111 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2008
I don't intend to write a review rehashing the storyline or details; the official commentary on this site is pretty accurate. Cruise Confidential is a bit of an expose', but, unlike Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, I did not infer any personal malice towards the industry nor its people. Enyoyable for most everyone, but anyone who has ever been on a cruise will best appreciate Bruns' story, not only of the long hours and hard work, but of the nature of relationships in the very special community made up of service workers on a large cruise liner.
This book does deserve special comment, because I am pretty sure that it is largely nonfiction, and it will fill an heretofore vacant niche in travel literature.
In my mind, a good book must satisfy three criteria. First it must be easy to read, second it must be a good story, and lastly it must somehow leave you changed for the better. Cruise Confidential hits the mark on all three criteria.
First, Bruns' writing style is natural and unstrained. I have read too many books during which I feel as if I am working at cross currents to the writing just to get at the story. Here the writing carries you easily along, and you can relax and float (this is about ships after all) along through the challenges, tribulations, and victories of his first year working in service for Carnival.
Second, it is certainly a good story, written in the first person. I started this book and stayed up much later than I should have to finish it. I haven't done that in a long time, and that speaks for all those qualities of writing and subject that combine keep you from setting it aside to finish later.
Lastly, though not a philosophical treatise, if you have ever cruised a large ship, ever plan to do so, or perhaps if you just watch cruising on the Travel Channel, this will substantially change how you view the service staff that appear, seemingly from nowhere, to take care of the customers' needs and otherwise are completely invisible for the rest of the cruise.
I was feeling a bit down as I came to the final pages, wanting the story to continue to his next career phase, but on that very last page Bruns suggest that more of this adventure may follow.
71 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2009
This book was like a really bad, cheesy movie -- I hated it, was but fascinated to see just how bad it would get. In that sense, I wasn't disappointed.
There was really scant insight into the life onboard a cruise ship, beyond the very limited scope of a small slice of the food service sector. And even then, it was almost entirely the authors myopic and misogynistic take on his personal life. Over and over and over he tells us how every female on the ship, crew and passengers alike, wants to sleep with him and how drunk he can get. Really, that's a god portion of the book. Then he throws in reference after reference to how good looking he is (...I was in truly remarkable shape....)
The biggest problem, though, is that many of his stories are of questionable authenticity. He recounts casual conversations in mind-numbing detail. That's a level of recall that is frankly hard to believe. OK, chalk those up to literary license. But on more than one occasion he gives us dubious recollections that go far beyond that. For example, he draws out a story of waking up drunk and not knowing where he is or how he got there. He can't remember how the evening started or anything about the end of it, including the person sleeping next to him. And yet he then goes on to describe, in exacting detail, an incident that happened in the middle of the drunken binge. Make that excruciating detail, of some impressive (to him) physical feat. It's hard not to think that many of the anecdotes were the way he wanted to remember them, not necessarily how they really were.
And beware the exclamation point. The author loves them. And I mean loves them!!! Five sentences in a row at one point. All part of him being very impressed with himself. That, and an odd habit of replacing the word God with Cat. As in, for Cat's sake, pick another book.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2009
If you've cruised before, are booked on a cruise, thinking about booking a cruise, or just wondered what it would be like to work on a cruise ship, please read this book. It's an easy read and very entertaining--but sad in a way. I couldn't help but focus on the lives of people who work under the described conditions. It certainly makes you stop and think how lucky we Americans are, no matter where we are on the social ladder. Brian's description of the work days, policies and politics on board made me shiver. I give him and everyone else credit for working under such conditions while giving such incredible service to the cruise guests, some of whom can be very obnoxious. I've always been a good tipper, but, boy, will I be a better one after reading this book. And, I've always enjoyed the smiles and great service of the crew, but now I'll realize how hard it is for them to do it. Only Brian could bring all of the hardships to life in such a funny, entertaining way! You laugh your way through the pages while you read, and then feel sad for the employees when you put the book down and think about it. Read it for the sheer joy of a good laugh and tip away when you get on that cruise!
