three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
0

The Dreams, Schemes, and Showdowns that Built America’s Cruise-Ship Empires

A-DevilsDeepBlueSeaOcean cruising was dying along with its aging passengers when The Love Boat premiered in 1977. For nine years, the TV show cast its magical spell. The results of that spell—the rebirth of the industry—lie at the center of Devils. Garin traces the history of ocean cruises, corporate mergers of the acquisition-mad 1980s that allowed Carnival entrepreneur Ted Arison to become a major force in cruising, and the limp labor, tax, and environmental laws that almost guaranteed enormous profits. Although Garin emphasizes the business of cruising, he also touches on the human aspects of his research—corruption, cover-ups of the sexual assaults of passengers, and the enfeebling of the economies of the ships’ island stops.
Viking. 384 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0670034185

Arizona Republic 4 of 5 Stars
"[Garin’s] tone, as he looks at the cruise industry, is of the can-you-believe-this? variety, and he provides enough startling information to keep us gaping over his shoulder for more than 300 pages. … There’s also serious news (tax advantages and cheap foreign labor make profits huge), but it’s entertaining enough to make happy sailings to the last page." Anne Stephenson

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"… Garin has spun a breezy, fascinating, multi-layered tale of the rise and triumph of the cruise industry, warily admiring its rags-to-riches heroes while taking us inside corporate boardrooms to watch the titans battle over mergers, finances and ‘poison pills,’ simultaneously keeping his eye on the indentured servitude of its third-world staffs, unbridled levels of corruption, pollution, intimidation and flagrant tax evasion. … It’s a bristling, bustling yarn that mesmerizes, appalls and delights." Sam Coale

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[The book] ranges widely, if somewhat unevenly, from passenger experiences to minutely detailed corporate takeover schemes … Mr. Garin compiles a detailed, generally lively account of how … such vessels have turned a formerly exotic type of travel into one that ‘now feels as safe and comprehensible—and nearly as accessible—as the nearest strip mall.’" Janet Maslin

Dallas Morning News 3 of 5 Stars
"Devils on the Deep Blue Sea may not live up to the promise in the Love Boat’s theme song to be exciting and new, but it’s informative and well-researched." Charles Ealy

Seattle Times 2 of 5 Stars
"After a vivid opening chapter that magnificently captures the enormousness of modern cruise ships and their lavish passenger perks, Devils begins to read like a book-length MBA case study. … Despite the sensational title, Garin depicts the industry’s executives not so much as devils but as hard-charging, big-thinking opportunists." Jake Batsell

South FL Sun-Sentinel 2 of 5 Stars
"Much of the book is investigative muckraking, some of it relating a New York Times investigative series in 1999 by Douglas Frantz detailing a number of sexual assault cases involving crew members and the cover-ups or cover-up attempts by the cruise line. … Garin’s a good reporter and much of the time an accomplished writer; he should let that guy steer the ship and keep his boardroom dramatist and policy-wonk alter egos belowdecks." Lane Kelley

Critical Summary

It was the Love Boat, an insipid television show, that actually launched the wildly successful and still-popular cruise ship as an affordable fantasy vacation for middle-class consumers. It also jumpstarted Carnival Corporation, which controls more than half of today’s cruise ship market and constitutes this book’s primary subject. Garin, an investigative journalist, dives into the history of the industry, exploring the depths of the business and exposing (unfortunately, to a lesser degree) the grueling work of those who serve these flagship fantasies. Part investigation, part admiration, Devils suffers from an identity crisis. Don’t be seen with it anywhere near the Lido deck.

Supplemental Reading

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again Essays and Arguments | David Foster Wallace (1997): This collection contains the definitive cruise ship essay, and other good stuff, too. Have we mentioned we’re big DFW fans?