Friday, December 11, 2009

Read All About It: SAS Crew Guide 2010

I have written before about the SAS Crew Guide, an airline insiders' book of travel tips that's updated, coordinated and published every year by Scandinavian Airlines. Well, the latest, 6th edition of the guide, the 2010 version, is out. It's worth the 15 euros (about $22 U.S.) that SAS charges for a copy (

The Crew Guide is a compact paperback, small enough to fit into a pocket or a purse. It contains the personal recommendations of several hundred well-traveled crew members - chiefly, flight attendants, pilots and pursers - at SAS and seven other airlines, including Air Canada, Austrian Airlines and TAP Portugal. The new edition covers 22 international cities, in Europe, North America and Asia. Recommendations are bite-sized: a single sentence to a paragraph or two, and cover places to eat, shop and play (the latter usually clubs and discos). I have used earlier editions of the book on my travels and found them useful.

The 2010 edition has some new wrinkles. It starts off with top 5 picks in 20 categories - outdoor terrace, high-altitude city views, Vienna-style coffeeshops, and more - the "100 new tips'' touted on the cover. The destinations tend to closely track the SAS route structure; thus, great cities like Tokyo - which went missing this year - and good ones like Seattle, which SAS no longer serves, are no longer included. Pity. But many terrific cities are included, among them London, New York, Paris, Stockholm and next year's Olympic city, Vancouver.

I am a well-traveled fellow myself and I am a guidebook author, both of which mean I am opinionated, like the contributors to the Crew Guide. In my opinion, the Crew Guide gives far more attention than it should to New York City - 44 pages, nearly double runner-up Bangkok's 24 pages and absurdly more than Chicago's 10 and Berlin's inexcusably skimpy four. One featured destination, Canada's beautiful and enjoyable Vancouver Island, is not a city.

So, I have some quibbles. But then, as the author or co-author of five books, I well understand that no book can please everyone. This book reflects its contributors' tastes, and they have come up with plenty of good leads to entertain, instruct and guide. Besides, you have to savor a book that revels in the quirky particularity of both its contributors and its subjects:

"Absolutely the best cakes in Scandinavia,'' asserts Theis Fabech J, air host for SAS, in an endorsement of Copenhagen's Dessertdragens Kagevaerksted ( "Both traditional and very untraditional cakes. You can have everything from brownies to cheesecake with cucumber, depending on the day and the mood of the owner.''

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