Halifax, Nova Scotia has strong ties to the White Star Line's RMS Titanic. The coastal
Canadian city was chosen to handle the recovery operations immediately after the
liner sank - a task that involved many individuals, businesses, and houses of worship.
This book describes these events along with a retelling of the ship's story and the
fates of several passengers.
Overall, it's a good recounting of the Titanic tragedy, yet I was expecting more
on the prominent role of Halifax in the aftermath of the ship's demise. There are,
of course, many other volumes that cover this aspect in more depth. Therefore, I
recommend this book to beginning and intermediate students of Titanic history. It
provides the basics and more without getting into the minutiae that would please
only the most avid Titanic historians.
Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Sleeps, Wars, and Parties. One Crazy Year Working on
Brian David Bruns
As a veteran cruiser (20+ years) and budding travel writer, the topic of this mini-memoir
caught my eye while browsing through a bookstore. I had heard of the book and had
read its mixed reviews, yet thought I would judge for myself—and have my own mixed
review to report. In most ways, I was not surprised—I knew the general aspects of
the crew's living and working conditions by talking with various waiters and cabin
stewards over the years. Still, the picture painted by the author was vivid, and
I was able to look past the (um) extra-curricular activities as diversions.
What I gleaned from this book, and what surprised me, were its parallels to land-based,
large corporate employee life in the States—the honeymoon period, cliques, promises
(both kept and broken), and being in the right place at the right time—sans the working
conditions, of course. My main negatives were that these topics were not covered
in great depth, the book ended abruptly, and that the writer's ego often had me wondering
to the extent to which he may have stretched the truth. Even so, I enjoyed the book
and would recommend it to cruise travelers looking for a quick and easy read that
isn't meant to be taken too seriously.
The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic and Britannic
This is the ultimate resource book on White Star Line's Olympic class ships. As such,
it is a thorough research piece that examines the history and technical aspects of
the three ocean liners that comprised this class--Olympic (in service 1911-1935),
Titanic (1912), and Britannic (1915-1916). As a long-time fan of the great liners,
Olympic in particular, I consider this an essential part of my library. It is my
contention, one shared with the author, that Titanic cannot be put into proper perspective
without examining her sister ships; therefore, I also recommend The Olympic Class
Ships to those familiar only with the most famous of the trio.
The author immediately
puts the ships' histories into context by examining their owners, the shipyard in
which they were built, and the competing ships of the rival Cunard Line. We then
are treated to details of the lives of each ship in turn--including technical information
and remembrances of crew and passengers--but not necessarily in isolation. After
all, the lives of the three ships were indeed intertwined, as history impacted each
of the ships' designs at different points in time.
Mr. Chirnside's thorough research
extends to the appendices. Aside from the expected chronologies, there is a wonderful
analysis on Californian's role in the Titanic story, and--something I've rarely seen--a
tribute to those who perished on Britannic, the only one of the three that did not
see passenger service.
I was surprised to learn that the author was a University
student. I look forward to reading his future works over what I suspect will be a
very promising career.
For most people, the White Star Line is synonymous with the ill-fated Titanic. Yet,
as Richard de Kerbrech’s 2009 book shows us, the White Star Line was so much more.
I highly recommend this exemplary history of not only the 89 ships that served under
the White Star Line banner, but also of the line itself.
From the line’s first ship (Oceanic, 1871) through its merger with former rival Cunard
Line (1934), Mr. de Kerbrech guides us through a chronology of the White Star Line,
including detail on its liners and cargo ships, mechanics, routes, and business dealings.
The book is presented encyclopedia style, with detailed histories of each ship, including,
for most, a line that describes the derivation of the ship’s name. Every chapter
opens with a narrative on the era that will be presented, which also puts the line’s
history in context of the passenger shipping industry as a whole. For example, White
Star Line was very involved in the Japan and New Zealand trades as these areas opened
up to shipping.
Yet, the profiles of the ships are indeed the main strength of this book. While White
Star Line is often noted for its disasters (Titanic and Atlantic), there are several
success stories that are often overlooked. Its first ship, Oceanic, was in service
for 25 years—pretty impressive for its time. Germanic was in service for 75 years
(between three owners), including World War I duty. And then, there is my favorite
ship, Olympic, the pride of the White Star Line when she was launched in 1910. Photographs
enhance the retelling of the ships’ histories.
Although I read the book front-to-back for purposes of this review, it is intended
to be a resource as needed. And, it certainly excels in this respect, and others.
