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December 02, 2010

When I retire, I’m going cruising

Some weeks ago we unearthed a trend among cruise lines for offering sanctuary to retired politicians willing to spill the beans on their many years in office. We uncovered the likes of Bob and Blanche Hawke, who cruised with Orion, Robert “Piggy” Muldoon, who cruised with Royal Viking and the late Don Chipp (an ardent cruise fan) who sailed aboard The World. The recently retired, Nobel Laureate and near-octogenarian, Archbishop Desmond Tutu announced he would join a cruise with Semester at Sea aboard their lavish 180m vessel, MV Explorer. “The Arch” (as he is fondly known at home) gained a taste for cruising as part of Cunard’s Insight program earlier this year.

John Cleese aboard QM2
Despite their unarguable cachet, politicians are not the only drawcard aboard cruise ships big and small. Many well-credentialed academics join the expedition fleet to add enrichment to Arctic, Antarctic and other remote voyages, but so too do all manner of other sundry celebrities. John Cleese is a semi-regular with Cunard, having travelled aboard QM2 as recently as August. On one of my few big ship voyages, I sat enthralled as a former Concorde captain, complete in sparkling uniform and pretty young attendant, captivated us with the nuances of flying the world’s only (and probably last ) supersonic airliner.

Such is the demand for high profile speakers that a specialist agency, Cruise Ship Speakers, was formed a few years back to cater to the cruising industry. Their menu of dubbed, capped and cloaked orators reads like a New Year’s Honours list. From celebrated military men like General Sir Hugh Michael Rose KCB, CBE, DSO, QGM, acclaimed political reporter, Brian Hanrahan to the more mundane royal astronomer, Sir Arnold Wolfendale, the thirst for stimulating speakers can only increase as the number of regular cruisers continues upwards.

History, antiques, gardening, wine appreciation, science and entertainment are all subjects in demand from passengers not only wanting to learn but also hob-nob with their favourite celebrity. Silver Seas, for one, presents a laudable depth of speakers aboard their world cruises. This year Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, Dan Rather, topped their bill which included world-famous Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass, and our own Professor Geoffrey Blainey.

While English cruisers prefer the more urbane subjects of history and antiques, Americans can predictably be attracted to the likes of Don "Ducky" Williams, a famous Disney cartoon artist, Robert Tieman, a Disney historian and archivist while renowned film critic, Leonard Maltin, will sail aboard Princess Cruises’ ‘Coral Princess’ on their December 15 departure. Australians, curiously, seem less inclined to value guest speakers on local departures. P&O do occasionally feature cruise historian Rob Henderson, while our local celebs (eg Dr Harry, Kylie Gillies) tend to travel as passengers, not as speakers.

What do you think about celebrity speakers aboard cruise liners? Who would you like to see speaking aboard local vessels?
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