Around the Writers’ Table: The cruise ship doctor

Set sail on the seas and in print with Dr. Gerry Yukevich.


Dr. Gerry Yukevich was finishing up dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Boston when he cracked open his fortune cookie and read, “Soon will have new job on the high seas.” What he didn’t know then was two weeks later, he would be starting an eight-year stint (part-time) as a cruise ship doctor. (He was also working in an emergency room in Boston at the time.)

This was in the 1980s, and on his first day aboard the ship, the nurse showing him around said to him, “For your information, I showed you the hospital, and I showed you your cabin, but I sleep with the captain, so there’ll be no funny business between us.”

Yukevich’s experiences as a cruise ship doctor provided him with ample material for his novel, appropriately titled “Cruise Ship Doctor.” The novel was first published two decades ago under his pen name, Ivan Cox. And then, in a stroke of unfortunate timing, was reissued during the global pandemic that we’re now starting to talk about in the past tense.

Remember back in the winter of 2020, some 70 passengers on the Diamond Princess got infected with COVID, and the entire cruise ship was quarantined off the coast of Japan? The world watched and waited to see what would become of the 3,700 passengers and crew members aboard the ship.

The cruise ship industry, like many industries, came to a halt during the height of the pandemic. According to, “The ships stopped one by one at the end of March in different parts of the world, and after that, cruise lines dealt with sending crew members and passengers home while the borders were closed.”

As the months of quarantines, closings, and social isolation dragged on, it became hard to imagine that anyone would be hopping aboard a cruise ship again.

But the industry has had a healthy recovery, and is said to be rebounding. A 2023 AAA survey revealed “52 percent of U.S. adults are just as likely or more likely to consider taking a cruise vacation as they were before the pandemic.”

On Sunday morning, those of us who know Yukevich/Cox woke up to an email advertising “A Cruise Ship Doctor Cruise.”

What was this? Intrigued, I reached out to Yukevich/Cox.

Dr. Yukevich, who no doubt has treated many MV Times readers since moving to the Vineyard in 1995 with his wife Martha and young daughter Anna, is a man of many interests, quirks, and talents.

“I used to work as a cruise ship doctor, and used to see everybody on the deck chairs sunning themselves and reading books, and I thought, Well, they should be reading a book about what’s happening around them,” he said. So he wrote that book, which he describes as “a comic epic about a week on a cruise ship,” during a week that “Love Luck,” the most popular reality talk show on TV, is on board filming a “Valentine TV cruise.”

The novel, which I started reading yesterday, takes place on the SS Nordic Blue, the world’s grandest and most legendary cruise ship.” Dr. Oliver Loring is the ship’s chief medical officer, and is described by Yukevich/Cox as “edgy, intellectual, and an expert ballroom dancer.”

Yekevich/Cox has long envisioned taking readers on a cruise and regaling them with readings, stories about his escapades as an actual cruise ship doctor, and playing music — as the fictional Dr. Loring does.

“I couldn’t do it during COVID, but it’s safe now,” Yekevich/Cox explained. He connected with a podcaster named Chilli Falls, who covers the cruise ship industry, and will be organizing the upcoming Cruise Ship Doctor Cruise.

The dates for the cruise are Nov. 16 to 23. Yukevich/Cox says that if you read 50 pages a day — and I can now assure you that it’s a fast and fun read, and you’ll, er, cruise through 50 pages — you’ll start and finish the book during the actual cruise.

The ship sets sail from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and travels to the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, Tortola, and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. For those of us who can’t make the cruise, maybe we can coax Cox onto the ferry for a preview.

For more details, and to book the cruise, call Chillie Falls at 434-258-9264.

“Cruise Ship Doctor” is available on land at Bunch of Grapes and Edgartown Books. 

Around the Writers’ Table is a column about writers and writing on the Vineyard. Please email with your writing-related or book news.