and before WWII the Nazi “Strength through Joy” cruises took to the Baltic on what was to become the Empire Windrush.

“Choose Where to Cruise” asks the same question of any holiday, and “Ship as a Destination” is a misnomer but is short and concise and tells you what is on offer on board. “39 Cruise Experiences” is Ward’s own occurrences over the years.

The chapters unravel and I highlight “Cruising for Special Needs” which not only deals with wheelchair users (large doors are provided on some ships), but also those who require dialysis.  Some lines provide free trips for nursing staff to enable passenger care.  Also hoists for access to pools and hot tubs are provided by some operators.

“Choose the Right Cruise” is followed by “Ship as a destination”, “Choose the right ship” and sections on accommodation, families, romantics, solo passengers, seniors, themes, expeditions, a section called “Life Aboard”, cuisine and descriptions of every cruise line worldwide.

The real key to the book for regular cruisers is page 194 “The Star Performers”, a listing of the top 20 ships in four classes, large resort (2,501 to 6,500), mid-size (751 to 2.500), small (251 to 750) and boutique (50 to 250).

At that point you might want to jump to the final chapter “Ships rated by score” to find Hapag Lloyd Europa 2 topping the list, although it is far from “accessibility” friendly.  Interestingly the three Cunard ships Queen Mary 2 (QM2), Elizabeth and Victoria come within a point of each other.  On QM2 you can take your dog across the Atlantic.  Saga does well here with Adventure and Discovery rated at 1,458, whilst its retired Sapphire only came in at 1,374.  Sad to say in the other direction Celebrity Equinox is at 1,369, whilst four years back it was 1,444.  Asuka II may be new to British readers but it is the first Crystal ship (Harmony) dating from 1990.  That outscores (1,511) the very recently completely refurbished Crystal Serenity (1,540) and Crystal Symphony (1,458).

In the second section of the book you will find two ship reviews per page, much simpler than the previous thorough examination, but does include the essential “Insight Guides’ Ratings”.

This Part Two is the traditional ship by ship examination, all 341 of them, but severely cut down from the previous books. P&O Britannia for instance is just 130 words, whilst in 2020 it ran to a double page spread of detailed copy.  Short and sweet is the best way of describing the new reviews never going into the real details of each ship.  In truth the old ones were repetitive, all the vessels in one build class for the most part with a description.  This time around Ward, landlocked for part of the pandemic, has each ship in one build class individually examined.  

How the market receives this eagerly awaited volume remains to be seen.  Arguments are bound to come to the fore, but not about the ships!

“Insight” is a massive holiday guide publisher with more than 250 travel titles currently in print and clearly knows its market.  The book will sell well!

One other point of note.  Douglas Ward has always been fiercely independent with his reviews.  Maybe it is a sign of the times but MSC is everywhere and has taken the inside back cover as an advertisement whilst its mammoth World Europa (rated at 1,490) opens the book “From the Author” and as a second front cover which highlights the spiral slide on the ship.  Ward is unlikely to have tested it when he reviewed the ship.”

Cruising & Cruise Ships by Douglas Ward published by Insight Guides
ISBN 978-183-905-344-3


The Editor-in-Chief and wife are off to the Mediterranean later in October on P&O’s new Arvia.  This did not happen!  Please see  Mrs Ginsberg tested positive for Covid on the departure day, cancelling the trip, but was able to secure passage on the sister ship  Iona a week later.  The full report will appear in December's TNU.

This is Douglas Ward’s brief description of just 116 words.  Ginsberg will produce around 1,000 words for publication 1 November.  Whether it has the new SpaceX’s Starlink wi-fi remains to be seen.  See in this month’s TNU. We are looking forward to the ship with a review to follow in the November TNU.

This super large family friendly LNG powered ship (Arvia means from the seashore), features Attitudes an open-deck activity zone, full of fun amusements for all, including a challenging high ropes course. New to the ship is a 12-seater aft swim-up bar for adults. Inside, the tri deck atrium is the connecting point for numerous public rooms, eateries, cafes and shops, all with interior that is vibrant yet restrained. The accommodation runs from interior view cabins to smart balcony suites, and all include tea coffee making sets. The main (included) two-seating dining rooms are large and there are several cost extra eateries including Green & Co a fish and plant-based venue.

Index/Home page


All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 200 words maximum

Stan Risk, Swansea

Having experienced Star Clipper quite a few years back its good to see that Douglas Ward has acknowledged this part of the cruising industry. Perhaps next time he can add a simple list of all wind powered cruise ships. His report on Star Clipper was too short.

Alice Hope, Leeds

Well done Mr Ward. My wife and I only experience of cruising was in the post pandemic period when we took the opportunity of the cheap trips available for a UK only cruise. The introduction sections were very interesting and has given us plenty of food for thought.

William Hill, United Kingdom

This new guide is concise. To concise and not a proper review. I shall have to resort to Trip Advisor and the like knowing that reviews could easily have been written by the cruise company marketing staff, or their PR company.

Sally Field, London

Mr Ward, you have got it wrong. No crew to passenger ratio, or even onboard currency. This cutdown version of what was once the finest cruise line review book. He did mention the cancellation of nighttime turn down services on several lines and I think marked down accommodation accordingly. It is utterly misleading and does not mention Saga with a minimum passenger age of 50, and that the Virgin ships are not for children. I could go on. Some lines are adult only. Which?

Joe Smith, Mill Hill London

What has Insight Guides done to the best cruise guide. This latest issue is a parody of the 36 previous editions. No cabin sizes and no passenger to staff ratio. And I for one do not wish to know about the history of cruising, or cruising for romantics. And no inventory of wheelchair accessible cabins.

Jill Blank, Poole

The Douglas Ward annual review of cruise ships was always something to look forward to. Unless there is a radical change of policy this is the last one I will purchase. 193 pages are given over to pure editorial and just 174 to the ships, at four per page for the most part. In the 2020 edition, which I shall have to keep, ships of any consequence made two pages, even Marco Polo, 2 star and nearly 60 years old, and now broken up. The overall winner, Europa, does gain a single page, likewise QM2, clearly his favourite, with a four page supplement, disguised as “Transatlantic Crossings”.

Sally Field, Dover

It will be interesting to see how Mr Ward deal with the Virgin ships. They are different, but then so is Disney.

Bill Stephens, Southampton

How many ships get a five star rating?

Jeff Jones, Southampton

I am waiting for mine to arrive. And then do I chuck the 2020 issue, or keep it for reference. Interesting to see that 30 year old plus ships are getting a good rating.

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