Cruise Ship by Michael Lloyd: dream vacation or Titanic revisited?
For readers who enjoy travelling by ship, a relaxing summer cruise or Arctic Expedition, this well crafted novel offers a behind-the-scenes insight of life at sea from the perspective of those who work on board. If you are fascinated by the Titanic, then this is a modern day dramatic seafaring tale.
The author is Captain Michael Lloyd who experienced a 35 year career as a Shipmaster. He worked as Chief Officer and in Command of ships in the Baltic, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Northern Alaska, Northern Canada and Russian waters on a variety of Ice Class vessels. His wide experience from Passenger to Container Ships, led to writing books and articles on seamanship and navigation manuals.
Observing the massive development of mega-cruise ships offering family, Disney-style fun on the sea cruises, Captain Lloyd has recently been concerned about the change in management and seamanship. And then in January 2012, almost a century since the Titanic hit an iceberg in the Atlantic, the Costa Concordia struck the rocks off the Italian island of Giglio. On board were 4,252 people of whom 32 lost their lives.
Cruise Ship is a work of fiction in terms of the characters and the three ships portrayed. But the story is based on reality – the professional roles of the Captain, Officers, Hotel staff and Crew who are responsible for the safety of the passengers.
The background to the story – “The cruise ship was a dream. A seagoing pleasure city. The passengers came for that dream. Voyage after voyage she proved that dreams come true and slowly the sea became forgotten. But the sea did not forget the ship.”
Jim Clariby is a former Captain who has been made redundant but his passion for life at sea is undiminished and is desperate to step back on board, even if he has to accept a lower rank. Jim is a well drawn, fully rounded character. He appears honest and straightforward as he reveals his inner thoughts and emotions; a reliable narrator.
Finally he is offered the position of Safety Officer on the Sea Breeze and immediately takes on the challenge to ensure maritime rules and regulations are in force. Meeting Captain Benson and other officers, he is informed of the boat drill.
“ We are due to sail at 1900. The first sitting for dinner starts at 1830. So when do we have the drill? Tony wants it at 1800 before we sail but everyone else wants it tomorrow morning. What do you think”?
“1800 before we sail.” replied Jim promptly.
It’s this sense of integrity and decisiveness which we observe in Clariby’s professional manner as we sail smoothly along. Promoted to Staff Captain on the Majestic Sea, he notices with alarm the modern day roles of Captain and Officers where socialising at cocktail parties take precedence on this floating hotel.
“Jim took a deep breath: I believe we would have a problem with panic if we ever had to abandon ship. All the passenger direction is controlled by the hotel staff who only have very basic training….” ………
“ Those of you responsible for getting the passengers into the boats must ensure they are full. We do not have enough room for everyone in the boats.” There was a shocked silence.
“ Go and count the boats – there are 12 on each side, multiply 24 by 150 and the answer is 3,600. How many people on the ship? … 4.200.”
The narrative speeds along at a fast rate of knots, moving between dramatic events, the personal stories of passengers, staff and crew on board the Majestic Sea. We also witness the contrasting life on board the Norwegian ice-breaking Oil Tanker, the Vacuum Pioneer.
Captain Karl Johnsen and his team “have a familiarity with the ocean, which ensures a deep understanding of what the sea is and ensures their respect for what the sea can do.”
The description of the voyages, berthing in port, the work of the Pilot, drinks parties, formal dinner, romantic encounters and daily routine is all colourfully captured.
And at the centre of the action Jim Clariby watches and wonders, gradually more concerned about the illegal behaviour, corruption and conflicts above and below deck.
As the ship heads towards Arctic waters,
“At that moment, a rift appeared in the cloud cover allowing moonlight to shaft down to the sea, illuminating an extensive sheet of ice on the water. The Third Officer shouted “Ice!” and pointed ahead…..”
Michael Lloyd has written this novel as a cautionary tale to highlight the potential problems and peril if safety standards are compromised. The Titanic was said to be unsinkable and the Captain dismissed ice warnings; the Costa Concordia set sail before the lifeboat drill and sailed off navigation course. Lessons have been learnt from these disasters at sea, until the next one ..
Cruise Ship is a page-turner of a thriller with a rollercoaster filmic journey of a plot, dramatising what could happen during a dream vacation on one of the supersize “seagoing pleasure cities” sailing around the world today. Film Rights anyone?
“Now my last words on this. You are on a ship, not a hotel, regardless of what some of you might wish.” Jim Clariby.
Cruise Ship by Michael Lloyd.
Monument, a division of the Witherby Publishing Group. www.witherbys.com.