“Take the cruise lines’ brochures with a grain of sea salt. You will not look like those models the moment you board the vessel.” Pulling no punches and taking no prisoners, Pam Kane dishes up the truth about cruise ship holidays, all in good humor, as she guides novices and “old salts” aboard Happy Sails: The Carefree Cruiser’s Handbook.
She begins the journey with a generic introductory chapter of commonly asked questions (and requisite answers) about cruise travel. “But don’t just old people take cruises?” is countered with a reality check. In a competitive travel market, cruising offers something for everyone. The book then flows through fashion and packing, arrival onboard to fellow cruisers, food to shopping, health to how to deal with personalities and other issues and ends with “Red Sails -- and Eyes -- in the Sunrise”, a.k.a. debarkation (sounds brutal, but following Kane’s tips is not all that bad).
Kane is an extraordinary traveler (one hundred countries, six continents, all fifty states...) whose ability to synthesize her experience into a humorous, relevant outpouring of advice is clear. This is her twelfth book (and her second specifically about cruise travel), and while the gist of her knowledge stems from a stereotypical middle-aged, heterosexual, upper middle-class viewpoint, she does offer wise and insightful tips for solo cruise travelers, gay couples, and ability-challenged individuals. “This is Not Noah Ark,” Kane acknowledges, and nor should you want it to be.
Sidebars of tips, anecdotes and noteworthy tidbits break up the text. Much of the book is written in question/answer format, and Kane favors bulleted lists -- making the information quickly accessible for the reader. I do question the fact that apparently “nobody pays that much attention” to your wardrobe, yet Kane devotes an entire chapter to the discussion of clothing. That being said, there is no doubt that Kane knows how to pack. The chapter following the “Fashion Police” is a step-by-step guide to packing perfection. It’s an art form (and an enjoyable read even though I know I will never attempt toreach the master’s level). “Good packing is like a symphony,” and Kane is a world-class conductor.
Happy Sails is not fluff, it’s a pre-trip guidebook, an introduction to the world of cruising that will enhance the experience and enable you to enjoy the vagaries of cruise travel. I have yet to take my first cruise, but when I do, you can bet I will be pulling this book back off the shelf and re-reading it cover to cover.