Best books to read on a cruise

A leisurely cruise offers the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading, and what better Christmas present to give an avid cruiser than a book? Whether it's one that entertains, inspires the next journey or delves into maritime history, you're sure to find a book to suit. Here are a few to get you started …

Away With Words is an entertaining memoir by veteran Australian journalist Helen Hutcheon. Over the course of her 60-year career with P&O Cruises, Woman's Day, The Australian Women's Weekly, Vogue Living and Travelweek, Helen has taken hundreds of incredible journeys, met dozens of famous people (Princess Grace of Monaco and Audrey Hepburn, to name just two), re-launched the Fairstar in Sydney in 1986 and on a later cruise drank the ship's entire supply of Frascati wine. As well as producing Away With Words, the ever-charming writer is regional correspondent for global cruise industry magazine Seatrade Cruise Review

$24.99, Impact Press; www.impactpress.com.au 

Acclaimed biographer Mary S Lovell's The Riviera Set is a fabulous read for anyone heading for the French Riviera (or anyone who loves real-life gossip). It tells the story of the high society set who lived, partied, bed-hopped and politicked at the Chateau de l'Horizon near Cannes from the time when Coco Chanel made southern French tans fashionable in the 1920s to the death of playboy Prince Aly Khan in 1960.

$35, Hachette Australia; www.hachette.com.au 

History buffs and adventure-lovers will be captivated by The Voyages of Captain James Cook, by James Cook and John Hawkesworth with editor Nicholas Thomas – it's the first illustrated account of Captain Cook's epic 18th-century voyages, featuring excerpts from his colourful journals. When Cook set out in 1768 on HMS Endeavour to explore the South Pacific, more than one-third of the globe was unmapped. By the time he died in 1779, he had created charts so accurate that some were used into the 1990s. He logged more than 200,000 miles at sea, accompanied by scientists and artists who documented exotic flora and fauna, untouched landscapes, indigenous peoples and much more. 

$44.99, Voyageur Press; available at www.gleebooks.com.au

Where to Go When by Sarah Baxter and Paul Bloomfield combines beautiful illustrations and practical advice in a year travel planner that's divided into 12 months. The authors recommend 30 destinations that are at their best during each month, for climate, cultural festivals, value for money, family friendliness and more. It's a clever, enjoyable way to research your next dream trip.

$39.99, Lonely Planet; www.lonelyplanet.com

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MEET THE CREW

NAME Darin Epp, from Canada, lives in the Philippines 

POSITION Executive chef, Windstar Cruises' Wind Spirit

MY JOB I have 15 crew in the galley, where we produce food for the AmphorA and Veranda restaurants and also for Candles, our al fresco dinner on the pool deck. And for the 101 crew too. I love meeting our guests and chatting with them; I've also written four books and nearly finished my fifth.

A TYPICAL DAY… starts at 7.30am and goes to about 10pm, with a rest period in the afternoon. I go to local markets whenever possible; on Wind Spirit's seven- and 10-day itineraries, I order fresh fish in Papeete; local fruits in Bora Bora; and French cheeses and meats in Raiatea or Papeete. I oversee three meals a day; at lunch time everyone brings me what they're making so I taste them before it goes into production, and do the same for dinner. I'm the last person on the line to see the dishes before they leave the galley and go to the dining rooms.

FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT Cooking for Oprah Winfrey. I've cooked for lots of celebrities, including actor Lou Ferrigno and Paul Martin (former prime minister of Canada).  

FAVOURITE CRUISE PORTS Barcelona for its history; the island of St Martin for its Caribbean culture; and Montenegro in south-eastern Europe for its food.

INSIDER TIPS Be adventurous! Try different dishes and local food, on board and ashore. 

TIP

A waterproof backpack is very useful when you're taking a shore excursion that involves small boats or beaches – check out the selection at over-www.board.com.au

NEWS 

Elvis commemoration cruise tour

Fans of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley have the chance to join a special cruise tour in May that marks the 40th anniversary of his death next year. Cruise Express' 17-night Mississippi, Elvis and the Southern Sounds cruise tour will take music lovers to the King's birthplace, recording studios and home at Graceland, where he is buried. The tour visits music centres in the southern US, including places pivotal to Elvis' rise to stardom as well as Nashville – the home of country music – and New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. The cruise component is a six-night journey on the Mississippi aboard the American Queen, taking in historic towns, river ports and plantations, evoking the world of Gone with the Wind and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. See www.cruiseexpress.com.au

Myanmar Unveiled

Explore some of the world's best-kept secrets on Latitude 33's new Myanmar Unveiled journey, a 15-night luxury fly/stay/cruise package departing Australia on September 19, 2017. After two days in Singapore, staying at the Mandarin Oriental, you fly to Yangon, where you'll spend three days at the famed Strand Yangon hotel and three at the Villa Inle Resort, set on the shores of Inle Lake in the hills of the southern Shan state. At Bagan you'll board the privately chartered Sanctuary Ananda, a stylish 40-passenger vessel launched in 2014. Features include all-balcony suites, a sundeck with outdoor pool, and a choice of international and regional cuisine. The seven-night round-trip cruise takes in visits to villages, markets, monasteries and temples with local and on-board guides. If you book by December 30, the two-night stopover in Singapore is complimentary; see www.latitude33.travel

Fiestas and fun

Carnival Cruise Line has just released a special selection of its best-selling Caribbean, Mexican and Alaskan cruises. The 2017/18 Carnival international brochure features seven different cruise itineraries that have proved to be winners with Australian cruisers travelling to the US. Top of the list are Carnival's popular seven-night round-trip cruises to Mexico from Los Angeles on Carnival Miracle, calling at ports along the Mexican Riviera including Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Also on offer are four Caribbean itineraries, exploring the beautiful beaches and warm waters of some of the 5000 islands and cays scattered throughout the tropical paradise. Carnival's newest ship, the activity and entertainment-packed Carnival Vista, sails eight-night Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries from Miami. Carnival Legend, a firm favourite with many Australians who have travelled on the ship during its summers Down Under, will be cruising Alaska from May to August before returning to Sydney in October. See www.carnival.com.au

DEAL OF THE WEEK

CruiseAway is offering a 38-night transpacific cruise from Sydney to Buenos Aires on Sea Princess, plus a five-night stay in Buenos Aires and return airfares to Australia, from $5799. Departing on January 11, 2017, exotic ports of call include Papeete, Pitcairn, Easter Island, Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands and scenic cruising by the Amalia Glacier and around Cape Horn. An evening tango tour in BA is also part of the package. Phone 1300 306 134, see www.CruiseAway.com.au

MORE DEALS

CRUISEABOUT Set sail across the Tasman, visit the scenic ports of New Zealand and save up to $1700 per cabin on a 12-night cruise on board Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. Fares start from $2114 for the cruise, round-trip from Sydney departing January 28, 2017. Offer valid until December 25 or until sold out; phone1300 450 133, see www.cruiseabout.com.au

SCENIC There are a couple of weeks left to make the most of Scenic's 30th-birthday specials on a range of 2017 river cruises in Europe and south-east Asia. For example, book by December 16 and you could save up to  $6030 per couple on select 11-day Bordeaux river cruises. Phone 138 128, see www.scenic.com.au/birthday

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