Cruise ship work led Summerlin author to discover ideas for books

Brian David Bruns, a Summerlin resident, has visited 50 countries, made the seven seas his playground, pursued the girl and won her, and lived within walking distance of Dracula’s birthplace. And he tells it all in his books.

“From the time I was 15, I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” he said.

That year, he entered a teen-only writing contest, and though he wasn’t one of the winners, he received a letter complimenting him for entering.

“It was crap,” he said of that first book, “but it gave me my first byline.”

Bruns is now the author of the national best-selling Cruise Confidential series, which consists of four books — “Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties … One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships”; “Ship for Brains”; “Unsinkable Mister Brown”; and “High Seas Drifter.”

He is working on his newest genre — horror fiction (his teen book had a fantasy/sorcerer theme). It’s just been released and is titled “In the House of Leviathan,” which can be ordered at any bookstore and on amazon.com.

Bruns always harbored a secret desire to travel and admitted to stealing the National Geographic maps from his school library and plastering his bedroom walls with them. After high school, he earned his art history degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Bruns went on to form a medical records company in Reno. The economic tsunami swamped the business and that, plus being single, left him free to follow his dreams.

It also left him free to pursue “the girl.” Her name was Bianca — beautiful, exotic and unattainable — which made her even more desirable. She was from Romania, and they were introduced by one of his former employees.

“She said, ‘You should come visit my country.’ I said ‘yes,’ but you know how it goes. How often do you really follow through?” he said. “But I (was unencumbered), I could do it, so I went to visit her in Romania.”

They hit it off. Intrigued by her work on cruise ships, he was hired and thus began the fodder for his books. When not working a cruise, they returned to Romania — think “Game of Thrones” settings. Living just blocks from Dracula’s birthplace, he said, “was a reverential thing. … It was exactly how you’d think. It was built in the 1200s, had the defensive walls, the towers and medieval turrets.”

A huge horror fan, Bruns was in awe of the place. The country doesn’t celebrate Halloween, a key part of life for Bruns, so he spent his first Halloween by walking to Dracula’s first dwelling, just to have his own Halloween moment. The Romanians didn’t understand his interest.

“They had no idea the phenomenon of Dracula, the way it is here in the West,” he said. “Everyone was like, ‘How do you know about Vlad Tepes?’”

To be with Bianca, he worked for various cruise lines over a period of four years. Each cruise gave him more material for his books. In the beginning, he was with Carnival Cruise Lines as a waiter. He said the cruise staff works 80 hours a week, minimum. As a waiter, he worked 100 hours a week for 15 straight weeks, a burnout pace. The pay was “horrendous,” he said, calling it a “sweat shop.”

“As a rule, they usually won’t hire Americans because we all quit,” he added.

Summerlin resident Dr. Len Kreisler has worked various cruise ships as the medical director. His books are available on Amazon, and he has a blog at doctorlenk.com/#!blog/cwcx.

He said the crews, in his opinion, work their butts off but make good money.

“Especially compared to where most of them come from,” he said. “My ships were 1960s vintage, and the cabins were usually packed with four bodies to 500 square feet and had laundry hanging in the (walk) ways.”

Bruns switched to being an auctioneer, a cushier job that included his own private guest cabin. He did that for three years. There are, on average, 60 nationalities on board, Bruns said. Below the water line where the crew lives, is, in his words, the “Olympic Village, where everyone gets drunk and has one-night romances. The people were amazing, and I learned more about my country by leaving it than I ever learned in it.

“You see everything differently. You deal with people from all over the world. Some live in former Communist countries. … Bianca’s father was in the military, her godfather was very high up in the military. And even though her father was one of the ‘good guys,’ (he learned that the government) had a file on him 3 inches thick.”

People from other countries would ask him why he didn’t take the job his government gave him. They thought Americans had high-paying jobs given to them by the government.

“They only see the top dogs who do very well,” he said. “They’re all terrified of our military, which is everywhere. I must have met two dozen people who said, ‘You bombed my country.’ But they never blame it on the American Joe Blow, just the politicians.”

Spoiler alert: He ended up with a different Romanian woman.

“It was kind of a catch-and-release thing,” he said of his four-year pursuit of the wrong woman. “Bianca, she was never going to leave Romania, and I just couldn’t live in there.”

Unattached again, a new woman, Aurelia, caught his eye. She worked in the ship’s casino. As an auctioneer, his was considered a high-level position. He was an American, a rarity on ship crews. He also spoke Romanian. With his outgoing personality, he drew her into a conversation and a relationship began. She followed him on ships for about a year. In 2007, they married in Reno in “one of those drive-thru kind of places” on Valentine’s Day.

“I do have a sense of adventure,” Bruns said. “Some of the wild and crazy things I’ve done? I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, gone on safari in Tanzania and Kenya, water-skied in the Red Sea, swum in the Panama Canal, swung on vines in Costa Rica, did a marathon in Area 51, things like that. But I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I have a sense of adventure, but I’m not stupid. I don’t do things that are risky.”

He and Aurelia moved to Las Vegas six years ago. She now works at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

“Vegas is exactly like a cruise ship,” Bruns said. “There’s too much food, too much booze, it’s got over-the-top entertainment … it’s a great time. And the people who make it happen are an international community. And that’s what ships are like.”

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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