Cover Image: The Last Cruise

The Last Cruise

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Member Reviews

My friend thought I’d like this book for its slightly eerie tone, engaging characters, and open ended ending. She was right! I used to work on cruise ships and the way the author describes life (the cliques by country; the crew bar; how crew saves their pay; the way they interact with passengers; the below-deck lifestyle and description of crew quarters) is all spot on! This led to a more interesting read for me. If you’re interested in that below-deck life, the first half of the book will fly by.

What kept me at 3 stars was how the plot started off as one thing but then shifted away from that focus near the conclusion. There was a very quick “romantic union” as well which just didn’t work for me.

Like my friend, I was left thinking about these characters between readings, so overall I enjoyed the novel.

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I struggled to get into this book but once I was into it, I was hooked! Well written! 3.5 stars. So I have mixed feelings about this book. As I was reading it, I was following along and wanted to see what would happen next. But in the end, I was left feeling unsatisfied. One of the topics the book dealt with was class issues and corporate greed, but you never actually heard from the workers it affected. Some things that happened that kind of came out of nowhere. The things I enjoyed the most were kind of the behind the scenes looks at the kitchen and then how they got creative with the food. So I wouldn’t say avoid it, but I wouldn’t say rush out to get it.

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DNF at 15%. I really wanted to like this, but the writing style just didn't work for me. It was very wordy and overly descriptive. There were also so many character POVs right from the beginning and I just couldn't get interested in any of them. I'm sure there are readers out there for this book, but I'm just not one of them.

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for the review copy.

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Written prior to 2020, The Last Cruise seems to offer strange portents of things to come. Christine, a Maine farm wife, agrees to vacation on a cruise to Hawaii with an old friend. While journalist Valerie is writing a story, Christine is just along for the ride, or so she plans. The ship is a 'grand old dame' in the world of cruise ships and due to be retired. The whole voyage is planned to give a taste of the elegance of a bygone era.

But, things don't go exactly as planned. There's a crew walkout, and so Christine helps in the kitchen where she becomes friendly with Chef Mick. Mick is working at the highest level ever and hoping to get land based job at the end of the cruise. A string quartet, playing together for years, comes to help provide entertainment. Then, people begin to become ill. But that's just the beginning of problems for the old ship. And for Christine and all the passengers. I had to read this one in just one day.

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Very creative story with well developed characters and a solid storyline. I’m already thinking of who I can recommend it to!

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I really enjoyed this story and all of the characters but particularly loved Christine and Mick. I really enjoyed the concept of the cruise and all the storylines that were interconnecting throughout. I was sad when it was over because I wanted more closure. As much as I did enjoy the ending, I thought it was a bit abrupt. I otherwise loved this book and would definitely recommend this to other readers.

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The premise of this book was so intriguing. The idea of getting to cruise on a ship mimicking the heyday of luxury cruises was wonderful. Leaving electronic devices behind, they are to cruise in the manner of the 50;s, but it isn't long before there is a lot of trouble brewing all over the ship. The end didn't hold up as well as I would have liked.

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I wanted to love The Last Cruise so much. With its three very different narrators providing distinctly independent viewpoints of the cruise, its guests, and its employees, I wanted a harmless adventure story with a bit more gravitas than normal. What I got was a rather depressing glimpse into cruise ship life and an even bleaker impression of current society. By the time the ending came, with its open-ended, anything-can-happen structure, I was ready to finish it because it left me feeling hopeless.

The thing is though that each of the three narrators enters the novel discontent and restless but finds him- and herself at peace and happy by the end. This should be cause for celebration and should make the novel a happy one. The problem is that while the three narrators' individual stories are important, they take a back seat to what is happening on board the ship, and what is happening is chaotic and depressing. Between the brutal hours and almost slave-like work required by the crew to the sickening hedonism of the guests, Ms. Christensen portrays a disgusting image of corporate and personal greed as well as individual ignorance rounded out by a misplaced sense of self-importance. I was so repulsed by what I saw between the pages of The Last Cruise that I am uncertain whether I could ever stomach a cruise vacation.

My rather violent reaction to the novel is, I believe, Ms. Christensen's intent, and I feel rather duped by it. I started the novel hoping and expecting some sort of adventure/crisis that tests the characters of the three narrators. This is what the synopsis promises, after all. While Ms. Christensen does provide a crisis that does test the narrators' characters, the novel reads more like a very pointed critique of our consumerism culture. Everything that happens, including the nebulous ending, is a criticism of something related to corporate profits or shipboard gluttony. Our three narrators find themselves reveling in the simpler things, whether that is simpler recipes, a simpler lifestyle, or simpler health issues. This is in direct opposition to the rest of their fellow shipmates, who want all the food and alcohol or higher wages or more profits. I understand the message and can appreciate it as we watch the nation being torn asunder by a man who is the epitome of greed. However, it is not the type of novel I wanted to read.

