Viking Venus Godmother Anne Diamond on 'addictive' cruises & top sailing tips
Viking Cruises is officially welcoming its new ship Viking Venus with a christening on Monday 17 and British journalist Anne Diamond will be its Godmother.
Anne Diamond - who previously presented Good Morning Britain - has enjoyed cruise holidays for almost two decades.
Here she talks to World of Cruising's Vicky Mayer about her love of cruises and her words of wisdom to any new travellers.
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When did you first start cruising?
It was nearly twenty years ago! I was a single mum to four growing boys and I wasn’t sure this would be the right sort of holiday – but frankly, I was attracted to the idea of round the clock food and lots of exciting excursions which we could all do together but all organised by someone else!
The only thing I was worried about was the perpetual first-time cruiser’s qualm – that you’ll find yourself marooned on a floating hotel with a load of strangers whose company you would never normally seek.
My boys, ranging then from about four to 13, were at once impressed by the ship and the sheer novelty of sailing. They headed almost straightaway to the buffet restaurant and never stopped eating from that point on.
Pretty soon my youngest made himself indispensable going up and down in the lift with plates full of pizza, biscuits and treats for his older brothers.
I meanwhile, for the first time in years, was able to relax, not having to think about preparing the next meal or wonder how to keep the boys occupied – there was always something for them to do. For a single mum, it was sheer bliss.
Can you remember the ship you sailed on and where you went?
It was a Princess Cruises ship – the Golden Princess, and we went on a cruise around the Caribbean – St Lucia, St Thomas, Barbados etc. We still have a giant plush turtle upstairs called Charlotte Amelie and a dolphin called Lucia. My boys immediately recall everything about that holiday!
What do you love the most about cruising?
There’s no doubt – I love the luxury of a beautiful stateroom, the feeling of being pampered and having a steward to whom nothing seems too much trouble, and the wonderful food!
But mostly I adore waking up nearly every morning somewhere different – in time to have a cup of tea on my balcony and see the ship pulling into a new dock and wondering “what shall I do today?”
What would be your ideal cruise?
But my ideal cruise is to go anywhere new – and explore. I think that’s why cruising appeals so much to curious minds – because nowadays you can go and explore almost anywhere in the world – but do it in luxury. To me, that’s the perfect combination.
Viking, for instance, will soon be starting their expedition cruises, which will go to Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Great Lakes on new purpose-built expedition ships, and you will be able to explore with experts. You’re never too old to learn…
Who would be your ideal cruise travelling companion?
So far, we have had a wonderful time and we are busy planning the next. We tend to like the same things – food, drink, traipsing around museums and historic buildings, shopping and then lazing by the pool with a cocktail. So that’s what I would recommend, always go on a cruise with like-minded people!
When did you first start working with Viking?
Well, I don’t call it work – it’s been an adventure and one that started quite accidentally. When the pandemic hit us all, and Viking was the first company to stop sailing, I rang up my friend Karine Hagen and simply said “if there’s anything I can do…” Coincidentally, Karine was thinking of creating an online TV channel to keep a sense of community going for staff and loyal guests – and that’s how I found myself doing my special Thursday interviews!
And it has been a joy – every week talking to all sorts of fascinating people from NASA astronauts to European Royalty, from polar explorers to famous authors.
How many Viking cruises have you been on and where to?
I have almost lost count! Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and a wonderful, dreamy cruise in Portugal spring to mind.
But when my sister Sue, and I were bobbing in the sea in Barbados, we got talking to several others we recognised from the ship – and one gentleman from America said proudly that this was his 11th Viking cruise, and then another couple from Britain outdid them, and said they were on their 15th! We couldn’t quite believe it - but now we do….because at the end of your cruise, as you are disembarking, you start planning your next – even before you have actually left the ship.
In fact, many people in the line to disembark are already telling their fellow passengers exactly when and where they’re going next. I think you get a little bit addicted!
What do you prefer – ocean or river cruising?
Both are equally wonderful. Ocean cruising is bigger and bolder – you can have days at sea where you see no land at all – and then arrive at a totally different country – and that is always exciting.
But river cruising gives you something you cannot get on an ocean liner – and that is the ability to literally sail through towns and cities – sometimes you can almost peer into people’s houses as you cruise past. You can sit on your balcony and feel that you could just reach out and touch the amazing vineyards escalating above you. It’s a much more intimate experience – really quite unique. I’d heartily recommend both.
What’s it like to be Godmother of Viking Venus?
It is the most incredible honour and an awesome privilege. Other than that, I don’t really know, except that my family and I are feeling a bit over-excited.
I just wish, so much, that my mother was still with us – sadly she died a couple of years ago. But she was a very, very keen cruiser, and had about three huge wardrobes in her house, crammed full with cruise clothes.
She and her partner would plan about three cruises a year – and they were always talking about the penguins they’d seen near the Falklands or the great old colonial houses of the New York coastline. So she would be hugely proud of me becoming Viking Venus’ Godmother.
Do you get recognised when you cruise?
A little – but I have invested in a lot of big sunglasses and floppy sunhats. Frankly, though, it has never been a problem because I have found that other passengers are very nice, respectful people and they really just want to concentrate on their own holiday – and don’t intrude.
What would you tell someone who has never cruised before?
That’s simple! Go for it! You will love it. Just pick the right cruise for you. Choose the right companion, and then find a cruise itinerary that suits the sort of things you like to do – and the appropriate weather. I like to laze on a beach – but not every day. Neither would I welcome walking miles every day either.
Make sure you find the right mix. Most cruises pride themselves on being able to offer all kinds of holiday. And to be honest, half the fun of cruising is spending hours on the computer looking at websites, or leafing through brochures, and anticipating what a brilliant holiday you are going to have
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What do you pack to take on a cruise with you?
Always too much – even though every time, I deliberately take fewer and fewer things. Just one posh outfit, the rest tops and shorts that you can layer – and a variety of shoes. Make sure you always take at least one pair of good walking shoes that you have already broken in.
But I always take more than I wear – and then I buy stuff too so it’s actually a good idea to take an empty zip-up holdall so that you’ve got something in which to stuff the extra you cannot cram into the suitcase on your homeward journey. And my sister packs all of that too – plus PG Tips!
What do you like to eat on a cruise?
Anything and everything. I love a breakfast buffet – it sets you up for the day! But in Viking, as with many cruise ships, there are so many different foodie places and restaurants that you can choose to dine al fresco or make an event of it.
They say you put on a pound in weight for every day you are on a cruise – and that makes me start my whole day in the gym. Thirty minutes of circuit training – or just jogging around the deck – makes me feel virtuous and gives me permission to enjoy eating on board. After all, that really is one of the luxuries.
Where are you planning on travelling first when the Covid crisis is over?
Well, the Viking Venus is kicking off what Viking call their ‘Welcome Back’ voyages by sailing around “England’s Scenic Shores” – so my first trip will not be far from home! But believe me, as soon as possible, I will choose the Caribbean or the Med.
However, it would be lovely to see where the Viking Venus is going to go in the future and perhaps go on a “Viking Shores and Fjords” adventure – since over the last year, I have learned a lot about Norway and the ancient Vikings – and even interviewed one! He’s Geir Magne Rovik, an expert in Viking shipbuilding and culture – and is often seen wielding his axe at Viking ship naming ceremonies – so I shall probably be seeing him again very soon.
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