book review cabin fever - travel memoir

Book Review: Cabin Fever

Today it’s my turn on the Book Blog Tour to share my book review of Cabin Fever by Michael Smith and Jonathan Franklin.

Where are we Touring today?

Cabin Fever takes us on an extraordinary journey aboard the Zaandam cruise ship sailing around South America, through the Panama Canal and on towards Florida USA.

Book Cover Notes

In early 2020, the world was on edge. An ominous virus was spreading and no one knew what the coming weeks would bring. Far from the hotspots, the cruise ship Zaandam was preparing to sail from Buenos Aires loaded with 1,200 passengers – British, American, Australian, European and South American tourists, plus 600 crew. Most passengers were over the age of 65.

There was concern about the virus in the news but that was oceans away. Escaping to sea at the ends of the earth for a few weeks seemed like it might be a good option. The cruise line had said the voyage would go ahead as scheduled and it would be safe.

Within days, people aboard the Zaandam began to fall sick. The world’s ports shut down. Zaandam became a top story on the news and was denied safe harbour everywhere. With only two doctors aboard and few medical supplies to test for or treat Covid-19, and with dwindling food and water, the ship wandered the oceans on an unthinkable journey.

Cabin Fever is a riveting narrative thriller, taking readers behind the scenes of the ship’s complex workings, and below decks into the personal lives of passengers and crew who were caught unprepared for the deadly ordeal that lay ahead. It is a story layered with moments of peril, perseverance and kindness. A remarkable tale that is filled with individual acts of heroism and the struggles and the tragedies of the crew and passengers.

Share Your Own Adventures

Blog Tour Book Review of Cabin Fever by Touring Tales

My Thoughts

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I remember following the extraordinary news about cruise liners being stuck out at sea. At the time I, like many, was stunned to see so many cargo and cruise ships, with hundreds of passengers and crew members on board, being turned away from ports across the globe.

Cabin Fever is a gripping read, sharing the shocking stories and behind the scenes accounts of what happened on board the Zaandam cruise ship when the world shut its ports. The authors of Cabin Fever are both experienced investigative journalists, they have used their skills to capture a very detailed, real-life account of what it was like to be in lockdown at sea for weeks.

Told from both the crew and passengers point of view, it is sensitively written giving a balanced view of the good, the bad and the ugly business of cruise liners. It’s truly eye-opening the politics involved and the connections needed in order to gain access to some of the cruise destinations, especially in an emergency situation.

I found Cabin Fever fascinating to read, it gives a real sense of what’s involved in running these massive floating hotels. The mind boggling logistics of supplying food, water, daily services and entertainment to hundreds of passengers and crew. I felt so sorry for the crew who were faced with an unknown sickness sweeping across the boat. Terrified of catching the virus but knowing they had a duty to perform, they worked ridiculously long hours to keep up with food deliveries and laundry demands. Wiwit’s story in particular captured the emotion and determination to keep going no matter what. Just riveting reading.

My father had so nearly been one of these passengers as he had embarked on a 10 day Nordic cruise, just as the pandemic began. On day 2 of his cruise, having been turned away from docking at their first stop, the Captain turned the ship around and headed back to the UK before the ports were finally closed. My father is in his 70s with asthma and was very lucky to return safely. Sadly, as this book will show, this wasn’t the case for everyone. My heart goes out to all those who went through this ordeal and also their families at home helplessly watching the nightmare unfold.


I highly recommend reading this gripping travel memoir. Well written with compassion and balanced reporting.

Where To Buy

Amazon UK

Further book info

  • Publication date: 14 July 2022
  • Publisher: Endeavour
  • Page count: 272

About The Authors

Author Michael Smith - book review of Cabin Fever by Touring Tales
Author Michael Smith

Michael Smith is an award-winning investigative reporter at Bloomberg Businessweek. His stories document financial crimes, the business of narcotics and human trafficking, and environmental and labour abuses in corporate supply chains. Smith has won dozens of awards over his 30-year career, including the prestigious George Polk, Maria Moors Cabot, Robert F. Kennedy and Overseas Press Club prizes. Recently, he has reported extensively on the Covid outbreaks on cruise ships. He is based in Miami. Cabin Fever is his first book. Twitter: @SmithMarkets.

Author Michael Smith - book review of Cabin Fever by Touring Tales
Author Jonathan Franklin

Jonathan Franklin is an award-winning public speaker, investigative journalist and author. Franklin’s previous books include A Wild Idea, 438 Days: An extraordinary story of survival at sea (now under development as a major motion picture) and The 33, the inside account of the dramatic Chilean mining rescue and a US bestseller. A native of New Hampshire, he splits his time between Portland, Maine and Punta de Lobos, Chile where he lives with his wife and daughters. Twitter: @FranklinBlog.

Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed my book review of Cabin Fever. If you love travel books, like I do, then check out my other book reviews of Travel Memoirs here.

Blog Tour Organised by

Random Things Tours

Many thanks to Anne @randomttours for inviting me on the book blog tour to share my book review of Cabin Fever. Thanks also to the authors and publisher for my copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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