I finished The Last Cruise hoping that the story would redeem itself and that the crisis would resolve like it does in all adventure novels - that the bad guys would get their just desserts and there would be a modicum of a happy ending. Instead, the story ends at the climax, leaving you hanging with a sense of dread and lack of hope for the ship and its passengers. Because the novel is such an obvious critique of modern, Western society, it then stands to reason that Ms. Christensen does not hold modern society in high regard and she has no faith that we can survive on our current course. Again, this is not what I wanted or expected by reading this novel.

We all have our miscues when it comes to selecting novels we think we want to read, but rarely have I been so wrong about a story. I want to blame the synopsis because while I see the explicit mentions of cynicism and malfunction, I do not see where we are supposed to know that Ms. Christensen applies those descriptors to society as well as the ship. Nor do I see anything that would lead me to believe that the ship is a metaphor for society. In fact, it specifically says "high-seas adventure," so I clearly did not misinterpret anything. Had I been better prepared for what I would find among its pages, I suspect my appreciation for The Last Cruise would be different because I cannot fault Ms. Christensen for her observations or criticisms. However, because I was not expecting a social commentary, I was not in the right frame of mind to accept what I was reading and that is the greatest sadness of this whole experience.

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THE LAST CRUISE by Kate Christensen is an onboard mystery story involving three characters: Christine, a farmer's wife from Maine, Mika, a sous-chef from Hungary, and Miriam, a musician from Israel. Unfortunately, none are very likeable or presented in a nuanced manner. Christine and Mika seemed to be primarily looking for a physical relationship, and Miriam is about ready to retire. So, too, is the Queen Isabella, the cruise ship that needed maintenance and should not have left port. Booklist, however, disagrees and gave THE LAST CRUISE a starred review.

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Tropes about cruises and oceans -- I didn't know so many existed, but they are all here! Threat of storms, capsizing(?), sickened passengers, losing contact with the rest of the world in the middle of the ocean, finding love with unlikely strangers, upstairs/downstairs issues that include jerky old rich people, trash islands(?)... It's got 'em all! I'm sure I am missing some. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this book. I read it while listening to "The Woman in Cabin 10" at the same time, by chance (Well, sorta. It is summer so that's why I requested Cabin 10 on Overdrive, but just happened to get off the waiting list at the same time) and, despite Ruth Ware's massive popularity, I think I enjoyed this book more. So far. It's just trying to accomplish a LOT at once, and I'm not sure if that's why it felt like it ended so abruptly or what. If that ending was Christensen's intention the whole time, I'm not sure I found it entirely successful. But it was a FUN read, and that counts for a lot, especially in the summer.

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3.5 stars. I have been on a couple of cruises and have been fortunate that all has gone well since both were taken during hurricane season. This book gives you the unfortunate insight into cruising when things do go wrong and the owners don't own up to it. Quite an eye-opener and delivered nicely by KC. Read it if you never want to cruise, don't if you do :)

**Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley in exchange of an honest review.**

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Kate Christensen never disappoints. An absolutely perfect summer read - engrossing, but not too light.

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I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book but that's about all. I definitely did not like the ending! All that time reading invested in getting to know these people only to be left hanging. I feel like it's missing a final chapter.

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I thought the author did a good job creating evocative images of the ship, the food, the weather, the music etc. I liked the character Christine as well as a few other passengers on the ship. I think my biggest complaint is that it felt too predictable. I could sense from the beginning where the story was going although there were a few instances of suspense and drama. I would've preferred a little less melodrama however and a little more suspense. I'd recommend for a fast, light beach read

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In the first half of this book, we embark on a luxury cruise from Long Beach to Hawaii, and are introduced to the book’s main characters, passengers Valerie and Christine, long time friends; and staff, the Sabra Quartet, and Mick Szabo, the newly promoted chef on the buffet line. Joining the Queen Isabella’s last cruise before being mothballed is one of her owners, Larry Weiss. Kate Christensen sets the scene with enticing details of the ship’s amenities, the food, the ocean breezes wafting over the pool deck, the music accompanying the meals. She also describes the behind-the scenes working of the ship’s kitchens, with their international staff, arrogant chefs, and huge refrigerators and pantries stocked with food for the two week cruise .

If all is not going precisely well behind the scenes, we sense that the tensions and troubles are part of the routine and not unexpected. At mid-book, though, one disaster after another begin to strike the ship. I won’t go into spoiler details here, but the nostalgia cruise turns into a nightmare cruise that tests and reveals the true mettle of each of the characters.

With both vivid setting and compelling characters, this is a perfect summer read, unless you happen to be cruising.

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This is historical fiction which revolves around the last sailing of the “Queen Isabella” a vintage ocean liner which will make her final voyage from Long Beach, California to Hawaii. The ship company has decided to make this a vintage cruise where passengers will be treated to circa 1950’s food, cocktails and music.

