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Cruise ships provide a unique setting for stories. They can be places of luxury, opportunities to escape your life, or the setting of an intense locked-room mystery. And in this list of books about cruise ships, you’ll find them all.
Because cruise ships are inescapable once you’re on them, there are a definitely a lot of mysteries set on cruise ships. And even more mysteries that combine the glitz of the 1920s with a murder. But you’ll also find contemporary fiction, a romance, and a YA graphic memoir I love that’s also perfect for adults.
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Novels Set on Cruise Ships
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
After an embarrassing meltdown during one of her concerts, musician Greta James agrees to go on Alaskan cruise with her father. It is a cruise her parents had booked together, but then her mother passed away. And in the wake of her grief Greta hopes to recover herself on the cruise. For fans of contemporary fiction.
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
When Harriet Chance’s husband of 55 years passes away, she embarks on the adventure of an Alaskan cruise and sets her sights on a new future. But what she hadn’t planned was how much the cruise was going to make her come to terms with her past. For fans of older heroines and contemporary fiction.
Shipped by Angie Hockman
Henley and Graeme are up for the same position at the cruise company where they work. They’ve been rivals at work for years, but when they have to go on a cruise together and compete for the promotion, Henley discovers that maybe Graeme isn’t as bad as she thought. For fans of rom-coms.
Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo
During World War I, two New York City socialite sisters have plans to leave on a ship for England. One is set to marry a future English Lord, another wants to join the suffragette movement. But then they board the Lusitania and their survival is at stake. For fans of historical fiction.
The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton
On the Morro Castle, a ship bound to Havana from New York, two women find that their lives are at stake. Catherine, a New York heiress, and Elena, a woman who others thought dead, are both on the ship with secrets from their past that they want to make right. For fans of historical suspense.
Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
In 1939, war is on the horizon when Lily boards a ship for Australia. But what starts out as a fancy cruise where Lily makes new friends quickly turns dark as two people are killed. For fans of historical fiction and suspense.
Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare
Lena Aldridge is a nightclub singer in London whose life feels little off track. Then she is offered the chance to star on Broadway and is given a first-class ticket on an ocean liner. But as she becomes friends with an aristocratic family, a death from her old nightclub seems to have followed her on board. For fans of historical mysteries.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
During a cruise on the Nile River, a young girl is murdered and Christie’s classic detective, Hercule Poirot, must figure out what happened. For fans of mysteries.
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
Two families take a cruise together. But when they get off the ship for an excursion in Central America, the children go missing and the parents start to blame each other. For fans of thrillers and suspense.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Journalist Lo is given the opportunity to cruise on a luxury ship in the North Sea. It’s a dream come true, until things turn dark. She witnesses a woman being thrown overboard, but no one on the ship is actually missing. So what’s going on? For fans of thrillers and suspense.
The Stowaway by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth
Two years after a court case in which Maria was the lone juror who let an alleged serial killer go free, she and her family need to get away from it all and take a cruise. But then a passenger goes missing and another one is murdered, and Maria thinks it may be linked to that verdict years ago. For fans of thrillers.
Non-Fiction Books About Cruise Ships
The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship by Chaney Kwak
In 2019, Chaney Kwak was on board the Viking Sky cruise ship when it was hit by a massive storm: a powerful bomb cyclone. The ships was pitched between huge waves and dangerously lost power. On board, Kwak reflects on the possibility of his death and the life he has back on land. For fans of memoirs and suspenseful adventure stories.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays by David Foster Wallace
While a lot of essays in this book have nothing to do with cruises, we’d be remiss not to mention it in our list of books about cruise ships because it’s title essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” is all about Foster Wallace’s experience on a weeklong Caribbean cruise. He observes tourists and luxury, reflecting on how it connects to our human desires. This book is for fans of personal essays.
Children’s Books About Cruise Ships
Peter the Cruise Ship by Hans Mateboer
Peter is a cruise ship that travels all over the world meeting friends (other boats and ships), but sometimes finds himself in dangerous situations. Recommended ages: 4-6 years.
Chato Goes Cruisin’ by Gary Soto, Illustrated by Susan Guevara
Chato and Novio are two cats who have somehow ended up on a cruise full of dogs. They are pretty miserable until they see the ship they were supposed to be on — the one full of cats! Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Middle Grade + YA Books Set on Cruises
The Boxcar Children: The Mystery Cruise by Gertrude Chandler Warner
When the Alden children go on a Caribbean cruise, strange things start happening and they think someone is trying to sabotage the voyage. But why? Recommended ages: 6-10 years.
I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis, Illustrated by Scott Dawson
In a list of books about cruise ships, I guess there’s a bit of an obligation to include something about the Titanic. Kids love these I Survived stories, and this one tells the story of George and his sister who must try to survive the Titanic. Recommended ages: 8-10 years.
Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, R.M.S. Titanic 1912 by Ellen Emerson White
If you have a kid who loves the Dear America series, this one is set on the Titanic. A young girl from an orphanage is tasked with becoming the companion of a wealthy American woman on board the Titanic. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise by Wendelin Van Draanen
Sammy Keyes is getting to know her new dad on a cruise. But then a famous heiress goes missing and Sammy has to solve the mystery. Recommended ages: 10-12 years.
Displacement by Lucy Knisley
In this graphic memoir, Lucy Knisley volunteers to travel on a cruise with her grandparents to help them out. This is a book not just about the cruise, but also about coming to terms with her grandparents aging. This is definitely a great book for adults, but recommended ages is also 16 and up.
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