More than 30 years ago, at a Chinese restaurant in Boston, a message from a fortune cookie set Island resident, Dr. Gerry Yukevich, on course for a lifelong love affair with Caribbean cruising.

“I opened a fortune cookie that said, ‘Soon you’ll have a new job on high seas.’ And so, I laughed that off,” Dr. Yukevich recalled.

Yet, just a few weeks after he discounted his take-out oracle, Dr. Yukevich found himself in Miami boarding the MS Starward, for his first stint as a cruise ship doctor.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Though Dr. Yukevich soon abandoned the life as an itinerant, maritime doctor, eventually settling with his family on Martha’s Vineyard, his experiences on board continued to be an inspiration for the rest of his life. They eventually inspired his novel, the aptly named Cruise Ship Doctor, written under the pen name Ivan Cox.

This autumn, Dr. Yukevich will be working on a cruise ship once again for the first time in decades, but not as a physician. This time he will be a performer.

Over a seven-day Caribbean cruise aboard Norwegian Epic, Dr. Yukevich will perform scenes from his comic novel, with musical accompaniment from Island pianist Adele Dreyer.

“If you read 50 pages a day while you’re sunning yourself on the top deck, you’ll get through it,” he said of his book. “There’s a laugh on every page.”

Mr. Yukevich's novel Cruise Ship Doctor is inspired by his real life adventures. — Ray Ewing

The planned performance, he said, is the culmination of a life-long love of writing and drama.

“I’ve written pretty much straight through,” Dr. Yukevich said of his life, working as editor of his high school newspaper and majoring in English at Princeton University, before pursuing a career in medicine.

Dr. Yukevich graduated from the University of Cincinnati medical school in 1973 and also earned a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. On the Island, he first worked at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital before moving on to Vineyard Medical Care.

But it was as an undergraduate that Dr. Yukevich began straddling the worlds of medicine and literature. While studying premed courses, he also wrote his thesis on William Faulkner.

Later, when he moved to Boston and began practicing medicine he also held free theatre performances in his basement — in English, Russian, French and Italian — while also attempting to write a book.

“I started a novel, which really never got very far. I completed it, but it wasn’t really publishable back then,” he said.

The arts eventually brought Dr. Yukevich to the Island, when he came to perform at the annual Bloomsday celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He, his wife and their daughter moved to the Vineyard soon after.

Throughout his many years practicing medicine and performing drama on the Vineyard, Dr. Yukevich always felt that his time at sea could serve as inspiration for a novel.

“There were so many comic moments, I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “When I see a cruise ship off Oak Bluffs, my heart beats fast.”

Dr. Yukevich also found ample inspiration for characters from his time he spent at the crew bar, chatting with actors, comedians, ventriloquists, tap dancers and other various crew members in several languages.

A blurb on the back of Cruise Ship Doctor describes its premise: “Ivan Cox’s Cruise Ship Doctor rollicks with the wild capers of Oliver Loring, a Harvard emergency physician and master ballroom dancer, who flees snowy Boston for a one-week gig in the sunny Caribbean.”

“It’s sort of a mock epic,” Dr. Yukevich said, of the story. “You could call it farcical. It has some metaphysical moments in it. Almost nobody dies.”

Dr. Yukevich has also since published a second novel, Blood Pudding, based on the experiences of his father growing up in Pittsburgh.

From the start, Dr. Yukevich envisioned Cruise Ship Doctor as a companion for cruisers and a way to give them a look behind the scenes.

“When I was working on the ships and I saw these people, everybody had a pulp fiction novel in their hands,” he said. “I thought, why shouldn’t they read my book?”

“The theme of each day of the cruise has to do with music,” he added, with Mr. Yukevich and Adele Dreyer interpreting scenes from the book, in which the eponymous doctor performs daily on his Steinway piano.

Amidst the capers and comedy of the novel, Mr. Yukevich said, a more serious message emerges as well. 

“I have a quote at the beginning from William Blake that says: ‘if the fool were to pursue his folly, he would become wise,’” he said. “And that’s the theme of what happens in this book.”

The Norwegian Epic departs on Nov. 16 for a seven-day, musical and literary voyage through the Caribbean. More information can be found at Cruise Ship Doctor and Blood Pudding are available at Bunch of Grapes, Edgartown books and on