We are introduced to several characters from passengers to musicians and chefs. Christine Thorne has left her farm home in Maine to join a friend on this cruise and make up her mind whether she still wants a career in journalism and to live in New York city. She has decided she will use her time on the ship to make up her mind.

Mike Szabo is one of the chefs. His skills are expert but he has to work under the well known but highly emotional and temperamental head chef. He wants to prove his skill so that he can do more with his career than work on cruise ships. He isn’t prepared for all of the angst that goes into working with a large crew.

Then there is Miriam Koslow, an Israeli violinist, who along with her husband is part of the quartet that works on the cruise ship. The owners of the ship are their benefactors and they do many of these cruises. This cruise is forcing her to determine what she really wants to do with her talent for the rest of her life.

There are many other characters but they aren’t as well developed. Usually I enjoy rich detail but there was far too much time spent on the food and the music for my tastes. I would have preferred to meet more of the characters in depth as they play a part in the ending.

As we all know pretty much from the start, things start to go wrong on the cruise quite suddenly. There are health issues, food and water problems and if that weren’t enough, storms threatening.

I don’t want to give away more of the plot so I will stop here. For me this was a slow moving book and would have been better had it been edited of some of the details. However if you want to know what it would be like to be a passenger on a cruise ship which is in trouble, this is the book to read.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

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The things that happen in this book are so, so mundane. I kept waiting for something to happen. Eventually something did, but it was that the ship ran out of power. It was stranded in the middle of the ocean.

The only reason I finished this book is because it was a lazy Sunday and I was being very lazy and didn't look for another book to read.

This was five hours of my life I will never get back.

Extra star given for author's time.

Thanks to Doubleday Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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Title: The Last Cruise
Author: Kate Christensen
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

The Queen Isabella is making her last voyage, a two-week retro cruise to Hawaii and back, before being scrapped. No internet. No cell phones. No children. Everything is vintage and classic, from the food and drinks to the entertainment.

Christine Thorne, a journalist before becoming a farmer, is along to keep her friend company, and to experience a life of luxury. Mick Szabo, a Hungarian chef added to the crew at the last-minute, sees it as his chance to impress his famous boss and land a prestigious position. Miriam Koslow, a violinist for a string quartet for years, wants a peaceful trip.

But the voyage is marked by animosity among the crew and signs of cut corners by the cruise company. Soon the Queen Isabella faces its greatest challenge yet, leaving passengers and crew sinking in the turmoil.

The Last Cruise sounds like it would be a fast-paced thriller. It’s not. Instead, it moves slowly and languorously, allowing hints of trouble to peek through its glamourous façade. The odd assortment of characters just works together, and, along with the slow pace, helps cement the sense of low-lying dread that permeates the pages. The ending is not the most frustrating one I’ve ever read…but it’s on the list.

Kate Christensen is an award-winning author and memoirist. The Last Cruise is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Doubleday in exchange for an honest review.)

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Right.... well, this made me want to go rewatch “Titanic” & probably just never gonna cruise ship ever again! A definite original tale but I found it to be a bit of a slow read, I’m afraid.... it wasn’t BAD - I just wasn’t excited to carve time out of my day to read it.
I do appreciate the ARC from netgalley & publisher though & just might try this one again later.

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The Queen Isabella is a vintage cruise ship from the 1950s set to take its final voyage: a retro, 1950s-themed trip to Hawaii. Christine Thorne is a former journalist and exhausted Maine farmer. She was invited by her former coworker Valerie, who is working on a book about oppressed workers. Christine hopes to clear her mind and relax on the cruise. While enjoying this rare time without constant farm chores, Christine is coming to some realizations about her life and marriage that leave her with more questions than answers.

Miriam Koslow is a violinist and, along with her ex-husband, a member of the acclaimed Sabra quartet. Their wealthy patron is an owner of the Cabaret cruise lines, which operates the Queen Isabella. He and his wife have hired the quartet as entertainment for the cruise. Miriam is forced to confront her feelings for a fellow quartet member and the potential repercussions for the group.

Mick Szabo is a recently promoted executive sous-chef. He wasn’t supposed to be on this cruise, but fill the position at the last minute. He’s on edge working for a tempermental high-profile chef and wants to make a good impression. Tired of life on the cruise line, he’s regretting the choices he’s made. When tensions arise among the kitchen staff, Mick is unprepared to navigate these tricky waters.

When things on the ship take a turn for the worse, the cruise becomes less about relaxation and enjoyment and more about survival.

This was a character-driven book, told in alternating points of view, and its exploration of people in different positions on the ship makes for very interesting comparisons. The reader is quickly drawn in to the story and the drama unfolding between the characters, and with the fate of the cruise.

This is an enjoyable read with just enough meat on its bones to make it thought-provoking and powerful. Bust let me just say, definitely don’t read this on a cruise ship!

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