Introduction: Why I Chose The Joy of Cruising Again
Today I’m excited to announce my second Prof. Cruise’s Book Club selection: The Joy of Cruising Again by Paul C. Thornton. I chose this book for three reasons. First, my first book selection, Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise, was fiction, so I wanted my next pick to be non-fiction. Second, because it offers a fascinating and entertaining look at post-Covid cruising through the experiences of a diverse group of passionate cruisers from around the world. And third, because I’m featured in it and I’m not above shameless self-promotion. Shrug.
Read on for how to participate in the book club (including a list of discussion questions), an interview with the author of The Joy of Cruising Again, Paul C. Thornton, and where to purchase your copy of the book.
How to Participate in the Book Club
There are two possible ways to participate:
I’ll be hosting live Prof. Cruise Book Club groups on the following sailings (these are the ships I’m currently booked on if you’d rather avoid me):
Holland America Westerdam, June 18, 2023
Norwegian Star, December 22, 2023
More ships to come, so check back!
But you’re also welcome to participate virtually! Simply read the book on a cruise of your choice (if you’re not currently booked on one, you can use this as an excuse: “But honey, my book club is requiring it.”) and answer all or some of the following discussion questions in the comments:
The Joy of Cruising Again Discussion Questions
- The Joy of Cruising Again begins with a quote by Saint Augustine: The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. While I agree with that sentiment, I would also argue that those who bring a book on a cruise, no matter how engaging it is, only read one page before falling asleep in a puddle of drool on their lounger. Thoughts?
- In section one of the The Joy of Cruising Again, the author discusses his own return to cruising post-Covid and features quotes from some of the cruisers in his three books about their first post-Covid cruises. Please share the story of your return (or planned return) to cruising. Did anyone else camp out at a cruise terminal for the duration of the Covid shutdown so you’d be first in line (like we used to do for concert tickets before Ticketmaster came along and ruined live music)?
- Ship Life, the second section of the book, highlights people who have worked on cruise ships in a variety of positions from videographer to Maître d’ to youth staff to Captain. If you were going to work on a cruise ship, what position would you choose? Or did you, like me, read about the “Life of Iris” and contemplate leaving your husband/wife/partner so you could become a “Spouse-On-Board?”
- After seeing the stunning photos of the Ramnarine family from A Rich and Jazzy Life featured in section four, did you think to yourself, “they’re definitely the best dressed family at sea!” And then when you saw the photos of Prof. Cruise and her family in section six, did you think, “and now we know who the worst dressed is!”
- Did anyone else, after reading about Nancy and Robert Houchens in section five, create a clock, counting down the seconds to when your kid goes off to college and you can live on a cruise ship full-time?
- How much do you think Prof. Cruise had to pay the author to not only include her in his book, but feature her right after Emma Cruises?
- In section seven, the author discusses the themeparkification of cruise ships. Would you rather the next class of mega ships feature a full-sized 18 hole golf course, an NFL football stadium, or a humble outdoor wraparound promenade deck (honestly, is that too much to ask?)?
- Theme cruising is the…theme…of section eight. If you didn’t skip over my section, you also read about the time I accidentally ended up on a “Carolla Cruise” and nearly physically ran into Adam Carolla in a hallway and blurted out, “hey you’re that guy who taught me about sex!” If you could choose any theme for a cruise or celebrity to cruise with, what/who would it be and why?
Remember to post your answers to the comments!
An Interview with Author Paul C. Thornton
I was lucky enough to score an interview with the author of The Joy of Cruising Again not due to my wide-reaching audience or because I’m a beloved and trusted source of information, but because I currently have Oprah and Reece Witherspoon locked in the trunk of my car. In any case, here’s the transcript of my interview with Paul Thornton:
Prof. Cruise: So, Paul. Despite only meeting you over Zoom a handful of times, I consider you a friend. I mean, a fellow retired college professor who loves cruising? What’s not to like? Which brings me to my first question. If we were to get matching tattoos, what would they be (I mean, I’m kind of partial to the Prof. Cruise logo featuring a graduation cap sitting atop a ship’s wheel, but I’m open to hearing your ideas)?
Paul: I think it would be matching tattoos of the Norwegian Spirit. I am about to board NCL Spirit for my double bucket list destination—Hawaii and Alaska in one cruise. It would have a lot of meaning. You did the exact same cruise, and if I hadn’t ever met you, I probably would have checked off those bucket list destinations sometime over the next several years.
Prof. Cruise: There’s one thing we don’t have in common that I wish we did. You’re an award winning book author, published four times over and I’m a mediocre cruise blogger who has always dreamed of becoming a published author. Can you talk a bit about how you transitioned from academia to writing your first book?
Paul: The transition was in an instant. I was in academia with absolutely no thought of being a writer. When I woke up on the morning of December 6, 2014, I had no plans to write a book. When I went to bed that night, I was a writer. December 6 was my oldest daughter Kina’s wedding day. In the months leading up to the wedding, she kept reminding me of the father-of-the-bride’s obligation to address the wedding reception. I was very reluctant—I hated public speaking even though I did it a lot (by then I was a university administrator). After about the zillionth time that she asked me if I had written my speech yet, I brusquely responded, “What am I supposed to talk about?” She responded, “You’re supposed to talk about memories of me growing up.”
