The full title of this non-fiction book by Albert Bigelow Paine is "The Ship-Dwellers - A Story of a Happy Cruise" and was first published in 1910.
You guessed it - it was one of the many free ebooks I downloaded from the Kindle store after I first got my Kindle for my birthday earlier this year.
I didn't know anything about the author, and wikipedia does not offer much information apart from the basics such as that he lived from 1861 to 1937, was a member of the Pulitzer Prize committee, became a full time writer after an initial career as a photographer and had a wife, Dora, and three daughters. He was a great admirer and friend of Mark Twain, and dedicated this book to him; in fact, one reason for him to undertake this ship cruise and write about it was that he wanted to walk in Twain's footsteps, who had been on such a cruise several decades before.
We may not learn a lot about Albert Paine from wikipedia, but the book gives insight into his way of thinking, how he looks at the world and the people around him, how he connects current events with history. His humour is undoubtedly there; his writing does sometimes feel more modern than what you would expect to find in a book from 1910, and he conjures up some beautiful pictures for the mental eye of the places he's seen and of the ship he lives on for months and its occupants.
I would have greatly enjoyed the whole book, had it not been for some very racist remarks which, in those days, were probably perfectly normal with nobody thinking any less of the author for it. In fact, he may have been considered a tolerant and open-minded man by many of his contemporaries, but in our day and age, he'd have caused a scandal by writing what he did (mainly about the Turkish people he came in contact with during his voyage).
Maybe I am confusing things here, but I seem to remember that Nan at Letters From A Hill Farm wrote in one of her many excellent book reviews that she had experienced something similar; reading a book that would have been great if not for the disturbing thoughts, carelessly and shamelessly published - because they were completely normal at the time - based on national and racial prejudice.
Don't get me wrong; I am not someone who strives for political correctness all the time, and in fact find it quite refreshing when people really speak their mind. But such deeply ingrained intolerance does bother me.
Nonetheless, there are some really beautiful and poetic descriptions and thoughts in this book. It does not aim to be a travel guide but allows an interesting look at what travelling for tourists was like in those days (for the well-off, of course) and what the countries and sights dotted around the Mediterranean were like back then.