Do you love traveling? Do you want to see the world while working? One way to do that is by working on a cruise ship. It’s an intriguing concept. It’s also the basis of a book I finished reading earlier this month. This is my review of The Untold Tales of a Sailor at Sea by L.C. Tang.
Disclosure: I was gifted a hardcopy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Book plot: The Untold Tales of a Sailor at Sea
Lincee shares her experiences working on several different cruise ships. Each trip or work assignment certainly has its share of highs and lows.
At the beginning of the book, author L.C. Tang explains that many of the adventures in the book are loosely based on real-life experiences. There are illustrations throughout the book too from Oscar David that add to the scenes.
An inside look into cruise ships
I didn’t realize that cruise ships have underground “black markets” that enable staff on cruise ships to get extra things they’re not allowed while on work contracts. For example, on one particular ship, the crew members are allowed to buy a certain amount of alcohol and cigarettes within a certain time frame but not go over that number. In the book, many sailors find their way around that to indulge in these things.
Crew members can also order hot noodles and other foods for delivery to their cabins late at night if they know the right people. Again, it’s an underground system, as the supervisors wouldn’t normally allow meals at that late hour.
I also didn’t know that the workdays are so long for the staff. I imagine being like Lincee, trying to get along with a new roommate in my cabin and having a completely different lifestyle while at sea – It wouldn’t be an easy adjustment! I also wouldn’t like to share a small number of washing machines and dryers with so many other people on the boat.
With that being said, the crew get to see a lot of great places while onboard. Being able to travel while getting paid, with meals included, would be exciting.
What keeps her going
Faith, music, and friendship are all staples in Lincee’s life on land, so it makes sense that she looks for these things to keep her going while on the water. She enjoys playing the piano and makes a friend while doing so.
It is nice to see how she participates in Bible studies on the boats. Over time, she is put in charge of delivering sermons, which boosts her confidence considerably. It was nice to read about her taking on the challenge and doing great at leading these events.
There are proverbs from the Bible throughout the book. At the end of the book are some sermon notes from the author.
A trigger I didn’t expect
I was saddened and shocked by the book’s portrayal of life for women at sea on the boats Lincee is on for her work. The men are described as “sex-starved sailors” in chapter one who had “lusting eyes” on her as she took her first assignment at sea.
Shortly after, in the book, Lincee is sexually assaulted by one of the men working on the boat. I was shocked when this happened. There was no warning of it in the book description online or in the book’s preface to warn me. It was a trigger for me as a sexual assault survivor.
I was then holding my breath throughout the book, thinking about how she navigated the other challenges on work projects, given the numbness I remember feeling after what happened to me. I admit I lost some sleep while reading this book as I had flashbacks to my own experiences. But I gave my word to the author to review this book, so I finished it. I hope a trigger warning is added to the book’s online description.
Please understand I’m not saying that this book shouldn’t include the event. What I’m saying is that I would have liked a heads-up.
Overall impressions of The Untold Tales of a Sailor at Sea
I liked this book for its ability to give me the inside look at the crews on cruise ships. I hadn’t realized what their average day looked like and the layouts of the ships.
I have never been on a cruise ship, but if I go one day as a passenger, I will certainly be thinking about this read. I do hope, though, that female crew members are not seen as objects to salivate over by their male counterparts on every boat like it is portrayed in the book.
My heart goes out to anyone who is sexually assaulted. I gently encourage the author to add a trigger warning so others know exactly what to expect from this book and can then choose whether to read it, knowing all of the information.
If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to work on a cruise ship, this book might be right for you. I give The Untold Tales of a Sailor at Sea by L.C. Tang 4 out of 5 stars.
6 thoughts on “Book review: The Untold Tales of a Sailor at Sea”
Point well taken on the safety of female crew members. Yes, a trigger warning is appropriate.
Thank you xx
Oh Christy, I’m so sorry that you had that experience and this book accidentally brought those memories back to you!
It’s a testament to how far you’ve come that you were able to finish the story and review it. You’re strength and openness are inspiring! Keep it up my friend!
You have me choked up, Amy. Thanks for these words xx
Most interesting. And I do hope they add that warning!
Our family went on a cruise and mostly enjoyed it, but I do remember feeling quite unsettled that all the waiters were expected to perform little napkin tricks and sleight of hand, and dances around the table, to endear themselves with the passengers.
We were assigned tables and had the same waiter breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so one can imagine their hours. I learned from one of them, who was telling tales out of school, that the biggest part of their wages came from their tips they get on the last night of the voyage, and those tips depended not on good table service, but the entertainment they provided. All the passengers were given envelopes with suggestions for tips for the waiters and cabin stewards by day, and we were told they depended on these tips.
All the waiters were male at the time, 20 years ago.
Oh wow, it sounds like the crew were given high standards to follow and really had to do a variety of things. I think the high expectations continue – I’m glad there are now all genders working on ships, rather than only the males back then. But I do worry about safety for the female crew members on some ships after reading this book.