The singer and TV presenter recently embarked on four different cruises for her C5 TV series Cruising with Jane McDonald. As she prepares to film the second series she reveals her highlights
For Cruising with Jane McDonald I sailed with MSC Cruises, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection on the Danube, Holland America to Alaska and Majestic Line in Scotland. I particularly enjoyed sailing round Scotland. It was just like being in the Caribbean – absolute bliss. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was just gorgeous, there was breathtaking scenery up there. We went into Fingal’s Cave, Puffin Island and all around the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. We also went to Tobermory and Oban, and it was absolutely beautiful.
I encourage my friends and family to go on cruises. They have all been and my mother won’t do anything else – she’s a big P&O Cruises fan. For the series I sailed on my own. Cruises are the safest way to travel alone because you unpack, then you’ve got everything on board. There’s always a load of other single people on board as well. It is a bit more expensive when you’re in a single cabin or stateroom, but there are so many deals out there now that if you go to a good cruise travel agent then they will find you the best deal. It was funny because on the train home one day I was talking to two people who were both single and I talked them into going on a cruise.
Fingal’s Cave in the Hebrides was something I’ll never forget in my life. And the grandeur of Alaska – wow. I would never have thought of booking a cold cruise in a million years. If I don’t have a piña colada and a bikini on then I’m not playing ball. But it was one of the best experiences ever. Holland America, who we sailed there with, seemed to have a much younger crowd on board. And because it was a cold cruise, happy hour started at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and everybody was drinking and partying, and I was there like ‘Wow this is wild’. They were a really good crowd.
When reality TV show judges refer to singing as ‘cruise ship’, they obviously haven’t been on a cruise. Cruising made me exactly who I am. I have tours every year, I have albums out that have reached platinum, gold and silver. If I’m a cruise ship singer, then bring it on. I don’t really care. I’ve made a very good living out of it. So it doesn’t really bother me at all and I just wish that the people who are saying this would actually go on a cruise ship and see how good these entertainers are.
I stopped working on cruise ships more than 20 years ago, but I’ve been on a cruise every year since, because I love cruising. It’s the best holiday for me ever. I love the sea and I love the tranquility of it all, so I’m the perfect person to do the show.
One of the funniest experiences I had while filming the show was when I went diving with sharks. The sea was quite rough and I was on the water when I started to feel a bit queasy. I thought to myself ‘Stop being such a wimp’. I wasn’t bothered about getting eaten by the sharks, I was just thinking ‘What if I throw up down here?’ So when I came up I felt so bad because, of course, the swell when you’re diving is pretty nasty. I got up there and I looked up at the film crew and they were all being sick over the side, which really made me laugh out loud. It cheered me up no end. I was fine after that – so I wasn’t sick but everybody else was on the other boat.
When I worked on cruise ships all those years ago, it was something that older people saved up every penny they’ve got to go and celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, or another special occasion. Whereas now, especially on the big lines like MSC Cruises, there would be a whole family of 20 people there because it’s so affordable now for everybody to go on a ship. I think that is the plus side. It was quite heartwarming to see all these families on board having the time of their lives where the kids were entertained, teenagers were entertained because the discos were on until four in the morning, the adults were going to see the shows, and the grandparents could sit in a piano
bar – every single person in that family had something to do. How fantastic is that when you can have that and then have the wonderful travelling around aspect as well?
I think cruising is becoming really popular because it’s aimed at a much younger crowd. P&O Cruises is very good – that’s the one that my mum always goes on. She loves Oriana, that is her ship. That’s the one she wants to go on – she knows it inside out, she knows where everything is on there, she knows all the staff, the staff are usually the same and they’ve got a couple of ships that are catered for the older market. But the rest of the P&O Cruises ships are catered for younger people. There’s such a vast choice now and I think that’s brilliant. The series has shown me that all the cruise lines have got different pluses so I would tend to maybe spread my wings a little bit now and book different cruise lines.
Every single port we visited in the show has something to offer – but there were a couple of places in Alaska where I thought ‘Oh God, what are we doing here?’. And then I’d get on a bus or a train or a helicopter or whatever and think ‘Wow, look at this’. The destinations were breathtaking.
There are a lot of places I haven’t been to and the one thing about Cruising With Jane McDonald is that it takes me on cruises that I would never have booked for myself. You get the excitement on my face when thinking ‘Oh my god, look at this’. And you can tell it’s genuine when I’m going, ‘Oh I don’t know about this’. But I haven’t been to Hawaii, I haven’t been to Hong Kong and I haven’t done Asia. I haven’t been to the South Pacific, either.
The most memorable holiday I’ve been on was a trip I took with my mother, from Mauritius to the Seychelles. It was fantastic. I’ve never seen anything quite like that. It was a real treat for us and I saved up for quite a long time to do it. It was worth every penny. You know when you’ve got a bucket list and you think ‘I’d really like to do that’? It was absolutely incredible.
I love Bermuda, that’s one of my favourite destinations on a cruise. There are itineraries that go from New York to Bermuda, which is just fabulous. You get about three or four days in Bermuda – and, of course, New York speaks for itself.
My last holiday I did was a cruise to Santorini, Turkey and the Greek islands, which was fabulous. That’s also a gorgeous run. For me, my dream holiday is a cruise. A cruise with a balcony. I like to read a lot when I’m away, so being on a chair sat outside with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee in the morning looking out to sea is my ideal holiday. That’s where I escape to in my head when I want to calm down. There is nothing more calming than the sea on a beautiful day.
I take my own music playlist on holiday – that’s half of it isn’t it, getting lost in your own little world. Even on the busiest ships in the world you can find a spot that is yours. On my playlist you can find anything from Earth Wind & Fire, disco (I love a bit of disco) to classical. And I’ve got an easy listening playlist. There is Motown, too, just about everything really. I’m quite eclectic where music is concerned.
Watch out for the second series of Cruising With Jane McDonald when it airs later this year on Channel 5.
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