Berlitz has released the 2016 edition of its Cruising & Cruise Ships guide. Updated each year by author Douglas Ward, the 31st edition is 704 pages and provides basic information on cruising for beginners, as well as useful information for experienced cruisers, and rates the entire cruise fleet.

The top five large ships, rated four stars, are Mein Schiff 4 and 3, followed by the Queen Mary 2, the Britannia and the Queen Elizabeth.

The top five mid-sized ships, rated four-stars plus, are the Viking Star, the Crystal Serenity and Symphony, and Oceania’s Riviera and Marina.

The top five small ships, rated five-star plus, are the Europe 2, the Europa, and the Silver Whisper, Shadow and Spirit.

The top five so-called boutique (small) ships, rated five stars, are the Hanseatic, the SeaDream I and II, and the Sea Cloud and the Sea Cloud II.

Ward also rates ships best for families; best for teenagers; most luxurious suites; best spas; best for child-free cruising; best cruise line for foodies; and the ships with the best water slides..

Of the 275 ships covered, most are rated, and for each ship rated, the guide explains who it is most suitable for, gives the history of the vessel, and describes its accommodations, dining, entertainment, and spa and fitness programs.

Furthermore, the guide gives tips on how to choose a cruise to getting the best value for your money; it lists extra cost items passengers should be aware of; what to expect onboard, a sample program of a typical day at sea; and talks about what is new in 2016 – including destinations and new ships being introduced.

Also covered are cruise ship environmental standards, safety and medical services. And there are practical tips, like what do if you miss your ship or if your luggage does not show up.

Ward lists reasons why a reader should take a cruise: It is value for money, it offers convenience, comforts, great food, family togetherness and learning experiences, entertainment and adventure.

Claiming to have “participated” in more than 1,000 cruises and spent more than 6,000 days at sea, 158 trans-Atlantic crossings, countless Panama Canal transits, shipyard visits, ship-naming ceremonies and maiden voyages, Berlitz refers to Ward as a maritime Sherlock Holmes, examining everything from the fluffiness of towels to the quality of the china and silverware, and from the welcome aboard to the disembarkation process.

The Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships guide sells for $25.99.