Captain Greybeard (aka John Honeywell) is the editor of World of Cruising and writes a regular column for the Daily Mirror. We caught up with him about all things cruise-related, from favourite destinations to top holiday tips…
1. Hi John! Where in the world are you right now?
I am at home, planning the next issue of World of Cruising, writing a couple of features for the magazine and my column for Saturday’s Daily Mirror, and looking forward to visiting Quantum of the Seas when it arrives in the UK in a few days’ time. If people phone on my landline they are surprised that I am not at sea, and I do seem to have been away for about half of the last 12 months, ever since taking a three-week trip to St Helena in the South Atlantic. During the past year I have been fortunate to visit lots of places including Burma, Australia, the Caribbean, Norway, the Baltic, the Med, and I’ve taken a Transatlantic crossing to New York
2. How often do you go on a cruise each year?
A dozen or more cruises a year, interspersed with day visits to ships in the UK, trips to see vessels under construction in Germany, Italy and France. Plus other events and press conferences from time to time. The past 12 months have been particularly busy apart from a brief respite in September.
3. What’s been your best cruise experience so far?
So many, it’s difficult to choose one to top them all. Sometimes it’s the ship that is the stand-out, other times it’s the destination. Travelling to the far north and seeing a polar bear in a remote bay on the island of Spitsbergen on a cruise with Saga, and rounding Cape Horn in 60-knot winds aboard a Cruceros Australis vessel carrying just 120 passengers are two memorable moments. So are watching the Blue Man Group on Norwegian Epic, and a top-class performance of Chicago on Allure of the Seas. How can you choose between witnessing a glacier calve in Alaska and admiring magnificent artworks at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg? Which is more memorable, the serenely happy faces of devotees at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, or the smile on the face of a crocodile in Australia’s Kimberley region? Thanks to cruising, I have seen them all.
4. Is there anything that annoys you about cruise holidays?
Putting my suitcase outside the cabin door for collection before going to bed on the final night of a cruise – and then waking up next morning to discover my wife had packed my shoes away. (Don’t tell her I gave that secret away).
5. If you could set off on a cruise to any part of the world tomorrow, where would it be?
Antarctica – still on my bucket list.
6. Do you have a favourite ship?
Yes, but I can’t tell you what it is. As with Q3, it’s impossible to choose one above the rest. It’s a question people always ask me when they learn I travel on cruise ships for a living, and it’s one I could never answer. But after travelling on one particular ship I now have to stop myself naming it whenever I am asked. It will remain my secret.
7. What do you think will be the “next big thing” in the cruise industry?
If I knew that, I could make a fortune. When it comes to ships, there are some very clever people working on newbuilds who keep coming up with ideas most of us would never dream of until they make an announcement and we exclaim “Why didn’t I think of that?” I’m still waiting for one of them to work out how to create an underwater restaurant with windows looking out into an illuminated ocean, and a friend has slightly more achievable ambitions – she wants to see ships equipped with nail bars. In terms of destinations, the Far East is obviously a growing market, especially China, Japan and south-east Asia. It would be great if India could open up to visitors a bit more but at present the country’s visa requirements almost make visits more trouble than they are worth.
8. What’s more important to you: great amenities or great service?
Service. The amenities are important, but they are undermined if the service is lacking. And if there are any shortcomings to the amenities, great service can make up for them.
9. Could you give us your best packing tip?
You’re asking the wrong person. I always pack too much, and I invariably bring back clothes that have not been worn – so they stay folded (and sometimes still in the suitcase) until the next trip.
10. What about a great money-saving tip for our cruise fans?
You’ve already saved a packet by booking a cruise – compared to the cost of visiting multiple destinations by air or road, and staying in hotels which offer inferior service and do not include meals in their rates. Sit back and enjoy your cruise – and start saving for the next one.
11. What’s the first cocktail that you’d order from the Bionic Bar on Quantum of the Seas/Anthem of the Seas?
The drink I would enjoy the most is a margarita, but if I wanted to test the robots’ skills I would go for a mojito – muddling the mint leaves and sugar is always a bartender’s nightmare
12. What advice would you give to a first-time cruise-goer?
Before you book, do your research thoroughly and carefully. Not all ships are the same, not all passengers have the same requirements. It’s no use booking a Carnival fun cruise if you want to listen to enriching lectures and be in bed by 10.30 pm. And vice versa. Pick the right cruise for your first experience and you’ll want to do it again and again. Make the wrong choice and you could be missing out for the rest of your life. If you’re still unsure, don’t be kidded into thinking that a two-night cruise from Southampton will show you what cruising is really about – it’s a totally different experience.
Do you have any cruise-related questions to ask Captain Greybeard? Share your thoughts below…