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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Competition in cruising

One wonders whether the market can stand it, but NINE ships from seven different cruise lines are scheduled to embark on their maiden voyages between October 2015 and February 2017.  And the ship yards have been busy -- eight are brand new, and the ninth is an expensive refurbishment.

And here they are, in order of appearance, as they say in movie credits ....

Norwegian Escape (4,200 passengers)

The 163,000-ton Norwegian Escape will be Norwegian's largest ship to date. It will boast the biggest ropes course at sea, with 99 different elements to challenge guests. There also will be a kid-size course for young guests who want to test their skills.

The Norwegian Escape debuts October 29, 2015. 

Viking Sea (930 passengers)
Viking Cruises

This 5.5-star ship will sport a modern Scandinavian design and be outfitted with two pools (including one cantilevered off the stern), a two-deck Explorer's Lounge at the bow and a Nordic-inspired spa (here, guests can go from the sauna to the "snow grotto," where snowflakes drift down from the ceiling through the chilled air).  All cabins will have verandas. Itineraries have been designed to maximize time in port, with the ship often staying until late evening or overnight.

The Viking Sea debuts April 3, 2016.

Ovation of the Seas (4,905 passengers)
Royal Caribbean

The Ovation of the Seas is the third vessel in Royal Caribbean's Quantum class, joining Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Unique features on board include a simulated skydiving experience; the North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule at the end of a mechanical arm that lifts occupants more than 300 feet above the sea; and the Bionic Bar, where two robotic bartenders shake or stir your favorite cocktail.  (I wonder if they want a tip?)

And here is an utterly new angle -- interior staterooms provide virtual views of real-time scenery on floor-to-ceiling HD screens.  And (dear lord) there are roller skating and bumper cars for the kids

The Ovation of the Seas debuts April 17, 2016. 

Sirena (684 passengers)

Oceania will acquire the Ocean Princess from Princess Cruises and give it a $40 million refurbishment at a shipyard in Marseille, France. Next year, it will launch as the Sirena. Key features are destination-rich itineraries and casually elegant, country-club ambiance, with a staff of 400 to care for 684 guests.

The Sirena debuts April 27, 2016. 

Carnival Vista (4,980 passengers)

Carnival's largest ship will debut with some brand-new seagoing features, such as the first IMAX theater on a cruise ship, the line's first onboard brewery and the Kaleid-O-Slide, where you can jump into a one- or two-person inflatable raft for a twisting, turning trip down a waterslide. At the SkyRide, passengers can pedal hanging recumbent bikes along a track suspended 150 feet above the ocean.

Havana Cabanas (aka balcony rooms) will have patios -- complete with hammocks and lounge chairs -- that face the Deck 5 promenade. 

The Carnival Vista debuts May 1, 2016. 

Harmony of the Seas (5,200 passengers)
Royal Caribbean

The Harmony of the Seas will be the third of the Oasis-class ships. Like sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, it will boast seven unique neighborhoods, such as Central Park (planted with live trees and plants) and the Royal Promenade (an interior boulevard flanked by eateries, lounges and shops).

Passengers can take on the challenges of the FlowRider surf simulators, 43-foot-high rock-climbing walls and a zipline that's nine decks up in the air.

The Harmony of the Seas debuts May 29, 2016. 

Seven Seas Explorer (750 passengers)

Regent calls the "6-star" (!) Seven Seas Explorer the "world's most luxurious ship." Guests can expect king-size beds and high-quality linens, large bathrooms and spacious verandas -- the largest balconies in the industry. Accommodations range from 307-square-foot Veranda Suites to the stunning 3,875-square-foot, two-bedroom Regent Suite, which will boast an in-suite spa retreat with sauna, two ceramic heated loungers and treatment area.

The Seven Seas Explorer debuts July 20, 2016. 

Seabourn Encore (604 passengers)

The Seabourn Square will be the social hub of the "6-star" Seabourn Encore, encompassing a library, sitting area, computer center and European-style coffee bar. The spa will have a fully equipped gym, personal trainers, steam and sauna rooms and a full range of treatments. There is a marina at the stern with complimentary kayaks, pedal boats and windsurfers. All of the ship's staterooms will have verandas.

The Seabourn Encore debuts January 7, 2017. 

