Behind the scenes of Cruising with Susan Calman
By Katie McGonagle | 8 Jun 2022
Go behind the scenes of Channel 5’s TV travel show Cruising with Susan Calman in our exclusive celebrity interview
Q. Were you a big fan of cruise holidays before taking over the show from cruise champion Jane McDonald?
A. I had always wanted to go on a cruise ship, but if we went on holiday it tended to be Arran, a beautiful little island just off the coast of Scotland, or a city break somewhere beautiful like Bath. Then in 2018, P&O Cruises asked if I wanted to go on its Strictly Come Dancing cruise to do audience Q&As and judge dancing competitions, and I said ‘Of course!’. I took my wife on the cruise and I loved it from the first second I set foot on that ship. I love the fact I get to my cabin, unpack my stuff and that’s me. I can get off and see the world, but I come back to the ship. When Channel 5 asked if I would like to take over Cruising, I was happier than you can possibly imagine. What an opportunity – it was a golden ticket moment. What’s more extraordinary is that I was offered the job before Covid, then the pandemic hit, and yet we’ve still managed to make a series of the programme during these difficult times, with the help of the cruise companies – we’ve done it despite all that.
Q. Which destinations did you feature in the latest series of Cruising with Susan Calman?
A. We went to the Canaries – Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria – and Madeira, which was exciting because it was completely new for me. We were there in October with Princess Cruises and it was boiling hot and brilliant fun. We also did a Royal Caribbean cruise from Barcelona to Italy, so I went to Rome and Lucca, which was beautiful. You end up doing things you wouldn’t normally do – I went jetskiing, did a sea-trek in Lanzarote, tried octopus for the first time and did lots of things I never thought I would do. It’s so soothing to be on the ship as it sails away. My favourite modes of transport are boats and trains. I went on my honeymoon on the [Venice-Simplon] Orient Express and I love cruising in the same way I love being on a train. It’s the journey – the holiday is not just the destination, it’s how you get there.
Q. Where would you like to cruise next?
A. I have one dream cruise, and this is not set up so it’s not a spoiler. I’m obsessed with Agatha Christie so I want to do the Nile. There is no other cruise in the world I would like to do more than that. When I got on board the Orient Express, I’m not ashamed to say I cried – I can only imagine what I’d be like on the Nile, so that’s my ultimate cruise destination.
Q. What was your favourite moment from filming the series?
A. My favourite thing was formal night on Princess. I’ve experienced a formal night on P&O Cruises and it’s lovely – everyone dresses up and it’s fabulous. I was wandering around talking to the camera but people kept calling me over to take photos, so I’m in countless people’s formal photographs. All over the country people have me and them on their mantelpiece for no apparent reason – members of their own family will be saying ‘Who’s that?’. It made me happy because we were part of the fun everyone was having on board.
Q. We’ve seen you try some fantastic activities on board – what did you love most?
A. I’ll give almost anything a go – I did ice skating and line-dancing lessons, and tried surfing on the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean, which was great fun. Cruising is a combination of everything that I know is good – eating, drinking, shows – and the unexpected, which actually turns out to be a lot of fun. I scour the newsletter to see what’s happening next day on the ship and I’ve kept every single one from all of my cruises. Eventually I’m going to paper a room with all the lovely memories of where I’ve been.
Q. It must have been challenging filming a travel documentary with other guests on board – how did you manage it?
A. We couldn’t do what we do without the help of the crew on the ships. On Regal Princess there was a wonderful cruise director called Andi who was there every step of the way. You could see the effect he had on the passengers and how much they loved him. It’s difficult filming on a busy ship at times and they do everything they can to help us, so hopefully the show is also celebrating the wonderful people working on cruise ships.
Q. What was the inspiration behind your dance routine on each show?
A. I wanted to do something joyous at the end of the show. On Regal Princess there were probably about 2,000 people watching as we danced to Copacabana, it was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve done since Strictly Come Dancing – in fact, it was worse! On Royal Caribbean, the captain agreed to let us dance on the helipad at the front of the ship, and we could see him waving from the bridge. They slowed the whole ship down so I could dance to Reach for the Stars on a helipad – now you can’t say that’s not a good job, can you?
*Cruising with Susan Calman is available to watch now on My5 and will return with more episodes on Channel 5 later in the year.