Interview: Jennie Bond on the Queen's Jubilee & her love for cruises
By Cruise International | 10 May 2022
Former BBC Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond is a cruise devotee. Here she tells Cruise International about her favourite cruise journeys and her life as Royal Correspondent as we approach the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
What first drew you to cruising and what was your first sailing like?
It must have been around 25 years ago that I was invited to give a lecture about royalty on board Cunard’s famous cruise liner the QE2. Cruising wasn’t something we had particularly considered as a family, but my husband and I and our daughter, Emma —then aged about seven — set off to the Canary Islands on board this magnificent ship. We loved it from day one: the luxury, the excitement of being on the ocean, the seemingly endless adventures to be had both on board and ashore.
I remember asking fellow passengers about how many cruises they had taken. Several had lost count. We thought they were mad. Surely the novelty must wear off? We couldn’t have been more mistaken! And so, here we are all these years later, still exploring the endless possibilities that the cruising world offers, and loving every moment. And no, I have absolutely no idea how many cruises we have been on!
Tell us about some of your best cruise experiences – any highlight experiences, particularly memorable trips or favourite cruise line?
There are honestly so many, and there truly hasn’t been a cruise that has disappointed us in any way. We recently sailed on a fabulous new ship, Celebrity Beyond, which was a glorious experience. It is sheer elegance, with a fun, party vibe – and the theatre is simply extraordinary: an ever-moving montage of art and acrobatic wizardry.
Another stand out experience was a couple of years ago when we went to Antarctica with Hurtigruten. To be told you have reached the “end of the world” was thrilling in itself. The first tiny iceberg sent us all out on deck to film a minuscule block of ice floating in the freezing sea and the full-sized icebergs which followed were breathtaking! It was a unique adventure for us.
What is your favourite holiday destination (on cruise or land)? Where is still on your wish list?
We have a very soft spot for the Caribbean. There are so many islands to visit, which is perfect for a cruise. On some of the smaller ships, such as Azamara or the Star Clippers, you can visit one or two of the less populated islands. There’s nothing quite like climbing aboard a tender, or even swimming ashore, and then being treated to a sumptuous barbecue prepared by the crew who have painstakingly taken all the food, drink and equipment onto the beach for us to enjoy. Pure decadence!
In my work as a royal correspondent, I’ve been lucky enough to see a great deal of the world. I love the vastness of Australia, and the magic of Africa draws me to it like a magnet. I have visited both several times, but Africa in particular still has a mystery about it for me. A couple of years ago we went on a cruise which took in South Africa and Namibia, which was fantastic. But I’ve never managed to get to Botswana; I think a safari there would be at the very top of my wish list.
What can you not live without when you travel? Any travel tips for new-to-cruisers?
I’m always fascinated by the world around me and, at sea, that could be a great variety of marine wildlife, birds or perhaps just other ships. I suppose I’m quite nosy by nature – that’s why I’ve been a journalist for 50 years! And I always like to have some binoculars with me so that I can get a closer look at whatever happens to be passing by. My husband probably couldn’t live without his books, but on the other hand, there are often some fantastic libraries on board cruise ships.
My advice to anyone new to cruising is to be aware that you really can tailor a holiday to your personal taste. Contrary to the idea that you will constantly be surrounded by people — all doing the same sort of thing — we find that on almost every ship there are quiet corners or cosy cocktail bars where you can feel almost alone.
We like simply to enjoy one another’s company, play cards or maybe sit back and immerse ourselves in the entertainment provided by a pianist or harpist. But if you feel like partying, just about every ship will offer you a multitude of options to let your hair down. So remember – this is your cruise, and you can choose how you want to spend it.
Can you tell us about your most memorable moment(s) as a royal correspondent?
When I rather reluctantly accepted the job as the BBC’s royal correspondent, more than 30 years ago, I thought it was probably rather a silly, frothy brief that wouldn’t interest me for more than a few months. 14 years later I was still doing it – and my reports were often at the top of the bulletin.
Even though I left the BBC, the Royal story is one that I have now been involved with for more than three decades, which never ceases to amaze me or make the headlines. The 90s were some of the most turbulent years for the monarchy; I reported on the divorces, the disasters and the deaths. I had private meetings with Diana and Charles, met the Queen many times and followed them all around the world.
There were many extraordinary days and many almost surreal events. But the week that was the most difficult and historic was the week Diana died. The world, it seemed, was consumed by some kind of mass hysteria. And it was my job to keep a sense of perspective and to report objectively about the repercussions of the tragic death of a woman whom I had got to know well.
How will you be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?
I have reported on the last two Jubilees from outside the Palace, and it will be strange to be somewhat removed from it this time. But that’s because I’ve been invited to spend the Jubilee week in one of my very favourite places: on board a luxury cruise ship!
I shall be happily ensconced on board Princess Cruises’s Enchanted Princess. I can’t wait to explore all that it has to offer and to meet my fellow travellers. I’m sure we shall mark the Queen’s remarkable anniversary with some very special Jubilee celebrations at sea.
What will be going on behind the scenes at the palace, in preparation?
Events like this take a huge amount of planning, and this is a unique occasion. No other monarch has reached the milestone of a Platinum Jubilee. But because the Queen is now rather frail and has significant mobility problems, the plans have had to be left quite fluid. The word from the Palace is that the Queen will decide on the day whether she feels strong enough to attend the planned events.
I’m sure she will do her very best to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after Trooping the Colour, and to attend the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. Anything else will be a bonus. The spirit is, undoubtedly, still willing. But the flesh, at 96, is feeling a little weak. One thing, though, is certain: whenever and wherever the Queen manages to make an appearance, the crowds will be cheering to the rafters in appreciation of all that she has done during the course of seven remarkable decades.