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Novel adventures


There’s nothing better than losing yourself in a good book. To celebrate National Read a Book Day on Tuesday, we explore four of our favourite ports of call that star in bestselling holiday reads. We also hear from one of our on-board Cybrarians and catch up with novelist Milly Johnson, who seeks inspiration at sea

A view of Florence

Florence: the perfect backdrop to a great novel

You can’t beat exploring a city that you recognise from reading a much-loved book. If you’re visiting the following ports of call with us this season, you may want to pack some holiday reading to inspire your adventures on shore.


Florence – A Room with a View by EM Forster

Florence is the scene of romance and adventure for young Lucy Honeychurch in this delightful coming-of-age novel. Take romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish’s lead, throw your guidebook to one side, and follow your nose through the winding alleyways that surround its gorgeous piazzas.


This Renaissance city is stuffed with treasures. You are sure to happen upon the Piazza Santa Croce – Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini are buried in the church here. This is the spot where Lucy is pestered by locals at the monument to Dante, and has to be rescued by handsome George Emerson and his eccentric father.


Be sure not to miss the copy of Michelangelo’s David and the Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza Signoria or the famous Uffizi Gallery. As you walk around this pleasingly compact city, you will glimpse the looming duomo (Italian cathedral) of the Santa Del Fiore Cathedral.


When you reach the River Arno and the striking Ponte Vecchio that spans it, crammed with shops held up by stilts, you will understand why Lucy and her timid cousin Charlotte so wanted  ‘a room with a view’. As you explore, look up and around: encircling Florence are the flowered hills of Fiesole, where bold George steals a kiss from a swooning Lucy, thereby setting off a dramatic trail of events.


Barcelona – The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This Spanish author’s Barcelona is full of shadows and secrets. The best-selling cycle of Gothic novels based in the Catalan capital starts with a ‘cemetery of lost books’. This doesn’t really exist, of course, but its imagined location is clearly positioned near Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s buzzing main pedestrianised street, in the narrow alleyway of Calle Arco del Teatro. And there are plenty of other real locations in Zafón’s atmospheric tale.


The statue of Columbus at the waterfront near the foot of Las Ramblas is where our hero Daniel is first approached by the diabolic figure of Lain Coubert. The Calle Santa Ana is the site of the bookshop above which Daniel and his father lived, and also the Cathedral that looms over proceedings. The Plaza Real is the spectacular square where Barcelo and Clara have their palatial apartment. From there, head deep into the medieval back streets of the Gothic Quarter, home to the 600-year-old Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and crammed with cool shops and bars.


Zafón grew up in the shadow of Barcelona’s most iconic neo-Gothic building, Gaudi’s fantastical Sagrada Familia, and the labyrinthine, overwrought temple must surely have fired Zafón’s imagination.

Four top books 

Corfu – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

Fans of the enchanting My Family and Other Animals, and its two successive autobiographical tales, will find constant evocations of Durrell’s childhood world when they visit Corfu: in the riot of colour and scent from lemon and pomegranate trees, orchids and mimosa, in the constant rasping of cicadas in the summer heat, the scuttling of lizards and geckos on sunny walls, the slow lumbering of tortoises in the undergrowth and the buzzing of honeybees and looping of swallows (hopefully NOT the scorpions and leeches that Gerald liked to keep in the fridge, to the horror of the rest of his family).


Like Gerald and his equally eccentric siblings, you can cruise the turquoise coastline, explore little coves and quiet beaches and swim from the rocks. And visit elegant Corfu Town, Venetian forts dominating its harbour and a warren of cobbled shopping streets in the Old Town behind. Here you’ll find St Spyridon Church, home to the island’s patron saint. Usually tucked away in a silver coffin, he is brought out on feast days for the faithful to kiss his slippered mummified feet and make a prayer. Just remember, if you’re tempted, Durrell’s poor sister Margo caught the flu from rather enthusiastically indulging in this tradition.


You can also relive the world of the Durrells on a In The Footsteps of The Durrells shore excursion.


Stockholm – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
When you dock in the heart of Stockholm, any devotee of Stieg Larsson will be in familiar territory. This is Södermalm, the island most associated with the late author’s twisted and complex Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in the series). It’s where the author himself lived – he wrote and topped up with caffeine at the bustling Mellqvist Kaffebar on Hornsgaten (also a meeting point for the novel’s hero Mikael Blomkvist and his lover, the troubled hacker Lisbeth, as well as his mistress, Erika).