Viking Sky (930 passengers)
Viking Cruises

All staterooms on the Viking Sky will have private verandas. The unique enrichment program on board provides lectures from experts in history, music, art and cuisine, carefully selected to enhance each itinerary.

The Viking Sky debuts February 25, 2017.

Better start saving.  Some of these will be very expensive ... unless the competition skews the market.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Interesting notice re romance and Scribd

As Mills & Boon and Harlequin know (and reap a lot of money out of it), romance readers are bulk readers. They engulf huge amounts of their favorite literature, and it seems that they are skewing the market.

Draft2Digital has sent out an interesting notice, describing that one of the eBook subscription services, Scribd, has big problems with this.

"As we all know," they say, "the concept of a subscription service for books is extremely new. There are several models on the market now for effectively monetizing subscriptions, and none of them exactly matches what we’re used to from traditional sales royalties. As the market experiments with different approaches, there are bound to be some missteps and false starts along the way. In fact, we should expect this business model to evolve even more in the near future.

"Scribd took a significant risk putting in place a model that paid authors the same amount as a retail model for each book read by a subscriber. As we all know, romance readers tend to be incredibly avid readers. In trying to cater to this voracious readership while under this progressive payment model, Scribd has put itself in a difficult place. In a bid to better balance these operating expenses, Scribd is immediately slashing the volume of romance novels in its subscription service."

Odd.  Very odd.  Perhaps the next step should be to categorize subscribers, and charge less or more according to the kind of literature they order.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Guest post: Bessie and the whales

Wonderful guest post from Lesley Walker's blog

Bessie and the Whales

Detail of zoologist Charles Haskins Townsend's world map complied in 1931
Detail of zoologist Charles Haskins Townsend’s world map complied in 1931. New Bedford Whaling Museum.
It is now exactly twelve months since I joined theCharles W Morgan at Vineyard Haven, on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts in June 2014 to sail to New Bedford, the ship’s home port. Since then through research and writing, I have been pursuing the story of my great-great grandparents on Sunday/Raoul Island and of whalerman, master mariner and Charles W Morgan crew member Parkins Christian. I have also discovered a fascination with the extraordinary (if abhorrent) history of whaling and whales themselves. My research has included visiting museums with whaling-related collections in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Sydney and Eden, NSW, Australia and Lajes da Pico, Pico and Horta, Faial in the Azores. I decided it was time to return to my blog!
Zoologist Charles Haskins Townsend’s world map complied in 1931 used American whaling records to plot every single recorded whale taken by American ships in the 19th century. Red dots are sperm whales, blue dots baleen whales such as humpbacks and right whales. Sunday or Raoul Island is almost completely obscured by red dots. The Kermadecs lie between the Vasquez and French Rock Whaling Grounds, the red dots stretching from New Zealand in the south to converge and overlap with blue dots to Tonga and almost to Samoa. Another thick line of red dots connects the Kermadecs with Norfolk Island in the west. As a 38th Voyager on the Charles W Morgan in 2014 I had the extraordinary opportunity to actually sail on the only remaining whaling ship of the many that whaled off and visited Sunday-Raoul Island.
Despite the decline of whaling in the Pacific by the time my great great grandparents, the Bells, were living on Sunday Island, American and colonial whaling ships were still hunting whales and provided much needed supplies, equipment and new faces when they anchored off the island. The ships also took on firewood, fresh meat (goats had been left on the islands from the early years of whaling, a fact which undoubtedly saved the Bells from starvation in the first year after they landed) and water although the weather and heavy surf in Denham Bay meant more often than not they couldn’t anchor and go ashore. These visits are recorded in the ships’ logs from the early 19th century.
Raoul or Sunday Island
Raoul or Sunday Island – aerial view. The Bells lived first on Denham Bay (the long beach in the south of the island) then moved to North Beach across the ridge. Later they moved back to Denham Bay.
In December 1878 the California’s log reported that the ship was laying off Sunday Island for three days, sending boats ashore for firewood. In March 1880 the log of the Canton records that “during the day we have very light winds and some times calm. Ship under all sail drifting towards Sunday Island which we saw at 9am”. The California was off Sunday Island again in April 1888 and February 1889. In March 1889 its log reports sighting the Sydney whaler the Costa Rica Packet, whaling off Curtis Rocks.
George Parkins Christian served on several whaling ships including the Sydney-basedCosta Rica Packet, the California and the Canton before he joined the Charles W Morganwhen she called at Norfolk Island in 1894. Many years later My great-grandmother Bessie remembered his visits and that “it was always the American whalers who were our best friends”. Her father Tom told them the story of the mutiny on the Bounty, of how Christian’s great grandfather Fletcher had fallen out with Captain Bligh. Parkins told them nothing of this but regaled them with stories of the Great White Whale, Moby Dick, “that bit whaleboats in half and crunched them to pieces in his awful jaws”.
From the island the children watched the whales’ annual migration from the Antarctic waters past the Kermadecs to the warmer waters of the tropics and back again with calves in the autumn. Bessie remembered the humpbacks off Denham Bay and the northern shores of the island, and the children watched their antics in delight, fascinated by the fountain-like spouts. Sometimes a whale would leap out of the water, “its huge body vertical between sea and sky and visible for one enthralling second from snout to tail flukes”. She recalled a special moment when, with sisters Hettie and Mary, she witnessed a cow whale feeding her calf. The girls climbed down the cliff to get a better view, looking directly down on the cow rolled on her side ejecting milk directly into the mouth of her twenty-foot long calf.
Sunday or Raoul Island, the Kermadecs. Bessie and her father and brothers were between Sunday Island and Meyer Is. when they were nearly overturned by a whale.
Sunday or Raoul Island, the Kermadecs. Bessie and her father and brothers were fishing near Meyer Is. to the north-west of Sunday Island when they were nearly overturned by a humpback whale.
Another encounter with a school of humpbacks during a fishing trip with her father and brothers to nearby Meyer Island was more frightening. The whales appeared from behind the island, broaching and sounding, leaping high and swimming in wide circles around the rowboat, disturbing the hitherto calm waters. When one leapt out of the water and then crashed back down very close to the boat, their father Tom yelled for them to row for their lives. Bessie suddenly realized one was diving under the boat, and felt the bow of the boat heaved up out of the water, then rolled on its side until the gunwale was under the water. The huge shape slid out from underneath and with a violent swirl, turned and flung itself out of the water a few yards away. The flukes towered over the boys’ heads and they threw themselves into the bottom of the boat. Parkins Christian told them later that they were lucky, that when whales swim round and round a boat like that, they mean mischief. The boat could well have been smashed and the occupants “sent down to Davy Jones’ locker – and the sharks”.
With many thanks to Lesley for allowing me to repost.  I look forward to another guest post before too long.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two contrasting book launches