Memories of a daughter growing up is an easy lift for most fathers: standard stuff like school sports anecdotes, first date and prom stories, trips to Disney. Yes, I covered all of that. However, the most powerful memory of Kina growing up wasn’t standard at all, and my speech would lack authenticity if I did not mention it. When Kina was six years old, and I was 29, I was stricken by trauma—a medical situation where a brain surgeon told me in front of my crying wife that if I don’t take action, “you’ll be dead in six months.” I’m still here almost 40 years later, so yes, I took action (although no way I was going to let that guy touch me. He must have skipped class in med school when they taught bedside manners.). After twelve hours of brain surgery and weeks of hospitalization, I had to work on regaining my normal faculties—to the extent possible—including relearning how to walk. So, every day six-year-old Kina would grab her dad’s seemingly giant hand, and with a cane in my other hand we would walk my mom’s neighborhood. I shared the story about the walks with Kina in my wedding talk, but I went further. I needed to put context around the story; what led up to it, and amazingly, its aftermath. I say amazingly because I shared information about permanent after-effects during the talk that I had hidden and held inside for 30 years, out of shame and embarrassment—things my mom didn’t even know. Here’s the interesting thing: as I spoke, I could feel a huge burden lifting off my shoulders. The more I shared, the better I felt. It was liberating; cathartic; therapeutic. When the speech was over there wasn’t a dry eye in the reception hall.
I needed to hold onto that feeling I had when I was opening myself up to the wedding guests. I felt renewed, free, and empowered to be myself. So, I went back to my hotel room, got my iPad out, and started my memoir. I wrote every day and it felt wonderful; like the wedding speech, it was therapeutic.
Prof. Cruise: While your first book wasn’t cruise-related, you’ve since become the J.R.R. Tolkien of cruise books with your successful trilogy: The Joy of Cruising, Cruising Interrupted, and The Joy of Cruising Again. What inspired you to write books about cruising?
Paul: For Christmas 2018, we decided to take my extended family on a cruise. I research heavily on cruise forums and blogs and during the research process it became clear there were some fascinating cruisers and cruise stories out there. That gave me the idea to bring those stories to cruisers. By early 2019, The Joy of Cruising was published.
Prof. Cruise: Talk a bit more about the most recent book in the trilogy and my book club selection for this month, The Joy of Cruising Again. Why did you write this third book and how does it relate to the prior two?
Paul: The second book, Cruising Interrupted, was actually released during the cruising lockdown. Covid was disastrous for the cruising industry, and cruising had become a media punching bag. I had a genuine fear that my beloved cruising might not survive. When it started to show signs of coming back to life, I gladly decided to write a third book to celebrate cruising’s return. Other than the celebratory aspect of it, The Joy of Cruising Again is very similar to the previous books in that it tells stories about fascinating cruisers—some you can google, and others who are “ordinary” cruisers with extraordinary stories. And one really big shortcoming of the previous books was fixed in The Joy of Cruising Again—it includes a feature called Professor Cruise!
Prof. Cruise: Since completing The Joy of Cruising Again, you’ve launched a related podcast. Tell my readers about the podcast and share a few of your favorite moments from the interviews you’ve conducted so far.
Paul: The Joy of Cruising Again is the end of a trilogy, so I had to find a way to continue my passion. The Joy of Cruising Podcast is a way for me to do that. It is a weekly conversation with the approximately 75 passionate cruisers I have featured in the books, as well as others who relate to some of the topics covered in the books such as Performing On the Ocean, Theme Cruising, etc. My favorite moments from the interviews: Probably my favorite because I love music as much as I love cruising, I hosted a current jazz musician on Royal Caribbean who in another life played with Ray Charles at 17, toured with The Rolling Stones, won a Grammy with Billy Preston, and was a member of the hardcore funk group Larry Graham and Graham Central Station. Another favorite was an interview with Professor Cruise!
Prof. Cruise: Before I get to my final question, as a basketball fan with a daughter employed by the NBA, I’m hoping you might assist in settling a family dispute between my husband and son. I stay out of it because I know less about basketball than I do about how to cook the perfect steak (I’m a vegetarian). Who’s the superior team, the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Memphis Grizzlies?
Paul: Hands down the Cavaliers because Lebron James (I know he doesn’t play for them anymore, but any chance I get to remind people he is the greatest of all time I’m going to take it).
Prof. Cruise: Final question, what makes Prof. Cruise your all-time favorite interviewee?
Unfortunately a pressing matter came up (I’m guessing his house caught fire) and Paul was unable to complete the interview. But I’m hoping to invite him to a future book club meeting where he can speak to this final question at length.
In the meantime, if you don’t have your copy of The Joy of Cruising Again yet, here’s how you can purchase it.
How to Purchase The Joy of Cruising Again
The Kindle version can be purchased on Amazon HERE.
The paperback version can be pre-ordered on Amazon HERE.
The paperback version can be ordered direct from the publisher HERE.
You can also purchase Paul’s other cruise books and his memoir HERE.
And with that…
Homework (10 points): After reading the Joy of Cruising books, check out The Joy of Cruising Podcast. I’ll be Paul’s guest on April 20th. This is my very first podcast appearance and I’d appreciate any feedback. Anything from, “that was pretty much the train wreck I expected it to be” to “it wasn’t that bad.”
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