.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Ever since I was very young I always wanted to run away to sea. I was born in Charleston, S.C. and love the ocean. I did finally join a cruise ship as a croupier and everywhere we sailed to, there were yachts. At the Cannes Film festival there were gorgeous yachts filled with beautiful Europeans. In the Caribbean the yachts moored in secluded coves too small for cruise ships. I was always curious what would it be like to be part of the crew on a private yacht.

Now I have my answer. Bravo has recently debuted a reality show about the crew on a private yacht. In the pilot the show sailed out of Saint Martin which holds a special place in my heart because my future husband and I had our first date there. It is a beautiful island divided into a Dutch side filled with duty free shops and a French side filled with fantastic restaurants.  We both worked on a cruise ship and the best part of a cruise ship is that you have much more time off than the crew of a private yacht. They work with fifteen other crew members we worked with over six hundred.

In the show the crew is on call twenty four hours a day.  The officers are trained professionals, but most of the cast is a group of attractive people doing essentially service and maintenance jobs; you won’t need your college degree here. But since the pay is all in tips and room and board is included what a great place to save up money to pay off those loans. The cost of the cruise can run up to $100,000 a week, and the average tip is between 10 to 15%v of the cost, so tips for each crew member averages around $1,000 a week. That being said some of the guests are very difficult, the chef has to change his menu on a guest’s whim, and the stewards might have to not only unpack but iron all the passengers’ clothes. You would think they would go on vacation to relax but to type ‘A’ personalities making demands and finding fault are part of a good vacation. Since most people bring their friends it is also a way to try to impress your mates with your importance. It really does show how hard the work is and that you have to have nerves of steel, to handle out of line comments such as ‘how great your tits are’.

Now since this is a reality show, the focus is definitely on bad behavior. I often wonder do these people have parents? On their one day off a week it is all about getting pissed and hooking up. It was like that on a cruise ship we even had a crew bar but we had some time off everyday, so when we got to port our major focus was sight seeing - and then getting pissed. As for shipboard romances, I am all for them I met my husband when we both worked on a cruise ship, and with no commute to work, or bills to pay for rent or food, it was a wonderful experience, a vacation from the real world. We computed everything in ships time, a week at sea is like a month on land for a new romance.

The crew has their issues, Sam hates Adrienne her boss because she is very demanding. CJ is upset because the captain keeps telling him to put his shirt back on. I can tell you if Sam was on a cruise ship she would have been booted of before the week was over for insolence. On a cruise ship an officer is to be obeyed.

This show will be interesting for anyone who loves to cruise. The setting is beautiful and there are facts to be gleaned between the cat-fights. The crew works hard and parties hard, but the work is the main focus for any crew. I just wish the show was more focused on the mechanics of the cruise world but alas the show is on Bravo not the Discovery Channel. I left cruise ships with wonderful memories and a Scottish husband, and thought not everyone can be that lucky I am sure the crew of Below Decks will cherish this experience for the rest of their lives.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

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