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2009
WOW! What an eye opener! Cruising is our family favorite vacation so we sail whenever the budget allows. Over the years, we have 'heard' the stories of cruise employee pay, living arrangements/conditions, and hours spent serving the passengers. But, I can honestly say, after reading this book, I look at cruising in a whole different light.
The book was hard to put down. It was well written, with a good sense of humor in all the right places, and an easy style. I now have a whole new appreciation of the thousands of employees of the cruise industry that make my choice of vacations as enjoyable as they have been. I would recommend this book to any current & future cruise ship passenger. Especially those passengers that aren't as appreciative towards the ship's crew as they should be....and I have noticed far too many of those over the years. If you love cruising, this book is for you. The author offers great insight & a good story. Like I mentioned above, it will give you a whole new appreciation towards the cruise industry.....positive & negitive
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2012
I am a current Carnival employee and I have been working for the company for nearly 6 years. All I can say about this book is it is complete rubbish. There is absolutely NO way that the author could get away with being drunk on duty, fighting in the dining rooms, threatening management. He would instantly have been fired. And the way he makes it look like management is out to get him is complete rubbish.
Its a nice work of fiction but life on board is nothing like he has written.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
This book wasn't on my radar screen until I happened to see a Twitter message referring to it. After looking it up on Amazon, I knew I had to read it... Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties. One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships by Brian David Bruns. My wife and I cruise quite often on vacations, so the chance to see some "behind the scenes" views of how the crew lives is always interesting to me on a number of levels. After whipping through this in about 24 hours (thank you, Mr. Insomnia!), I was all ready to go on our March cruise and view the experience in a different light.
Part 1 - Trainee (The Plunge): Strange Bedfellows; Global Warning; Under the Water; Denizens of Babel; Nobody Parties Like Sailors; The Midnight Bahamian Toga Bash; Ship Life 101; Creepy Conch Fritters; Graduation; The End of the Beginning
Part 2 - Waiter (Promotion): My First, and Only, Clingy Lingerie Model; Pancake Darwinism; The Crew Bar; My Heart Will Go On; The Infamous Filipino Elvis Massacre; Great Whites; Dining on Ashes; The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Assumption; Stripping in the Dining Room
Part 3 - Assistant Maitre d' (Demotion): Bogo; Enemy Mine; The Other Sexy Bitch; Tattoo Goo; The Torture of Funship Freddy; Hunger Pains; Viral Infections and You; Something Sweet at Midnight; Showdown and Breakdown; Jamaican Deep Blue
Part 4 - The Legend (Destruction): How to Fix an American; Legend; Tongs over Escalators; Frog and Onion; Ice Pirates; The Boatyard; Lost in Panama; The Four Temptations of the Apocalypse; Toast Master General; The Suicide; The Miracle; Epilogue
Part 5 - Appendices: Glossary of Ship Language; Provisions for a Cruise; Stupid Questions
About the Author
I've read and researched enough to know that working on a cruise ship is not at all the glamorous career depicted in ads. You work seven days a week, at least 12 to 14 hours a day, live in really small cabins, and don't make very much money (all things considered). This is why you mostly see nationalities other than Americans working the ships. These wages are often quite a bit higher than what they could earn back home. Bruns tells his story of being the first American in Carnival's history to serve out a full contract in food services without quitting, transferring, or getting fired. He got used to the phrase "are you stupid or crazy?" being asked by most of his coworkers. :)
Bruns got assigned to Carnival's Conquest as he wanted to be with his girlfriend who also worked for Carnival. Very few believed he was actually going into food service because he was an American, and Americans couldn't do that job without cracking. He was determined to prove them wrong over his eight month contract, knowing that he had been "promised" a promotion to management and the assistant maitre d' position by the end of the assignment. But what's promised and what actually happens can be two different things. His relationship with his girlfriend was rocky at best on the ship, as they were both working 14 to 16 hour days, and she was hanging around with fellow Romanians during the off-hours. Bruns was still in love with her, and was determined not to fall into the trap of sleeping with any and all the attractive women coworkers, even though the opportunity was there on a daily basis. After she transferred to another ship, he had to decide whether his career as a cruise worker was worth the trouble of trying to maintain a long-term relationship, especially given the discrimination he faced from fellow workers when it came to stereotypes and perceptions. Surprisingly, he stuck it out and ended up in a situation far better than he would have hoped for.
