Cruising Choppy Waters
By Steve Powers

(Business 2.0) – PASSENGERS TOSSED overboard and bribes palmed by port authorities—it's not exactly fodder for The Love Boat. But the real-life scandals of the $13 billion cruise-ship business make for quite a read. Kristoffer Garin's Devils on the Deep Blue Sea, out in late June from Viking, is the first complete history of the industry.

At the center is an oligopoly struggling to regulate itself. Today 95 percent of cruise capacity is controlled by three companies—Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Cruises—and the power struggles are compelling. The author pores over the nasty details of the $5.5 billion merger between Carnival and Princess Cruises in 2002. He also touches on even less savory industry footnotes: tainted meat, kitchen floors strewn with cigarette butts, garbage bags dumped overboard, and ships flunking health inspections. In 1980 one liner scored eight points out of 100. But the industry has come a long way: These days ships earn an average score of 93. How the industry cleaned up its act provides some valuable lessons. — STEVE POWERS