Cruising is big business, especially now as cruise companies head into ever more unchartered waters. Once the simple statement, 'we're heading off on a cruise this summer' would have evoked images of a sedate lap around the Mediterranean, but no longer! With lines such as Hurtigruten offering adventures across Scandinavia and unique experiences up for grabs in Asia - Halong Bay in Vietnam not only offers warm waters for swimming and mind-boggling geological formations, but cruising is the only way to access this island labyrinth - it's no wonder that the demand for holidays afloat is increasing year after year.
And increasing it most certainly is, last year the number of passengers setting sail from a UK port went up by 12% to 840,000 but it's river cruising that's seeing the most growth, with 2017 expected to see an extra million people take to the waterways of Europe than the previous year.
So who best to help you navigate the tricky waters of consumer choice than a handy publication, known within the industry as the cruise bible, called the Berlitz Guide? A best-seller year after year, this is the comprehensive go-to for travel experts and holidaymakers alike, and not only helps you match the ideal cruise to your specifications, but also features over 300 honest and impartial reviews of both ocean and river cruise ships. It's hefty, but just the ticket for making sure your cruise is everything you want it to be and then some.
Berlitz has been a highly trusted brand for the last 130 years, when it was launched in 1878 it was solely as a language guide but as is often the way, it grew and adapted over time providing budding travellers with phrase and guide books so that they could get around more independently and more cheaply. But it is it's cruising and cruise ship guide where it really comes into its own, and each year it is meticulously updated - no small feat in such a rapidly expanding market!
Douglas Ward, though the name might not ring a bell to you, will send a shiver of dread, or perhaps excitement down the backs of those in the cruising world. Sole author of the world-famous cruise guide since 1984, each year he and his team leave no stone unturned in their quest to uncover the crème de la crème of cruising. He is a true authority in his field (or should that be ocean?) and to date has racked up around 1,085 cruises over the past 50 years - 200 days of his year are spent at sea.
With a trusty Berlitz guide in tow, you can be safe in the knowledge that anyone this man deigns to find worthy of one of cruising's most prestigious awards, is going to be up to scratch - he boasts that he can tell within ten minutes of boarding any ship what the operation is like and the level of hospitality he can expect. All of this means that the annual Berlitz award winners are eagerly anticipated by cruise companies the world over, as a high ranking is sure to have a huge influence on popularity. And with the 32nd edition coming out in 2016, there are some notable names amongst the victors.
So whether you're a seasoned pro, or have never cruised before in your life, you'll be able to make a much more than educated guess about your next holiday.
The 2017 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships Guide is available to buy on amazon.co.uk (enjoying a four-star superior, as they might describe it in the industry, rating) or in most high-street book stores.