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Cruise Report: Invaluable reference source

Your best cruise reference guide

Although I’ll try to keep readers updated on the latest news and important happenings in the cruise industry, providing all the details group planners may need is simply impossible in the limited space I have available.

As a result, I’m recommending a reference book that has long established itself as the bible of the cruise industry and that contains a wealth of useful information. Included are discussions and analyses of competing lines, detailed statistics and descriptions of virtually every seagoing ship that groups might consider and credible, objective ratings of each vessel based on a 2,000-point scale.

The book is the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships” by Douglas Ward, president of the Maritime Evaluations Group.

The guide was first issued in 1985 and is now published annually; the 2011 edition runs 720 pages and costs $24.99. However, the 2012 edition will likely be in bookstores by the time you read this report.

Most Barnes and Noble bookstores should have copies, and the guides can also be purchased on the Internet by folks who don’t enjoy browsing the shelves as much as I do.

The Berlitz guide is a wonderful volume to keep on the bookshelf to look up a specific ship or the guest facilities it offers when you are contemplating a group booking. It’s not perfect, however; for example, information is sometimes not updated as quickly as it should be.

Also, at least up to the current edition, the section on increasingly popular river and inland waterway cruising and vessels is very brief and wholly inadequate.

Although he has moderated his tone somewhat in recent years, Ward does tend to be supercritical. But as long as the reader realizes that justly popular and well-liked ships are being rated against unattainable perfection, negative concerns can be understood in context.

Want to know the best and the least of the ships Ward rated in 2011?  Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Europa received the top score of 1,853, and Lindblad Expeditions’ sister ships National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion brought up the rear with 743 points each.  However you slice it, for cruise buffs this is a fascinating read.

Cruise line quick updates

Princess Cruises commissioned a national survey that determined that three-quarters of Americans want to see National Recreation Day, Aug. 15, become an official U.S. holiday.

On a more serious note, Sea Princess has been honored by the Port of San Francisco with its annual Cruise Ship Environmental Award, earned for air emissions reduction, advanced wastewater management, recycling and disposal programs.

Holland America Line has introduced a 2012 Early Advantage Savings program offering guests who book early up to 50 percent off brochure fares on select cruises and Alaska CruiseTours.

Viking River Cruises has become a national corporate sponsor of the celebrated Public Broadcasting System drama series “Masterpiece.” The line also announced that it will take delivery of two more ships next year, bringing the total of new vessels joining its fleet in 2012 to six.

Costa Cruises has resumed its Japan and South Korea cruises from Shanghai aboard Costa Classica, a series that was interrupted by the March earthquake and tsunami.

Louis Cruises has announced a new $29 per person a la carte dining option aboard Louis Majesty and Louis Cristal that features Greek fusion cuisine.

SeaDream Yacht Club is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in September.

Finally, the inaugural cruise of American Cruise Line’s new Queen of the Mississippi is scheduled to depart New Orleans on Aug. 11, 2012, bound for Memphis, Tenn., on a seven-night itinerary.