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Open 7 days from 10am; Thurs & Fri ‘til 7pmONLINE SHOPPING
Dear Joan

starlight peninsular small.jpgBOOK LAUNCH -

Join with us & Penguin Random House to launch Charlotte Grimshaw’s latest brilliant novel Starlight Peninsula. When Eloise’s life is suddenly turned upside down she seeks answers - & encounters an odd-eyedcharlotte grimshaw.jpgpolicewoman, a charismatic obstetrician, a German psychotherapist, & a flamboyant internet pirate wanted by the US government!
One of NZ’s most cleverly satirical writers, Charlotte has won numerous awards. Come & celebrate with us!

Thursday 2 July 6pm in the bookshop
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Published first in the USA, Bianca Zander’s marvellous second novel The Predictions delightfully captures life at Gaialands, an ‘alternative lifestyle’ commune in thebiance zander small.jpgCoromandel in the late 70s. Poppy & Lukas, who have grown up there, must face the less idealistic realities of life in the heady music scene of 80s London.
Join us, with Bianca & Hachette NZ, to celebrate the New Zealand publication of this lively, tender story of mistakes & finding your place in the world.

Wednesday 15 July 6pm in the bookshop
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Publication date announced!
Rowing to Eden: Collected Stories - Amy Bloom    $25 
Due September!

For those of you who missed out on purchasing Amy Bloom’s marvellous short stories at the Auckland Writers Festival, we are delighted to announce we will have stock of this stunning collection of her remarkable stories in September.

Phone or email us to order your copy now!
STAFF VACANCY – For Weekends
We need a permanent person, for Saturdays & Sundays, who reads widely, has good computer skills & is warm & friendly with customers. Email us for more details.
Enjoy your winter reading, check out our fabulous new books in store and online.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quilled ship

This gorgeous card featuring a quilled ship was sent to me by a dear friend in Vineyard Haven, on the beautiful and historic island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.  She knows it is a hobby I love, and knew I would treasure it.