Liner fans will likely consider this an important component of their libraries, while
those who are familiar with just a few of the White Star Line’s ships will find value
in its detail and the context in which these ships operated.
Historical fiction is a challenging genre. An author must create a storyline within
a setting that once existed while minimizing confusion between fiction and fact.
The difficulty intensifies when a historical character is brought into the mix, particularly
in a prominent role. This is the reason that I assess this book as "just ok" rather
than a “must-read.” As a Titanic student, I was already familiar with the life of
Harry Elkins Widener (HEW) and feel that too much artistic license was taken.
appealed to me about the book, however, were the detailed descriptions of sites that
were part of Titanic's history, such as Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, where
many passengers were buried. It was evident that the author did a great deal of research
on the ship and her passengers -- which, sadly, is lacking in several works of other
The story itself was somewhat interesting as the fictional Alexei delved
into his obsession with the unnamed passenger associated with grave marker 223. His
quest led to another fictional character, whose fictional association with passenger
223 was key to Alexei suspecting he had found a link to HEW.
However, we must not
confuse this with reality, and I hope the actions described in this book do not become
intertwined with the real HEW, a fascinating gentleman in his own right.
One Final Voyage is an enjoyable novel about the farewell voyage of an ocean liner
after 25 years of service. During the story, we are introduced to delightful—and
interesting—passengers, meet many crew members ranging from stoker to Captain, learn
about the competitiveness of developing new methods to cross the Atlantic, and encounter
suspenseful moments as the ship's aging machinery is put to the max. The character
development is superb, and the details of the ship's inner workings incredible.
The setting for this gripping story is perhaps the most famous ship of all-time—RMS
Titanic. Clearly, this is a work of fiction that requires the reader to suspend knowledge
of events that occurred after 1912, most notably history of the White Star Line as
well as the first World War and Great Depression. The modification of this history
is key to the story that unfolds onboard, one in which the author combines, successfully,
three of his interests--passenger ships, aviation, and Russian culture.
As an ocean liner fanatic, it was a bit disconcerting to me, at times, to read dialogue
from passengers who had perished on Titanic in reality. Yet, this book differs from
other fictional accounts of the liner as it does not attempt to hide that it's a
fabrication. One note—as this is a self-published book, there are several typographical
errors and inadvertent misspellings. Yet, even as an editor in real life, I did not
find these distracting as the story held up well.
I look forward to reading the remaining two volumes of the trilogy, Oceanic Crossings
and Atlantic Colours.
A Night to Remember should be on the bookshelves of anyone interested in the true
story of Titanic. Published in 1955, highly renowned maritime historian Walter Lord
was able to share actual experiences of those who survived this tragic event in the
North Atlantic roughly 40 years earlier. Unlike sensationalized versions of this
oft-told story, Mr. Lord provides perspectives of passengers from all classes of
accommodation, as well as members of the crew, bolstering them with statistics and
historical facts. The individual stories bring a human element to the disaster, without
the romanticism that typically overshadows most accounts of this dreadful night.
My Ocean Liner: Across the North Atlantic on the Great Ship Normandie
Peter Mandel (illustrated by Betsey MacDonald, introduction by John Maxtone-Graham)
I purchased this book for my son, then nine years old, prior to our 2003 transatlantic
crossing on Queen Elizabeth 2. While technically a children’s book, it quickly became
one of my favorites and is stored in my library rather than in his.
The story follows Paul, a nine-year-old who is traveling with his parents from New
York to Le Havre in 1939 on the French Line’s SS Normandie. The main means of transportation
at this time was ocean liner, and we share Paul’s adventures as he explores the ship,
makes friends, and learns about how the ship is operated. It’s a cute story that
also serves to acquaint the reader with the historic ship, as Paul’s adventures take
him, chapter by chapter, to the dining room, sun deck, bridge, and engine room. Through
Paul’s eyes, we also experience the excitement of boarding, a storm at sea, and even
a sighting of Queen Mary as Normandie approaches her destination. All are described
in detail, and enhanced by illustrations created by Betsey MacDonald. Even the little
details that amaze a child, yet might escape the observations of an adult, are noted—such
as the cabarets (“like little fences”) on the edges of the dining room tables to
keep items falling off while the ship is in motion.
Another wonderful feature of My Ocean Liner is its historical accuracy. All of the
text and illustrations were reviewed by respected ocean liner historian John Maxtone-Graham.
Mr. Maxtone-Graham also puts the voyage into perspective by sharing historical information
in the introduction he penned.
