Cathryn Chapman is making big waves. The author of Sex, Lies, and Cruising spent seven years travelling and sailing the seas on a range of cruise liners, and when it came time to return to dry land, she used her experiences as inspiration to pen her first raunchy fictional novel.
Here, Cathryn reveals the deets behind some of those (ship’s) passages, what really happened in the captain’s quarters and the consequences for ‘crew canoodling with passengers’…
Cathryn, age 22, relaxing on top deck of her first cruise ship
Dead Calm or Party Central: The Inspiration Behind Sex, Lies, and Cruising
“Sex, Lies, and Cruising was inspired by my brief stints on cruise ships in my twenties and thirties. So many crazy things happen on ships – some people love it and some people don’t. I’m probably one of the latter. There are definitely benefits to working on ships, although I couldn’t get past the way people behaved, including when they were away from their unsuspecting partners at home. I didn’t work on any party ships – although it was always a party below decks! I worked for a couple of different cruise lines that mainly attracted families and retirees.
View of multiple ships from Hammerheads, a popular bar for passengers and crew in Grand Cayman
“Sex, Lies, and Cruising is fuelled by some of the things I witnessed; however it is fiction. It’s told with humour through the eyes of a fairly naïve British girl who is new to the cruising environment. I worked hard to create interesting plots and entertaining characters to keep the reader involved. It’s not a cruise ship exposé!”
Cathryn, age 22, waiting to photograph passengers on the gangway in St Thomas
Hit The Decks: How Much Draws On Real Life?
“Some bits here and there. It is definitely a work of fiction, but like many women, I do have some things in common with the main character, Ellie.
Like many of us, she is on an emotional journey and makes some ordinary decisions, especially when it comes to men. I interviewed former colleagues about their experiences and heard some pretty crazy stories. In the end I didn’t use most of it because, as my mentor advised me, real life isn’t as structured like a good novel should be! He suggested I use real stories as inspiration, then throw it away and write good fiction. There’s plenty of artistic license in there.”
‘No Name Bar’, a popular crew hangout in Cozumel, Mexico
Aye Aye Captain: Cheating, Debauchery & Lies
“The main thing I didn’t like was the cheating in all its forms. I unknowingly got involved with a married man – as many women I knew on board did at some point or another. I was in my twenties, working as a photographer, and met an attractive Scandinavian staff captain. I didn’t think it was a long-term relationship, but we got on well and always had a laugh. After a few weeks together, a photo of a woman and children appeared in his cabin. I asked who it was and he said, ‘That’s my wife and kids. They’re arriving tomorrow’. I naïvely hadn’t seen this coming and was devastated. I stormed out of his cabin and when I got to mine, the phone was ringing – it was him asking me not to say anything to her, especially as she was travelling with his mother.
Cathryn, age 22, at a popular watersports beach in Antigua
The next night I was stationed to take photos at the Captain’s Welcome Party, he introduced me to his wife, pretending to forget my name and then posed for a photo. They walked into the party and I sat on the floor and bawled my eyes out. I’d had my first taste of what was considered the norm on cruise ships.
What was even worse was the people who cheated on their partners who were on the ship with them. When one person was working or asleep, their partner would jump into bed with someone else.
Sex, Lies, and Cruising is a comedic look at the main character’s journey. Ellie does get hurt a couple of times, but she has some really fun experiences too – and her friends go through emotional journeys of their own. I had my heart broken and the preceding behaviour of the guy involved was very deceitful. I wanted my character to be challenged, but I didn’t make Ellie go through the devastation I worked through.
Cathryn, age 32, dressed up for Rock’n’Roll night
Seven Seas Sins: Ship Staff & Passengers Mingling
“Crew being involved with passengers is a big legal risk for the cruise line and is a sackable offence. The cruise lines take their reputations very seriously but having said that, people are there on holidays, tanning, wearing bikinis, and drinking cocktails. Some passengers want a great story to take home, so it happens here and there – especially for those staff and officers who live in quarters attached to the end of passenger corridors. On my first ship, there were a group of waiters caught canoodling with passengers on the pool deck in the early hours of the morning. The boys were all dropped off with their suitcases and passports at the next port!”
Ships Ayoy! Tall Ship Tales
“A really funny story I heard recently was from a girl whose mother went on a cruise a few years ago and got very friendly with one of the officers up on the bridge. She was ‘distracting him’ and the ship hit a submerged rock formation and was grounded for half a day!”
Cathryn, age 32, and friends, Dean and Francesca
Love Boat: Did Romance Blossom?
“All the time. This is the kind of real life that did inspire one of the themes in Sex, Lies, and Cruising. There is a saying that ship life goes at four times the speed of real life, so relationships started and finished very quickly!
Not to give away too much of the story, but in a short time span the main character Ellie goes through three relationships of her own! It is fiction, but I wanted to write a character which many women will relate to, and crew will giggle at because they’ve seen it all before.
Cathryn, age 32, dressed in her evening uniform
Still Waters Run Deep: Staff Cliques
“Crew, staff and officers are divided in day-to-day life on the ship, so it was sometimes hard to maintain those friendships. For example, the Filipino crew generally had their own parties, the officers would hang out in the officer’s bar, staff and other crew hung out in the crew bar. Many of the waiters, room stewards, and engine room crew also have really long days compared to other departments and would take advantage of their personal time independently. Therefore you would find the same groups of people in the crew bar every night such as entertainment team, bartenders, beauty/spa girls, photographers, cruise staff, retail shop staff. You see the same faces night after night. I think that’s one of the reasons people behave the way they do – they’re bored.
You meet a diverse range of people, which is always interesting and encountering people from countless different countries was something I really enjoyed. I loved hearing all the accents and getting to know about other people’s beliefs, customs, traditions. Many of the crew, particularly waiters and room stewards, are from poorer countries where they’re on-board purely to support their families. Some of those guys and girls are the sweetest, most hard-working people you’ll meet.”
Author Cathryn Chapman nearly gave up her writing career when her eighth grade English teacher refused to believe her sensual poem could have been written by somebody so young. Two years later, when Cathryn was 14, that same English teacher declared she should start writing for Mills & Boon, and a women’s fiction writer was born. Cathryn graduated from university with a Business Degree and spent seven years travelling the world – working on cruise ships, and living in London, New York, Paris and South America.
In her thirties, she left a successful marketing and public relations career to pursue her dream of gracing the stages in London’s West End. When this failed dismally, Cathryn settled down in Brisbane with a husband and baby boy, and stayed in one place long enough to finally write her first novel, Sex, Lies, and Cruising.
Sex, Lies, and Cruising is available for pre-order (release date 16 July) and will be for sale as an eBook and paperback at Amazon.com, Apple iBook Store, Barnes & Noble, Nook, Kobo, Book Depository, Booktopia, and most other online retail channels.