If you're a cruise enthusiast, or cruise-curious as we like to say, reading up on cruises is a must. We prefer nonfiction cruise books over fiction. (Though it's worth noting there are plenty of fictional stories out there, whether in the form of children's books or fictional novels.)
They say truth is stranger than fiction, and we couldn't agree more. We've listed nonfiction cruise books written by crew members, cruise fans, explorers, and even scientists and historians. And some super interesting nonfiction cruise-appropriate related reading as well.
Many of these books are available for Kindles too and we love ours. We especially recommend buying a waterproof Paperwhite Kindle because if you'll be by the pool, ocean, or the beach, why not protect your electronics?
Disclosure: This page has affiliate links, meaning we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase at no cost to you. We recommend cruises, experiences, products, and services we personally use. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
All book cover images are from Amazon.
Table of Contents
Nonfiction Cruise Tales from Cruisers and Cruise Story Compilation Books
Joy of Cruising
The Joy of Cruising is like Chicken Soup for the Soul, served cruise style. Author Paul C. Thornton compiled a list of stories from cruisers (some famous) in this 350+ page feel-good book and recounts his own history and zeal for cruising.
At the heart of Joy of Cruising, are tales from cruise enthusiasts who are pursuing their passion.
Cruising Interrupted (Joy of Cruising Follow Up)
Cruising Interrupted: The follow-up to The Joy Of Cruising, formerly known as More Joy Of Cruising, was a book Thornton started in Summer 2019. As he continued to write it and the world abruptly changed in 2020, so did the book.
This follow-up to The Joy of Cruising was literally interrupted by COVID-19. Thus, author Paul C. Thornton pivoted; he integrated stories of how COVID affected the cruise industry in his second book on the subject, chronicling this unique moment in time.
Our friends, Heidi and Don from the cruise website, Eat, Sleep, Cruise, are also mentioned in the book for their experience on Freedom of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
With the advancements in technology over the decades, including in shipbuilding, you'd never think a passenger ship could have four engines fail at once nowadays. But think again.
Author Chaney Kwak spins humor into his memoir, recounting what happened aboard the Viking Sky, when its engines failed in the midst of a terrible maelstrom, in March of 2019. Get a firsthand account of the drama induced when 1,300 people had to be evacuated from the ship with the assistance of a helicopter, onto mainland Norway.
The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship, will be released on June 8, 2021, to coincide with United Nations World Oceans Day. It's currently available for pre-order.
Thriving In Quarantine
The best thing to come out of the Grand Princess's quarantine was this nonfiction cruise book. (Which happens to be humorous too.)
Thriving In Quarantine: A Humorous Look at One Family’s Misadventures Aboard the Corona Cruise (Thriving in Life) recounts a family's experience on the cruise ship as the pandemic takes over.
Reviewers have said that it's not just a great book to find humor in the pandemic but also a lesson in overcoming obstacles. It has a bit of a religious undertone with God and blessings so if you're an atheist it may not be for you – or simply proceed knowing that and find joy in it, in other ways.
Quarantine!: How I Survived the Diamond Princess Coronavirus Crisis
This is another one of the nonfiction cruise books that recounts what it was like to be aboard a cruise ship during Coronavirus. This time, the author was on the Diamond Princess.
Gay Courter's experience with a quarantine on the ship is recounted in her book Quarantine!: How I Survived the Diamond Princess Coronavirus Crisis.
Follow them as they get through the experience in a “posh penitentiary” with the help of a creative social media campaign.
Cruising the Mediterranean
Sunny and Al Lockwood share their firsthand account of what it's like to sail as an elderly couple in their 80s. Which could give anyone, of any age, an appreciation of cruising from a new perspective.
Follow their journey in the Mediterranean from Venice to the Greek Isles and learn about some history, musings on life and cruise tips from their point of view.
Cruising from Boston to Montreal
If you liked Sunny and Al Lockwood's book about the Mediterranean, consider reading their journey around Maine and into Canada. We identify with these North Carolina residents' desire to cruise and see the world with the help of the seas.
Tips From The Cruise Addict's Wife: Tips and Tricks to Plan the Best Cruise Vacation Ever!
As the name indicates, this is a book all about tips if you're cruising. In this book by Deb Graham, you'll find out things to do in ports, how to avoid crowds, how to do laundry on board the ship, and how to save money on your cruise while you're at it.
The book is jam-packed with information and is great for not only first-time cruisers but anyone who is generally new to cruising.