What is quilling, you ask?  It is a paper craft, where long, narrow strips of paper are coiled with a quilling tool and then the coils adjusted into different shapes.  It is an ancient art, with a religious background. Though it dates back to the ancient Egyptians, it was popularized in monasteries and abbeys, where nuns and monks would take the gold paper left over from book binding, trim it into strips, and roll it into shapes to decorate illuminated manuscripts.  Later, it became a pastime for European ladies, who would use it to decorate cards and boxes, just as we do today.

And why is it called "quilling"?  It is because the original quilling tools were birds' feathers, where the groove in the quill held the end of the paper strip.


You can make simple little yachts (great for little boys' birthday cards), or use the same strips of paper to make flowers to decorate a card, or a little box holding a few choice candies. Or a rabbit (for an Easter card).

The card pictured at the top, the one Kay sent me, is really exceptional. The outlines of the masts, hulls, and sails have been delineated with fine strips of card, and then the delicate coils have been slotted neatly into the shapes.  Note the simple coils that depict the waves.  It has been created by a Vietnamese artist with very nimble fingers.

Amazon to pay authors by the page

Amazon is to begin paying royalties to writers based on the number of pages read by Kindle users, rather than by the book. This means that if the reader abandons the book quarter way through -- and we have all done that, my own benchmark being 40 pages; if I am not hooked by then, I turn to another book -- the author gets just one quarter royalty.

What makes me curious is how Amazon knows that you have dumped the book before getting even halfway.  Is there a secret little chip in the Kindle that sends info back to the robots of  It's like the "ratings" you hear about with TV programs.  How do the TV people know how many are watching?  There are flaws, such as the obvious one where the TV has been left on with no one in the room (I know a family that turn on the TV just to amuse their cats) and then there are all those rows of TVs in electronic stores, flashing all kinds of programs just so that passing customers can admire the definition. And how do know that the Kindle in question hasn't been lost, or broken down, with what had been an enjoyable book left unfinished.

However, Amazon claims that it is fairer for people who write long books, but get the same royalties as those who write short ones.  But isn't there a difference in the price of the books?  Long books tend to be a bit more expensive than your average novella.

"We're making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read," the company said.

Well, the word "feedback" equates to the word "poll" which equates to the word "statistics," in my book.  And we all know about lies, damned lies, and statistics.  And does the buyer of the dumped book get three-quarters of the paid money back?

That is the Question.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Unity Best Bookseller of the Year

From the Dominion Post

While the future of bookshops remains uncertain, one of Wellington's leading independent stores has proven there is still life left in them yet.
Unity Books in Willis St won Bookseller of the Year at the Book Trade Industry Awards show on Sunday night.
But while Unity is very much alive after 48 years of trading, other notable bookshops in Wellington have shut their doors during the past two years, including Parsons in Lambton Quay, Quilters in Ghuznee St, and Capital Books in Featherston St.
Unity co-owner and manager Tilly Lloyd admitted the future of bookshops was uncertain, but said:
"We have a good, long, strong history as a literary bookshop and there are enough literary people in Wellington to keep us going strong.
"A lot of people are reigniting their loyalties in independent bookstores, so this award is a big vote for the Wellington booklovers – for the buying public – who support us.
"We are thrilled. It was such a vote of confidence ... it means a lot to us."
The win comes in a tough year for Unity, which lost about a fifth of its stock in late January when water started pouring through its ceiling, caused by workers stripping out a shop on the level above.
Customers quickly ralled to help, and Lloyd said the store's success was in part because it was a very social bookshop. It hosted up to 60 author events every year, which attracted hundreds of people.

"That is really, really important to the spirit of the shop, because they bring in such a wide variety of people."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rebutting your own death notice

Back in 1849, Shakespearean actor George Buckingham read the notice of his own death in the Sydney Morning Herald.  And, forthwith, quoting freely from the Bard, he wrote a rebuttal -- which must be one of the cleverest and most funny I have ever read.

Here is how it went:

To the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.


HORATIA -- Look, my lord, it comes!
HAMLET -- Angels and Ministers of grace defend us! Be thou spirit of health or goblin damned. O, anser me. Why, the sepulchre, wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd, hath op'd has ponderous and marble jaws, and cast thee up again!

