A Lifetime of Stars, Staterooms & Stowaways

Long-time Cruise Director Gary Glading created a real phenomenon with his debut book, Stars, Staterooms and Stowaways last year. Here, he looks back at his career – and the ongoing success of the book

1985. For some of you, that will seem like yesterday, yet for others, it is literally a whole lifetime ago. For me, it was when I started to work on cruise ships. Whatever your perception of that date is, there is no escaping the fact it was 26 years ago. Portable phones, personal computers and DVDs were things of the future yet, somehow, we all managed to live quite well and happily without them.

In the world of cruising, those 26 years have seen unprecedented technological advances across the board. The “big” ships of the 1980s which carried just over 1,000 passengers have been dwarfed by today’s floating giants transporting up to 6,000 guests.

The main lounges, which once served as multi-purpose showrooms, ballrooms and game venues, have been replaced by multi-deck theatres whose sophisticated equipment and production shows can rival the best that Broadway or the West End can offer, and the well-heeled cruisers of the past have had to make room for the more democratic wave that has permitted the cruise industry to attract ever-increasing numbers of travellers from around the globe.

Being involved in such a fascinating business all these years has given me the opportunity to meet and interview some of the best-known names in the worlds of show business, sports and politics, as well as getting to meet and entertain countless numbers of passengers from all over the world.

I have been taken hostage at knife-point by a group of mutinying passengers, stranded on a tropical island in the South Pacific and am most grateful to have survived a major hurricane at sea.

I have also blushed at dirty jokes told by a multi-lingual pensioner in a passenger talent show, awarded first prize to a topless Austrian grandmother for her team spirit and snuck a blind kitten up the gangway and into the comfort and safety of my quarters.
It matters little from which country one comes or even from which social stratum because, whatever language we speak, whichever passport we carry or however much we have in our bank accounts, we are all members of the human race and that entitles us to all of the quirks, eccentricities, habits and flaws our species seems to breed with surprising regularity.

I don’t know if it’s the salt air, the gentle rolling of the waves or the holiday atmosphere on board but, somehow, cruising seems to encourage or accentuate those things which make us all individuals.

If you take the celebrities I have met at sea, the entertaining behaviour some of my passengers have displayed and throw in a few tales about the abandoned or needy animals I have fed, medicated or smuggled back on board over the years, the result would be a book entitled ‘Stars, Staterooms & Stowaways: anecdotes from a colourful career in cruising.’

My book was first published on March 31, 2010, in the UK and all its royalties go to the Hanalei Animal Sanctuary ONLUS, a charity I run in the north of Italy for abandoned and abused animals of all sizes, shapes and origins (www.hanalei-animal-sanctuary-onlus.com).

Happily, in April of 2010, the book was awarded the People’s Book Prize for non-fiction, and, that same month, Britain’s Sky Television interviewed me about it on their highly popular Travel Show. Due to the continuing interest in my book, the BBC interviewed me in February of this year.

I am delighted to report it has been a best-seller on Norwegian Cruise Lines, Cunard and P&O Cruises. West End musical star Marti Webb, who wrote the book’s foreword, called this collection of cruise anecdotes “sometimes touching, often very funny, but always highly entertaining.”  Although I have an understandable quantity of nostalgia for the “old days,” I still relish every opportunity to embrace the new ideas and challenges today’s world of cruising presents.

Over the years, I have performed as one half of the successful international singing and dancing duo “Glading and Allan;” I have played classical piano recitals before some of the best-known stars and aristocrats of their time; I have served as Head of Entertainment and production show producer for some of the largest cruise lines around today, but it is as Cruise Director that I have spent the most enjoyable and satisfying years of my career in cruising.

I also look forward to my next assignment on NCL’s Norwegian Jade this summer as we will be sailing out of Venice, Italy, one of the most glorious ports of the planets.

I am proud to have been so intricately involved in such an exciting business all these years, but I am also passionate about its future and am delighted to think that I’ll continue to be intimately involved in it for many years to come. Why don’t you join me?

Stars, Staterooms & Stowaways is published by Discovery Books (£10/€12) and is available from Amazon.