Around The World in 80 Meals: The Best of Cruise Ship Cuisine
Who would want this delicious book? (Make sure you don't go into it hungry!) It's the perfect book for someone who may choose a cruise experience based on the culinary offerings.
Each chapter introduces a new ship and the cruise line it's a part of along with what to expect on the menu along with recipes to try at home.
It's half education about cruises and half cookbook!
Nonfiction Cruise Books Written by Crew
Running Against the Tide, by Captain Lee
If you're into Bravo's Reality TV shows (I'm addicted) then you'll know who Captain Lee is. But you don't have to watch Below Deck to appreciate this book.
His book's official name is Running Against the Tide: True Tales from the Stud of the Sea. And in it, Captain Harold Lee Rosbach talks about his experience working in the boating industry, recounting incredibly interesting stories from the seas.
It's available in an audio version, which Captain Lee narrates.
Permanent Passenger: My Life on a Cruise Ship
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live on a cruise ship beyond a 3, 4, 7 or 14-day vacation? Permanent Passenger will give you a glimpse into such a world, told from the perspective (and experience) of a man who accepted his dream job as an Assistant Cruise Director aboard a Carnival ship.
The Truth About Cruise Ships
The complete title of Jay Herring's book is The Truth About Cruise Ships: A Cruise Ship Officer Survives the Work, Adventure, Alcohol, and Sex of Ship Life.
If you want an inside look below the passenger decks of a large cruise ship, this may be your chance. Check out The Truth About Cruise Ships, and get access to the “Crew Only” areas of the ship, including the gossip and conversations that happen there.
Chronicles of a Cruise Ship Crew Member: Answers to All the Questions Every Passenger Wants to Ask
This book reveals the “cruise ship underworld,” written by a former cruise ship member with five years of experience on ships. Chronicles of a Cruise Ship Crew Member.
Author Joshua Kinser is also the author of various regional travel guides, from the Florida Keys to the Cruise Ports of the Caribbean.
The Cruise Ship Survival Guide: How To Return To Port Alive
If you are someone who feels the need to be prepared for anything on a cruise this book is for you. The author, Joshua Kinser, shares how to survive things you wouldn't even think of whether a fire on the ship to a shark attack. (Kinser is also a seasoned cruise ship crew member.)
But if it's going to freak you out, it may be best to skip it and simply attend the muster drill when the cruise starts (which is mandatory anyway) and call it a day.
Nonfiction Cruise Books on Cruise Ship Design and Build
Devils on the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams, Schemes, and Showdowns That Built America's Cruise-Ship Empires
Consider this book a history of the cruise ship industry from its rise in the 1960s, to its fame on the hit show The Love Boat, to the evil side of the politics and financials behind the cruise industry. Journalist Kristoffer A. Garin takes an in-depth look at it all.
Design on the High Seas: Cruise Liners
This is one of the truly picturesque, design-focused nonfiction cruise books, and it's by cruise ship designer, Joseph Farcus. This interior architect share information about what inspired him, take a look at the design of cruise ships.
Design on the High Seas particularly illustrates Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Cruises, which the author had a hand in creating. If you're familiar with the Carnival Cruise Lines brand, you'll recognize something Farcus patented: the ships' signature red, white and blue funnels with a design carrying smoke away from the ships, like wings about to fly away from it.
250 colorful pages are between its front and back covers focusing on ship interiors.
Great Passenger Ships that Never Were: Damned By Destiny Revisited
If you're into the history of cruise ships this will be an interesting read. It looks at some passenger cruise ships that sort of fell victim to a “shoulda, woulda, coulda” fate. Great Passenger Ships that Never Were, by David L. Williams and Richard P Kerbrech, runs the gamut of ships: some that were only drawn in concept, to ones that were built but never sailed, whether budget or war decided their fate.
It's a large book – bigger than one you would really pack to go on vacation. It's also hardcover and a little costly. But it gets great reviews, especially from ocean liner history aficionados.
Masters of the Italian Line: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raffaello
Ian Sebire shares the story of three passenger ships, named after the three most famous Italian Renaissance artists and innovators.
It was a post-war time in the 1960s and passenger ocean liners of their type were growing in popularity. What was it like to work or travel on these ships? Masters of the Italian Line explains it all.
The Oasis Sisters: Royal Caribbean’s Fleet of the World’s Biggest Cruise Ships
Paul Curtis examines the five mega cruise ships that Royal Caribbean built in their Oasis-class. It equated to an investment of billions of dollars and this book, which tells the story of these behemoths in an entertaining way.