It is where the ‘good guys’ in the book are mostly to be found; in the twisted lanes of the Old Town, eating and drinking on the waterfront, loitering in the shadows of the dramatic cliffs, or, in the case of Inspector Jan Bublanski, attending Adat Israel, the ancient synagogue on St Paulsgaten.


There is a permanent Girl with the Dragon Tattoo exhibition at the Stockholm City Museum on Södermalm, and you can buy a Millennium Map there for a self-guided tour if you are drawn to Larsson’s dark side. Alternatively, let Stockholm’s wonderous archipelago of small islands and wild beaches, bohemian cafés, cobbled streets and stylish architecture show you the city’s sunnier side.

Bestselling author Milly Johnson never fails to find inspiration for her novels on board

Bestselling author Milly Johnson never fails to find inspiration for her novels on board

Meet bestselling author Milly Johnson

Celebrated author Milly Johnson is no stranger to cruising. In fact, she’s used her experiences on board to inspire some of her most popular novels. We catch up with the writer whose bestsellers are perfect holiday reads.


Q: When did you first go on a cruise?

A: I was newly divorced with two toddlers, and I didn’t think I’d be in a position to go on a traditional two-week holiday again for a while, but then someone suggested we try cruising. That was 14 years ago and we haven’t looked back.



Q: When did you first decide to write about cruising?

A: I’d been going on cruises for 11 years, and was always thinking to myself that I should write about it. So one day I finally did – Here Come the Girls is the book I receive the most mail about.


Q: How did people react?

A: I get an awful lot of letters from people telling me that they’ve just booked their first cruise after reading my book – I get a certain smug kind of pleasure from that. It’s nice to share the things that make you happy.


Q: Are the books based on real-life experiences?

A: I must confess that Here Come the Boys – which is about two ex-friends who miss their ship – is based on an escapade of my own, where we missed our ship in Malaga in 2012 and had a three-day dash to catch up with Azura in Korcula, a place I’d always wanted to visit. Its ambience is so magical that it penetrates deep into your bones.


Q: What’s your favourite part of cruising?

A: It would be hard to pick any one thing. I suppose it’s the variety of everything – there’s so much choice with the shore excursions; we’ve bathed our feet in the waters of the Trevi Fountain and stood on the spot where Czar Nicholas was arrested. On board I’ve discovered the joys of bamboo stick massages and fizzy Ice Cuvée wine, which I now buy to ‘christen’ every new book. Above all, though, I suppose it’s the laughter and the friendships that I’ve discovered over the years – friendships that last long past disembarkation.


Q: Do you find ideas for your books when you’re cruising?

A: Inspiration is all around – you just have to open your eyes to it. The day I can’t find anything to write about on a ship will be the day I give up my job.


Milly Johnson’s latest book Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage is now available.

For details of this and her other novels, visit



Britannia’s Cybrarian Neitika Reddy


Meet Britannia’s Cybrarian Neitika Reddy

The libraries on our ships are run by expert staff. Whether you’re after a blockbusting page-turner, a travel guide or need a little help with emails, they’re on hand to help. Britiannia’s Cybrarian Neitika Reddy talks books, technology and favourite destinations.


‘I was so excited to see the library on board Britannia for the first time. It’s in a perfect location, has a beautiful sea view and is so peaceful, with soft light filtering through the vast windows. I can’t believe how lucky I am to get up every morning and go to work in an office that’s filled with glossy new books and an ever-changing view of the most awe-inspiring scenes in the world.


‘As a lifelong book lover, there is no greater pleasure for me than seeing happy, relaxed people making their way around our book shelves and choosing their next story to settle down with. We’ve got an amazing collection of authors – you’ll find everything from romantic novels to thrillers and murder mysteries.


‘The other main element of my job is as Britannia’s first Cyber Librarian – or “Cybrarian”. I help guests create an account so they can get in touch with their family back home from the ship. We have Wi-Fi throughout the ship from a satellite connection which guests can use either from their own devices or by using the computers in the library. It’s really easy to stay connected to people at home when you’re on a cruise with us, which we know is important to so many of our guests – we can even set up informal one-on-one tutorial sessions for people to get to grips with our on-board technology.


‘I’ve worked on Azura, Oriana and Ventura, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of my career with P&O Cruises, but this is probably the most excited I’ve been about a role. I love every aspect of my job, whether it’s introducing guests to their new favourite book, or ensuring they can keep in touch with loved ones at home – it’s all about making people happy and making sure their time on board is as magical and comfortable as it can be.’