In summary, Mr. Mandel has written a wonderful introduction to ocean liner history
for the younger set that also captures the attention of the adults. I highly recommend
this book to anyone interested in passenger ships, particularly to future ocean liner
fanatics and their parents.
If you are looking for a gift for the cruise enthusiast in your life, you cannot
go wrong with Liners to the Sun, a written documentary of cruising’s past and how
it continues to influence shipboard life today. This 500+ page volume by respected
maritime historian John Maxtone-Graham contains something for everyone, covering
topics such as shipbuilding, class distinctions, crossing vs. cruising, and the future
of the cruise industry.
The author’s intent was for the reader to gain a better appreciation
of what today’s cruises have to offer by studying their origins on earlier cruises
and crossings. He accomplishes this through delightful, engaging accounts of actual
voyages, as seen by the passengers and crew who experienced them.
Endure a storm
on Friesland in 1895, chronicled in a passenger-run newspaper, and attend a passenger
reunion on land one year later. Join the Ochs family on Victoria Luise in 1913 to
explore the nearly completed Panama Canal, and call on Caribbean ports via a convoy
of the ship’s lifeboats. Journey from New York to Rio on the legendary Normandie
in 1938, and revel in the antics of the crossing-the-line ceremony. Relive several
of the author’s own cruises of the 1980s, including a trip to the Caribbean on the
Norway during her inaugural season, the Far East portion of a Rotterdam world cruise,
Alaska on Fairsea, and a transatlantic repositioning cruise via the North Cape on
Royal Viking Sea.
Observe what goes on behind the scenes of a cruise ship. Spend
a day with a cabin steward, and see the precursors of today’s popular towel animals.
Learn the origins of the Captain’s Dinner. Witness the camaraderie that exists at
sea, as Sea Venture (later known as Pacific Princess) was called upon to rescue passengers
stranded during a power outage on Queen Elizabeth 2.
Shipbuilding fans will enjoy
visiting the shipyards to observe the construction of Song of America in 1981 and
the lengthening of Royal Viking Star several months later. Those interested in the
architecture of cruise ships will enjoy learning how ships were converted from "indoor"
transatlantic liners to "outdoor" cruising vessels.
Mr. Maxtone-Graham’s text is
enhanced by numerous photographs taken over a 90-year period. Images of swimming
pools and promenade decks are especially appealing, as are the many pictures that
show off the ships’ profiles.
Liners to the Sun was originally published in 1985,
and was reissued in 2000 with an up-to-date introduction by the author. However,
all of the cruises depicted in the current edition took place before the book’s original
publication date. While consistent with the intent of the author, I would have liked
to have also read Mr. Maxtone-Graham’s firsthand impressions of today’s megaships
and the trend towards more casual, individualized cruising.
Still, Liners to the
Sun is an excellent work, and should certainly enhance the future cruising experiences
of its readers. I highly recommend it to anyone who agrees with the author that "the
best islands in the Caribbean have propellers."
Originally published by the reviewer
in SeaLetter Cruise Magazine, April 2001
With his latest book, John Maxtone-Graham reaches two audiences–those who want to
learn more about Titanic and those who wish to explore further study on their own.
Mr. Maxtone-Graham (whom, I must disclose, I have met personally) takes the wonderful
approach of visiting numerous aspects of Titanic's history that include the important
roles of Morse and Marconi, the dock built specifically for Titanic and her sisters,
and the small Cunarder Carpathia that came Titanic's rescue. Most poignant was the
chapter on crew memorials–in all my years of study, this was the first time I had
come across this subject. Mr. Maxtone-Graham also does a great service to future
Titanic historians by giving us several areas from which to choose, providing a fantastic
basis for each. This was a fantastic. extraordinarily researched book that I know
will be among the sources I consult the most in my studies.
The Sinking of the Titanic: Thrilling Stories of Survivors, with Photographs & Sketches
L.T. Meyers, Publisher
This is one of several books published soon after the Titanic tragedy, and is a compelling
read that lives up to its subtitle of “Thrilling Stories of Survivors.” Given its
rush to market, it contains several details that have since proven to be inaccurate,
a point clearly noted on the book’s copyright page. While not an authoritative source—I
leave that to Walter Lord’s well-researched publications—this book has a place on
our shelf as it represents a snapshot in time, capturing the emotions of survivors
within a year of an event that transformed their lives.
