Pacific Cruise Suggested Reading

Every once and while I like to share reading recommendation with our Cruise Talk Central visitors. My two recent trips to Hawaii inspired me to read these books. I hope that if you are searching for reading material to bring with you on your next cruise that you might want to consider these recommendations.

For those of you who might be taking a cruise to Hawaii, The South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, or around Cape Horn and Antarctica, I can’t recommend any more highly reading about Captain James Cook. At the beginning of his lifetime much of the world was uncharted. By the time of his death 1779, he had circumnavigated the world 2 1/2 times and mapped many uncharted areas like Antarctica, Cook Inlet, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii. He made contact with many previously unknown cultures around the world. Accounts of his three voyages give insight into the bravery of explorers, the clash of disparate cultures, and perspective as to the ease of modern travel.

Several years ago I took my first cruise to Hawaii. In the months leading up to that cruise I thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about James Cook and checked out the book Cook : The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook by Nicolas Thomas from our local library. I was a bit concerned that a biography of an 18th century explorer might read as a bit slow. However, I found the account of his three voyages to be a rapid page turner. In a strange way, the accounts reminded me somewhat of episodes of Star Trek, with a strong captain leading his men into uncharted territory performing scientific research and cultural exploration. His account can be quite frightening at times when he encounters cultures that practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism. I also found his personal story facinating as a benevolent man who struggled with the concept of bringing both the good and evil of the outside world to these previously isolated cultures. His three voyages included two trips around Cape Horn, three passages around The Cape of Good Hope, a search for the North West Passage, Circumnavigation of Antarctica, circumnavigation of New Zealand, crashing into the Great Barrier Reef, mapping the East Coast of Australia, visits to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Easter Islands, and the first visit to Hawaii by a European. The book I read is one of the many accounts available on or by Captain James Cook. If you have children, versions of his voyages which leave out some of the more explicit details that might not be appropriate for younger ones are also available. There is even one book that looked to be rather interesting by Tony Horowitz call Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captains Cook Has Gone Before. I haven’t read this book, but according to its synopsis the author retraced Cook’s voyages in a replica ship. This book is an account of his voyage and interaction with the modern people in those destinations. Finally, if you like to read first hand accounts, several publishing houses have published in both paper back and hard cover Cook’s actual journals from his voyages.

If you are cruising to Hawaii and looking for a good fiction book, I recommend James Michener’s Hawaii. This book provided a fictional look at the development of the state of Hawaii from the first voyage of Polynesians from Bora Bora, to the arrival of American Missionaries in the 1800, through the arrival of plantation workers through to the 1950’s. Two major movies are based on this novel, Hawaii staring Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow telling the story of the missionaries, and The Hawaiians starring Charleton Heston focusing on later immigrants and plantation owners. Though this book is fiction, Michener does a fantastic job of putting his fictional characters into historic context. I have a friend who said that she enjoyed rereading this book as she cruised from Tahiti to Hawaii on the second leg of her back to back New Zealand/Tahiti/Hawaii cruise. I personally found the book very entertaining and insightful.

If our readers have any other recommended books that might provide more insight into the history and culture of a cruise destination than one would find in an average guide book, please add your recommendations to our comment section. Many times cruisers enjoy spending their free time aboard their cruise enjoying both the sea and a good book.