For Sir Stirling Moss and his wife Susie, a cruise in the sun is quite simply the perfect antidote to their busy day-to-day lives.
“Movement is tranquillity, old boy,” says Sir Stirling Moss, the most famous racing driver on the planet. “That’s part of the attraction.” He might have retired in 1962 but ask any man in the street to name a racing driver and the answer will invariably be: Stirling Moss.
Having lived his entire life at full throttle – he still works 12 hours a day just being Stirling Moss – it is perhaps surprising to discover that his favourite form of relaxation is cruising. He loves it, and so does Lady Susie Moss, and they go to sea as often as they can. You’d think the pace of life on board would drive the man mad, that he’d soon be doing laps of the deck, looking for a record time from stem to stern. “No boy, not at all,” he laughs. “It’s true that I’m not a person who relaxes easily. I take my work with me and I like to go on line and check my e-mails – there’s always something going on – but now my son Eliot runs my property business I have more time to relax, and, I’m pleased to say,I no longer get on the ships worrying about dripping taps and leaking rooves!
“These days I do take a book, but I’m a very slow reader. I’ve never got on very well with books,” he grins. “I have to make notes in the margins, otherwise I forget who all the characters are. I’d rather wait until they make a film of it!”
Stirling and Susie came to cruising holidays late in their lives, starting only 15 years ago on a recommendation from the great television reporter Alan Whicker, whose famous line “you soak up the sun, they move the scenery” just about sums up the joy of being at sea in the sunshine.
“The great thing about life onboard a small luxury ship is that it’s so completely different from anything else we do in our normal daily lives,” says Stirling. “We’re always busy, so this is how we get away from it all a few times each year. Both Susie and I are sun worshippers and we’ve just spent Christmas cruising the Caribbean. It’s the perfect escape, soaking up the sun.
“Sometimes we do a cruise with a land mass – you know, along the coast of Africa, combined with a visit to a game reserve, and that’s fantastic. We’ve never been to the Southern Ocean – I’d love to do a polar cruise but only if there was a way we could see the penguins and have some sun. That would be ideal!”
When they first went to sea, Stirling and Susie had to learn the ropes – how to choose the best ships and the best routes for them. Now they know exactly what they like: “We always go for the smaller ships on luxury lines like Silversea and Yachts of Seabourn,” says Stirling firmly. “There aren’t so many people and the service is absolutely fantastic. We don’t want to be on those huge ships with two thousand other people – it takes too long to get on and off for one thing!
“The great thing about the smaller ships is that you have your own space and other people tend not to encroach upon your privacy. Plus all the cabins are on the outside, with sea views, there’s plenty of room to spread out and relax, and you can eat where you like, when you like and with whom you like.
“We don’t go ashore that much – why get off the ship when there are people running round offering you something to eat or drink every half hour or so? These smaller ships are very intimate, too. You don’t get the big shows and the big star entertainers of the larger ships, but you do get quality entertainers and you build up such a rapport with the other passengers.”
There’s long been an impression among those who have never cruised that the ships are full of elderly people who wear shorts at breakfast time and blazers with plimsolls for dinner. As a result cruising has, until recently, had something of a staid image. “Many of the passengers may be retired,” says Stirling, “and there are some elderly ladies spending their ex-husbands’ fortunes, but the bigger ships in particular are great for families with children. Not only is there lots to do, but you get to see some interesting places.
“We like the smaller ships because they can get into harbours where the bigger vessels simply aren’t able to go. If you are on one of the bigger ships, make sure you choose your cabin carefully – you want a sea view, of course, but you don’t want to be near the lifts, or the galleys, or the passenger laundry rooms. And if the weather does get rough you need to be near the centre of the ship and not too high up. We’ve only had a couple of rough trips, but it’s worth knowing.”
Both Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea, were recommended to the Mosses by Alan Whicker, and they’ve remained loyal to these lines over the years. “Those are our two favourites, certainly,” says Stirling. “We think they provide a fantastic level of service: they only carry about 400 people – on Seabourn it’s half that – and that means you’re wonderfully well looked after. There’s lots of deck space too, which we like, and the ships are modern without being too huge. They also go to some interesting places – we’ve been through the Panama Canal and I recommend that, it was a great experience. We don’t want to go up the Amazon, or the Nile though, as we’d be bored just looking at the river banks all the way up and all the way back. No, we follow the sun.”
During a career that forged his reputation as the greatest all-round racing driver in the history of the sport, Stirling Moss could never have been accused of cruising. He only knew one way of living, and that was flat chat, pedal to the metal. Now, living in the slightly slower lane, cruising really is one of his greatest pleasures.
■ Sir Stirling Moss, the legendary British racing driver, raced from 1948-1962 and during the course of his career clocked up 16 Formula One Grand Prix wins.
Words: Rob Widdows