This is the most frequently referenced book in my library. Pictorial Encyclopedia
of Ocean Liners is a comprehensive volume with photographs and statistics on over
400 liners. Information includes shipyard, year built, gross tonnage, length, width,
engine type, speed, number of passengers (by class, if applicable), original and
subsequent names and owners, and ultimate fate. An appendix includes preliminary
statistics on mid-1990s newbuilds, including Century, Grand Princess, and Carnival
Destiny. Although it may be considered dated by today’s cruisers, it is an essential
publication for anyone interested in the history of passenger ships. This 142-page,
large-format paperback is perfect to bring on your next cruise to learn more about
some of the ships you’ll encounter in port, particularly those in Europe, where the
more recent of these ships now serve.
I have been a huge fan of William H. Miller Jr.'s books for many years and own several
dozen of his "Picture History" ocean liner books. Still, I will do my best to give
a balanced review of Picture History of the Andrea Doria. Although it was published
in 2005, I realized only recently that this volume was not in my collection, so that
was rectified very easily. It is definitely a fantastic addition to my library.
My favorite aspects of the book were, of course, its photographs, but also the historical
text that accompanied them. Over the years, the depth of Mr. Miller's descriptions
have increased and provide a lot of detail for ocean liner buffs. Among these is
the way the ship fits into the history of its nation's passenger vessels in terms
of interior design, engineering, purpose, and other factors.
While ocean liner fans will likely find this analysis intriguing, I doubt the same
can be said for those who want to learn about one particular ship. Of the 183 photographs
in the book, fewer than 70 are of Andrea Doria. And, just two of the seven chapters
are devoted to the Doria. The remainder of the book covers the early and late years
of the Italian Line, the Doria's sister ship Cristoforo Colombo, notable ships of
other Italian companies, and the resurgence of Genoa as a shipbuilding site. In this
respect, there are some overlaps with the author's The Picture History of the Italian
Line, 1932-1977, published 1999.
Even so, the chapters on Doria can stand on their own for those interested, but purchasers
should be aware that Doria is often put in the context of other ships.
From the time I stepped onboard Regal Empress in 2001, I felt an immediate connection
with this charming liner, the former flagship TSS Olympia of the Greek Line. Her
gorgeous wood interiors were captivating, as were many other remaining features of
her past. Yet, even as an ocean liner aficionado, I knew little about her; my information
was gleaned from snippets of stories and posts on the Internet and a mention or two
in the books within my liner collection. So, I was beyond thrilled when I located
a copy of David W. Pressler, Jr.’s masterpiece Olympia – The Life and Times of a
Greek Goddess, which traced the nearly 50-year history of this intimate vessel. And,
I was even more thrilled as I read it.
Mr. Pressler packs a lot of history in this nearly 200-page volume, including a detailed
chronology of her modifications from Olympia to Caribe I to Regal Empress. Deck plans
of all of these incarnations are included—a major highlight for ship geeks such as
myself. Photographs also document her transformation over the years, and show how
the passenger ship industry changed, as well. A key, and unique, portion of the book
is that in which members of the crew share their thoughts on the vessel as she neared
her retirement. Mr. Pressler’s love of the ship shines through his clearly written
commentary, making this a pleasure to read and an honor to own.
Have you ever concluded a cruise vacation and realize that you had forgotten to take
photographs of several areas that were important to you? Or wished you had photographs
of some behind-the-scenes spots that are off-limits to passengers?
This was the case for me after my 2001 cruise on SS Norway, the former SS France
of 1962 and NCL’s flagship through the 1980s and 1990s. Thankfully, I now have Mr.
Scott’s new book to fill in the gap. And, it is a superb collection of nearly 60
photographs of the ship in the early 2000s, when Mr. Scott was the official on-board
historian. Thus, these photographs are presented through the eyes of a knowledgeable
ocean liner historian and are accompanied by text that both educates and provides
professional insight. Although the photographs were taken late in the ship’s career,
Mr. Scott captures many areas that exude historical significance, such as original
artwork, cabin fittings, and even the switchboard!
In full disclosure, I have known Mr. Scott since meeting him onboard SS Norway ten
years ago. Even so, I do not believe that this influenced my enjoyment of the photographs
or descriptions. Admittedly, the price of the book seems high for its length (approximately
US$25 for 25 pages), yet this is one of those situations in which the product is
well worth it. I highly recommend this book, available through the publisher, to
those who have traveled onboard SS Norway or SS France, those who have an interest
in liner and cruise ship history, and anyone who is curious as to why this ship endures
in the hearts of so many.