One of the latest guidebooks to turn up as an app is "Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships," an annual industry standard by Douglas Ward.
Ward's exhaustive cruising guide has been published yearly since 1985, and he is refreshingly honest, especially about such things as hidden costs and onboard sales tactics.
The 2011 edition of the book is nearly 700 pages, while the application for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is pared down — and, at $12 in iTunes, half the price.
The app provides detailed physical descriptions of ships, and a ranking out of five stars derived from grades for accommodation, food, service, entertainment, ship and cruise.
It includes information on 284 ships, and recommends them for explorers, families, lively party types, luxury travel, mature couples/singles, relaxation, travel without children and tough adventurous types. Of course those recommendations are based on certain assumptions — that families want "theme park" type food and that folks younger than 50 will pick partying over quality and character.
"It is a review of the ships rather than what the ships do," said Adrian Driscoll, a spokesman for the application developer.
Among the things the app won't tell you that the book will is what route a particular ship is sailing. And while users can store ship profiles in a "favorites" folder, there is no way to do side-by-side comparisons.
In addition, while you can search the entire database, you can't search subsections. That bug will be fixed in the next update, due out soon, Driscoll said in a telephone interview from Brighton, England.
Driscoll said the strength of the application is that it will be updated throughout the year while the book is only printed annually.
However, buyers of the print guide can sign up for a free quarterly emailed newsletter to update the 2011 book version.
If you are the sort to pull out your iPhone over dinner to let your friends know that the Star Princess has a beam of 118 feet and is the largest passenger ship to have traveled the Suez Canal; that the faux teak promenade deck is actually painted steel; that the cabin bath towels are small; and that it has a live link with doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, then this application may suit you. But if you need other information to help you pick a cruise, you might want to stick with the book.