Oceanic: White Star's ‘Ship of the Century'
This is the story of a ship launched in 1899. It was revolutionary at the time and her glory days were before the Titanic and Olympics came to be.
When the war came, the ship was converted for military use and her life was over within weeks. Oceanic explores the rise and fall of this impressive Ship of the Century.
180 Years of Cunard
If you're a fan of Cunard cruise line than this is a must-own. It's a book commemorating 180 years of cruising the ocean with plenty of stories, commentary, history and photos to go with a beautiful book, by Chris Frame and Rachelle Cross.
Nonfiction Cruise Books about Famous Ocean Liners in History
The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria
Decades after the Titanic sank, the Andrea Doria would end in a similar fate. But this time it was the 1950s and the world of broadcasting had changed; the radio would report on the sinking of this glamorous ship as civilians closely tuned in.
Greg King and Penny Wilson's The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria includes never-before-seen photos and a look into the celebrities of the era that were onboard. It also features firsthand accounts of living survivors.
The Big Ship: The Story of the S.S. United States
Take a look at this massive passenger ship from the 1960s that revolutionized the industry in many ways.
Frank O. Braynard tells the story of the S.S. The United States, a retired ocean liner that broke all records at the time it was built, including its budget of over $78M in the 1950s.
Nonfiction Books about Waters that Cruises Sail
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
This book, by famous author David McCullough, takes a historic look a the Panama Canal, including what it took to create it. He has written similar books about historic feats in construction, including his book The Great Bridge about the Brooklyn Bridge. (If you want to read three great books by him, add a third about the Wright Brothers and get this three-book set.)
The book is a commitment at 700 pages, but if you're more into listening to a book than reading it there's an audio version to enjoy as well.
Nonfiction Cruise Expedition Books
Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica's Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night
This book recounts the journey of the ship Belgica, and how it endured the cold, dark, and harsh climate of an Antarctic winter on a scientific expedition gone wrong. And yes, it's a nonfiction cruise book! This means the story is very much real and happened, at the end of the 19th century.
Julian Sancton thoroughly did his research including a trip to Antarctica to understand just a little bit about what the sailors aboard the Belgica may have gone through. This author also has the accolade of being the features editor at Departures magazine, which Dan and I admit has been a favorite travel magazine of ours that we're sorry to go out of print! (But we're happy is remaining in the digital world.)
The book only recently came out and I noticed I got sucked into the sample we were able to discover with Amazon's, “Look Inside” feature. I can't wait to read all 300+ pages!
Climate, Geography and Location Nonfiction Books
The Alaska Cruise Handbook Pap/Map Edition
This well-reviewed book is a must if you're going on an Alaskan Cruise. Consider buying a physical version for its pull-out map.
Author Joe Upton shares information about Alaska's cruise ports and routes, mile by mile, in this nonfiction cruise book. But he also delves into a bit about the history of each, shares information about the cruise ships themselves (including their decor) and the pros and cons of different sized cruises venturing into Alaska (big cruise versus small cruise, for example).
Big thanks to Sheri, from Cruise Tips TV, for recommending this one to us!
COLD: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places
This is one of my all-time FAVORITE books. It's a National Bestseller for a reason and has loads of positive 5-star reviews on Amazon.
If you're cruising to Alaska, Norway, Canada, Antarctica, Greenland, and any place that gets “cold” at any point of the year, this will fascinate you.
I'm not a cold weather lover. Dan doesn't love it either, despite both of us growing up in NY (western NY for him and southeastern NY for me). But we do love trips to gorgeous cold-weather climates like Tromso, Norway if we're dressed properly! And we appreciate knowing why “cold” is, how it works from a scientific standpoint, and some cool inventions having to do with the topic over the years (thank you, air conditioning) thanks to this book. Cannot recommend it enough if you're a nonfiction book lover!
Heat: Adventures in the World's Fiery Places
If you like COLD then you have to read Bill Streever's follow-up book, HEAT. (Only makes sense, right?) Read it if you're cruising to warm climates like anywhere near the equator (hello, Ecuador!) or even Hawaii with its various volcanoes. Or even Santa Barbara and the terrible fires the city has endured.
You'll understand things like coal mining, flames, the sun, and much more after diving into this book. I admit I didn't like it as much as COLD, but it's still a good nonfiction read about an interesting topic we all deal with.