Celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock will be sailing on Crown Princess around Scandinavia this autumn. Here she tells us why she loves cruising, which gardens are still on her must-see list and how she keeps in touch with the Ground Force crew.
Are you a cruise expert or a newbie?
I’ve been on several different cruises, from small ships carrying 200 guests to much bigger ones, sailing to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indonesia and the Balearic islands. I’ve also been on several river cruises. What I love is the variety of things you can do, from the parties and live shows on board to relaxing in the spa or just sitting and reading your book in the library or in one of the lounges. I remember once when we were in port and I just wanted to stay on the ship – mainly to keep out of the heat and avoid sunburn – I decided to go to the cinema. They were showing Chicago and I was the only person there. It was bizarre but also totally cool to have the whole cinema to myself.
What are you most looking forward to about cruising on Crown Princess?
I know that each cruise ship and line has its own feel. Ships are like hotels – you know you’re going to experience a certain level of service, but everyone is different. I’ve never cruised with Princess before, but as soon as I get on board, the first thing I’ll do is explore the ship and my stateroom, discovering all the little details here and there.
Have you been to Denmark or Norway before?
Once we were filming with a guy who had grown up in Finland, and working on a garden design that was a combination of an English garden with a Scandinavian feel. So I went to Finland for inspiration and to meet his mum. She took us to the family holiday cabin on an island – the natural landscape was beautiful.
The other time I visited Scandinavia was when we filmed 71 Degrees North. We had to take on different challenges in the snow, such as racing a lilo down an icy slope and swimming in the sea with temperatures below zero. This time I’m looking forward to visiting the area in rather more luxury, and I’m hoping to be able to witness the autumn colours.
Can you give us a taste of what you’ll be talking about on board the ship?
I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll be sharing stories from my days on TV shows and what goes on behind the scenes. There will also be a Q&A session at the end.
What will you be taking with you on your cruise?
I always like to take a journal with me when I’m on the move, as well as a digital camera. I was travelling recently and one of the young researchers said, ‘What’s that?’ She was used to taking pictures on her phone, whereas I still prefer a proper camera. It’s an excellent way to capture something and later remind yourself what you’ve seen plant-wise, and it helps to identify it later. If there is a plant label, that helps too.
For our green-fingered readers, which places in the world would you recommend for their wish-lists?
That’s a difficult question. Most countries have a botanical garden, and they’re always interesting to explore. When we sail around Scandinavia, we’ll be able to see amazing wild landscapes, alpines and plants growing in their natural habitat. When I went to Mount Kilimanjaro, I saw a plant that grows in that region called a giant senecio. There is a related plant that grows in the UK, but to see them in the wild and to be surrounded by hundreds of these plants all growing in their natural environment – the size of small trees, really – was absolutely astonishing.
Which places have always been on your own wish list?
I’ve travelled quite a bit, but the area I haven’t explored much is South America. I’ve been to Venezuela, but the rest of the continent is an area I’ve really missed out on. I’d also very much like to visit Japan to see its amazing gardens.
Do you still see the Ground Force team?
I haven’t seen them recently, but we’re still in contact. Occasionally we chat or bump into each other. Tommy [Walsh, her co-presenter] teases me that we’re getting old now, which is true, but we have loads of happy memories of filming – lots and lots of laughter.
Do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about?
More Garden Rescue – we’re about to start filming series six with the Rich brothers. We go head-to-head by coming up with a garden scheme for different homeowners, who then pick their preferred design. Of course, there are two Riches and only one of me, so I always have a get-out clause if they’re beating me!
Get on Board
‘Scandinavia’ cruise with Charlie Dimmock aboard Crown Princess, round trip from Southampton via Kristiansand, Copenhagen, Skagen and Oslo, departing 19 September 2020, from £699, princess.com