Crossing & Cruising
by John Maxtone-Graham, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 311 pages
John Maxtone-Graham claims right off the bat that America’s greatest export is cruise-ship passengers. The ships may be almost entirely built and owned abroad, but the vast majority of customers have always come from this side of the ocean. That may explain why Americans are the greatest fans of the legendary liners that once crossed the Atlantic in great numbers. No one is more passionate about these lost ships than MaxtoneGraham, who has previously written two volumes on ocean travel. His latest volume is a curious hybrid—one only he could pull off. In Crossing & Cruising , he alternates chapters on the early transatlantic vessels with ones on the newest and most luxurious cruise ships. This allows fans of the former to skip the chapters on the latter, and vice versa. And yet, if you care about ships at all, you probably won’t want to miss any of it. Curiously, as evocative and romantic as are Maxtone-Graham’s chapters on the Aquitania and the Normandie, even more intriguing are the author’s comments on the newest arrivals with their atriums and balconies. With a keen eye, he instructs us on just what works and what does not, how the arrangement of cabin furniture or the placement of a deck can make a passenger feel either subtly uncomfortable or sublimely at sea.