Credit: Dame Jenni Murray

Interview with Dame Jenni Murray - from the worst thing to happen to her at sea to packing tips

Author: Vicky Mayer

Published on:

Vicky Mayer speaks to Dame Jenni Murray, Godmother of Saga's Spirit of the Danube and Spirit of the Rhine.

Q: Can you remember the first ship you sailed on and where you went?

A: My very first cruise was actually with Saga and it must have been about 15 or 20 years ago.

It was for the shakedown cruise for one of its new ships where they had invited a number of celebrities to go on the first test voyage to see that everything works.

We were flown to the South of France, got on the ship there and sailed to Italy. We had a lovely day in Florence and then sailed back again.

Q: What do you love the most about cruising?

A: I love the fact that they’re so comfortable and so easy! I’ve travelled all my life and organising where to go and where to stay can be exhausting.

What’s brilliant about cruising is that you go to the dock, get onboard, have someone tell you that you’ll be looked after, where the pool is - it’s perfect.

Japan is at the top of Jenni's bucket-list. Credit: Shutterstock

Q: What’s the best (and worst) thing ever to happen to you at sea?

A: You always think that sailing across the Atlantic would be very exciting and you’ll see lots of wildlife but I’ve crossed it three times so far and I haven’t seen a single spot of wildlife!

But, the worst time crossing the Atlantic from the Caribbean happened when I was doing a talk at sea, in this big theatre in a beautiful ship, and as I started the ship began rumbling and I could see my audience slowly disappearing and looking a bit green.

Luckily I don’t suffer from seasickness so I’m standing there holding on to the lectern, trying to make my speech and the ship was going up and down, up and down – there was this sudden storm we had no warning of at all!

I ended up in the theatre, which would usually have had 300 to 400 people in, and I had an audience of five!

Q: What would be your ideal cruise and destination?

A: What I want to do eventually is go further afield. The furthest I’ve ever been is when I flew to San Francisco, sailing down the American coast, the Mexico coast, through the canal and then to a couple of the Caribbean islands.

What I would really like to see is Japan. Japan is on my bucket list – so eventually I will do it, but it won’t be a cruise where I just sit on the ship, I will go and look at beautiful blossoms and everything Japan has to offer.

Jenni is Godmother to Spirit of the Danube. Credit: Saga

Q: Who would be your ideal cruise travelling companion?

A: I learnt a very valuable lesson on my first ever cruise and that was never to go cruising with my Husband!

He is a former Naval Officer and so kept on going around the ship and saying “I’m not sure about that” and all I wanted to do was enjoy myself.

So, I decided at that point that I would cruise by myself and just make friends onboard – and he seemed perfectly happy with that. I’ve made lots of friends on cruises over the years, many of whom I’m still in contact with.

Q: Do you get recognised when you travel?

A: The beauty of being on the radio for so long is that people don’t tend to know what I look like. Since starting with the column for Saga and the weekly column for the Daily Mail, people are starting to recognise me much more.

What used to happen is that I would be talking to somebody and their face would begin to look a little bit curious and would ask if we’ve ever met before, saying how familiar my voice is. I don’t mind it though – people are always very nice.

Jenni always tries to take as little as possible when cruising. Credit: Shutterstock

Q: Are you good at packing for a cruise? What are your tips?

A: I always try and take as little as possible when I go on a cruise.

It’s easier when you’re on a Mediterranean cruise in the summer, like I did this year, because you only really need a swimming costume, T-shirt and shorts and something smarter for the evening.

What’s harder is when the temperature is going to be different and for those colder climates I recommend layers!

Q: What do you like to eat and drink at sea?

A: My favourite place to eat on a ship is the canteen with all the options and people sitting wherever they like – it’s a lovely way to meet people.

Drinking at sea is terribly dangerous – you get all these invites to join people for dinner and drinks and it’s all very easy and sociable.

My pre-dinner drink of choice is a vodka and slim-line tonic and then red wine with dinner. But, I make sure to never drink before a performance!

Southampton is a popular UK cruise port with many options for sailing. Credit: Shutterstock

Q: What’s your top travel tip?

A: If possible, my advice is to go on a cruise leaving from a British port.

Otherwise you can be taking long flights or waking up for early mornings, so it’s much easier if you can sail from somewhere closer to home like Southampton - which is one of my favourite ports as it reminds me of all the time I spent reporting from the docks for South Today.

Q: Where are you planning to travel to in 2023?

A: Apart from my cruise with Saga along the Danube in April, I don’t have any plans for next year.

But, I’m very much looking forward to sailing on the Spirit of the Danube – she is an exquisite ship!

Q: What will you be talking about on board Spirit of the Danube?

A: I tend to decide much closer to the time but at some point in the future I might talk about my 33 years on Woman’s Hour.

It was a big part of my life and I met a number of very interesting people!

Jenni Murray will be appearing on Saga’s 14-night ‘Across the Continent: Amsterdam to Budapest’ cruise aboard Spirit of the Danube, from Amsterdam to Budapest, departing 1 April 2023, from £2,879. See more at

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About Vicky Mayer

Vicky began her career working on young women’s magazines before moving on to TV and entertainment titles. Her passion, though, has always been travel, so as Editor of World of Cruising, she combines her love of magazines with the chance to shout about cruise holidays around the world.