Bruns is an excellent writer who is able to show you raw emotions and the nasty underbelly of what goes on. It's not meant to be an expose so much as a personal story of what he went through and what he learned in the process. It's hard to believe that anyone could survive the parties, alcohol consumption, and sweatshop conditions that exist behind the "Crew Only" doors. Even though I was laughing in quite a few places, I also (re-)discovered how difficult that life is, and how much we the customer just take things for granted. I'll definitely remember to be much more considerate of the crew next time, as well as keeping my eyes open for the things I'm not supposed to notice.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2012
I had high hopes for "Cruise Confidential," but was very disappointed. My wife and I love to cruise, I and was expecting "Cruise Confidential" to provide some good detail about how a cruise ship runs behind the scenes. Unfortunately, I was only able to read about half the book before giving up on my expectations.
I can summarize what this book was actually about in three sentences:
1. The ship's crew is very horny and, at every possible opportunity, drinks and fornicates.
2. The author is a very personable and good looking guy, and female crew members and passengers are hitting on him all the time, but he always resists temptation out of loyalty to his girl friend.
3. Repeat sentences one and two ad nauseum.
Well, perhaps the last half of the book was different or better. But I couldn't stand the content (or the repetition) in the first half of the book, so I gave up reading.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2009
I am not an avid reader but this book kept me interested the whole time, to the point that I finished it in 3 days. I always take a long time to read book, but not this one. The author is so funny. If you are thinking that working in a ship is all glamour..think again!
I totally recommend this book!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2011
I hate myself for having wasted the time reading what is essentially the same day in the life of a cruise worker repeated over and over and over again. The writing is cheesy and pathetic and frankly, the level of detail given to conversations, events, and his co-workers appearances is unbelievable. There is very little insight given to the inner workings of the cruise ship, maybe a chapter's worth sprinkled throughout the entire thing. The rest of the book is same crap, different day. The author says he gets 3 to 4 hours of sleep a day but he has plenty of time to get drunk, visit ports, write reports for superiors that weren't even assigned, write a book (I won't be reading that one for sure), and emailing with his girlfriend. Oh, and the ego on this guy! Ugh. Save your money and your time. Please.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2011
I have cruised with Carnival a few times, so I read this in hopes of getting a "fly on the wall" glimpse into the life of the crew. There are some interesting tidbits, but mostly I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading this book.
A few descriptions of living conditions, galley procedures, and work schedules were interesting and rang true. But I'm not sure it was worth wading through the juvenile writing, grammatical errors, and repetitive stories to get to the good parts.
The author is extremely full of himself, inordinately proud of his work ethic and sex appeal, despite the fact that he is severely intoxicated on almost every page. Add this over-inflated ego to an equally big sense of entitlement about his career path, and you have a pretty unlikable narrator.
His repeated tales of other crew members' sexual escapades, and nightly drunkfests in the crew bar, get a little old after the first ten times. I think there may have been just a wee bit of hyperbole involved in his story-telling. I'm sure the crew indulges in plenty of adult beverages and hook-ups but, come on, there are only 24 hours in a day.
If you are curious about shipboard life for the dining room staff on Carnival, you could read the first 75 pages and pretty much get the whole picture as presented in this book. I wasn't very invested in the author, so I didn't care too much about how his story unfolded. The first few chapters would have been enough for me.