RESPECTED SIR -- A report of my decease having appeared in your paper some few months since, the perusal of which caused my hair to bristle "Like quills upon the fretful porcupine," I beg to denounce the same as "a weak invention of the enemy." I assure you, sir, this announcement of "So much for Buckingham," has created quite a Tempest in my family, therefore I would say with Miranda, "if by your art, my dearest editor, you have put the wild waters in this roar, allay them."

"Be off then, let me be."

By your insertion of this, I would say with Au olicus, "Softly, dear sir; good sir, softly!"

Happy in concluding that this Comedy of Errors has turned out Much Ado about Nothing, and that All's Well that ends well -- I now beg once more to make my exit, and say "I have hope to live and am not prepared to die" and, like Hecate, in Macbeth,  I can say "Hark! I am called; my little spirit, see, sits in a foggy cloud and stays for me."

Or perhaps this would be more appropriate --

Show his eyes, and grieve his heart,
Come like shadow, so depart

Mr. Editor, I remain yours,
Sans everything,


Auckland, New Zealand
June 13, 1849.

The picture is of the Olympia Theatre in Melbourne, where Buckingham appeared.  He was one of the very earliest actors/stage managers in New Zealand and Australia, and I have been unable to find any images of either him, or his family, or of the Royal Victoria Theatre and the Fitzroy Theatre that he built and/or managed, the first in Melbourne, and the second in Auckland.

The letter was published in the New Zealander, 13 June 1849.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mystic Seaport International Exhibition

The Thirty-sixth Annual International Marine Art Exhibition

The 36th annual International Marine Art Exhibition is a comprehensive juried show that showcases recent works of more than 100 award-winning marine artists from around the world. This exhibition is a commemoration of our maritime heritage with intricately researched historical scenes and contemporary images that document man’s relationship to the sea. Represented in this show are exceptional paintings, drawings, sculpture, scrimshaw, and ship models depicting tall ships, sailing yachts, working craft, commercial vessels, warships, and scenes of the shoreline, beaches, harbors and wildlife that inhabit our seafaring world.
The exhibition will open to the public at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 27, with an Artists’ Walk at the Maritime Gallery. The walk is an opportunity for the public to meet some of the participating artists and listen as they share how they created their works in the International and what inspires them to produce their art.
The exhibition runs through December 31, 2015.
Ron Druett was very pleased to have a painting accepted for this very prestigious exhibition.
Pictured above, it is called "The Kids' Dinghy".

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lusitania Letter

Nellie Huston was one of the 1,198 people who died when the ocean liner was
sunk by a German U-boat as the liner from off the coast of Ireland and sank
within 18 minutes on May 7, 1915.

She told of her fears in a seven-page letter to a relative during the
crossing from New York to Liverpool and in it she described passengers' fear
of being attacked.

Germany had declared the seas around the UK a war zone and the German
Embassy in the US had placed a newspaper advert warning people of the risk
of sailing on the Lusitania.

Nellie’s seven-page, water-stained letter was discovered in her handbag
floating in the Atlantic six days after the sinking. It has been in her family ever since and is now being sold at auction in London.

The letter, written on Lusitania-headed notepaper, is a rare first-hand
account of life onboard the ill-fated ship and Nellie’s final words penned
the day before the sinking reveals the sense of fear.

She writes: “If it wasn’t just for the worry I could say we’ve had a lovely

Written like a diary to “My dear Ruth”, Nellie wrote about her trip each
day, including amusing anecdotes about needing a steward to help her into
her top bunk and seeing some of the distinguished first class passengers.

But the letter also hints at a more ominous atmosphere.

Nellie wrote: “I feel rather twichy [sic]. We’ve had three days on the boat
and we’re just about half way over.”

In her final entry on May 6 she said: “We’ve had a splendid passage up to
now... This morning we have all the lifeboats swung out ready for

“It’s awful to think about but I guess there is some danger.”

The line about the lifeboats was later cited in the press to help exonerate
the ship’s captain, William Turner, from charges of negligence as evidence
that they were readied for an emergency.

Nellie also mentions that the liner was crowded after taking on passengers
from the Cameronia - a ship taken over by the British government as it was
about to leave New York on - which also hampered attempts to escape.