We live in a time of transition, poised between a print media that's been with us since Gutenberg and new electronic media that becomes more robust by the day. Will new media deliver a knockout punch and relegate books and magazines to the dustbin of history, or will the dog-eared familiarity of old media counterweigh the brave new world of 24-7 mobile access? For the answer, we look to . . . the cruise lines?

In the past two weeks, several cruise lines have announced new programs that push in old- or new-media directions, with old-fashioned literary programs going up against downloadable walking and art tours.

Cunard Meets The New Yorker in the Middle of the Atlantic

This fall, the venerable Cunard Line (tel. 800/7-CUNARD; will host writers from the venerable New Yorker magazine during Queen Mary 2's October 7 transatlantic jaunt from New York to Southampton.

Founded by husband-and-wife journalists Harold Ross and Jane Grant, The New Yorker debuted in 1925 and has been a paragon of literary cosmopolitanism ever since, publishing such greats as Vladimir Nabokov, J. D. Salinger, Dorothy Parker, Hannah Arendt, James Thurber, Truman Capote, and Rachel Carson. For the October cruise, participating New Yorker authors are:

  • Adam Gopnik, a longtime New Yorker staffer who writes the magazine's "New York Journal" column, about culture and daily life. He's also served as the magazine's art critic and has written fiction and humor pieces, book reviews, profiles, reportage, and dozens of stories for "The Talk of the Town." Aboard ship, he'll tackle contemporary culture.
  • Anthony Lane, a New Yorker film critic since 1993 and the author of "Nobody's Perfect," a book of his New Yorker pieces. Aboard ship, Lane will screen a film and lead an in-depth film discussion.
  • Andy Borowitz, a humorist, author, Hollywood producer and personality who appears on CNN's American Morning and National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday, as well as writing the popular Internet column "The Borowitz Report" ( Mr. Borowitz's subject aboard ship will be comedy.

Each author will participate in one group conversation give two presentations and one reading, and will host a book signing. Fares for Queen Mary 2's "A Most Civilized Literary Adventure" sailing start from $1,349 per person, double occupancy.

Crystal Hosts Selected Shorts on March Cruise from Dubai

The short-story form grew from oral storytelling traditions and folk tales, and blossomed into a modern genre in the early 19th century. Still very much alive and well, the form is at its most visible -- or at least audible -- during the weekly National Public Radio program Selected Shorts (, recorded live at New York's Symphony Space and heard each week in 155 cities nationwide. The program features some of the finest artists of the American theater reading contemporary and classic short fiction, from old masters like Chekhov and Malamud to newer voices like Jonathan Franzen and Jhumpa Lahiri.

On March 20, the program goes to sea aboard Crystal Cruises Crystal Serenity (tel. 888/799-4625; Series director and radio personality Isaiah Sheffer will be aboard along with a cast of actors including Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey and The Good Shepherd), Mia Dillion (Gods and Generals), and Stephen Lang (Gods and Generals). Readings will include selections from Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin, John Cheever, M.F.K. Fisher, Garrison Keillor, Thomas Meehan, and others, and cast members will participate in onboard interview sessions.

In addition to the Selected Shorts program, the voyage will also feature several other celebrity and special-interest speakers, including Sports Illustrated writer and NPR sports commentator Frank Deford, dramatist and book reviewer Barbara Rinella, and veteran journalist Joe Kita.

The 18-night cruise is the fifth segment of Crystal Serenity's world cruise, departing from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and visiting Salalah (Oman), Alexandria/Cairo, Luxor, and Karnak/Safaga (Egypt), Aqaba (Jordan), Ashdod (Israel), and Athens (Greece) before concluding in Istanbul, Turkey on April 7.

Fares begin at $9,680 per person, double occupancy.

Regent and Holland America Offer Podcasts

Podcasts are digital radio or TV shows, slide shows, or other media that are downloadable from the Internet to your iPod or other portable media player (see a list of podcasts by clicking here). The technology first became available in 2001 and by 2003 the form had exploded worldwide. Today, an estimated 20 million podcasts available on the web, on every conceivable topic.

And now we have two more.

As part of its "Travel Concierge" program, Regent Seven Seas (tel. 800/285-1835; has just debuted a series of 1.5-hour iJourney personal walking tours narrated by veteran TV producer Elyse Weiner, formerly of Tom Brokaw's NBC Nightly News and Peter Jennings' ABC World News Tonight. The tours are compatible with iPods and other MP3 players and will be available beginning spring 2007 on all Mediterranean voyages, downloadable for a cost aboard ship. Each tour will come with a map and feature commentary, historical context, and tips -- back entrances, where to find shorter lines at popular attractions, and details such as the exact spot in Rome where Marc Antony delivered his eulogy for Julius Caesar.

The initial list of port tours will include Venice, Florence, Rome, Pompeii and Barcelona. Additional tours are under development for other ports worldwide.

At Holland America (tel. 877/724-5425;, podcasts are now available that offer 30- to 40-minute tours of the art, antiques, and collectables aboard the line's ships. They're downloadable for free from iTunes, and are designed like museum audio tours -- you wear your headset while walking around the ship, and the narrators (longtime travel journalists and radio hosts Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman) talk you through the highlights. The podcasts include interviews with artists, background music, and photo images that are displayed on the screen of video iPods.

To download the podcasts from the iTunes homepage, just search for "Holland America Line."

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