Half the fun is getting there

Fred Pearce and Diana Nisbet on a visit to Norway with Queen Victoria in 2018.

GEMMA NISBET talks to her mum about shipboard holidays 

Ask retired teacher and keen cruise traveller Diana Nisbet about her favourite place she’s visited on a ship, and she finds it impossible to choose just one.

Top of the list is Barcelona — but Sardinia (“absolutely beautiful”) and Santiago de Compostela (“really interesting”) are also up there. Montserrat, Portofino and Sorrento get a mention, as do the ancient sites at Rhodes, Pompeii and Ephesus.

Then there’s Istanbul, the Orkneys, and the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey and Sark...

Still, for Diana — better known to me as Mum — exploring “fantastic places” such as these is only part of the appeal of cruising.

She and partner Fred Pearce have taken to life at sea with enthusiasm since their first cruise in 2014, finding it less regimented and more relaxed than coach touring. 

“Plus when you’re on a ship, you’ve got the same room every night, so you put your clothes away and you’re set,” Diana says.

The couple’s first voyage was aboard Queen Victoria — the beginning of a particular fondness for the Cunard line.

“Their level of professionalism is really, really high,” Diana says. Embarkation is just smooth as, and you get in and you’ve got this lovely cabin and on the table there’s a half bottle of champagne in a bucket.

“It feels very welcoming and comfortable.”

Having cruised aboard all of Cunard’s “three queens” — Victoria, Elizabeth and Mary 2 — they’ve found that everything from the traditional decor to the demographic of the other passengers suits them. 

“One thing we were worried about was the formality of having a dress-up dinner every second night but actually we’ve got to like it,” Diana says. “You really feel like you’ve had a special evening out.”

Favourite journeys have included a transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2, during which the pair joined the ship’s choir. “We all sang barbershop and sea shanties and things, and we absolutely loved it.”

Indeed, cruising has provided ample opportunities to pursue their interests, whether it’s tasting the various ales served in Cunard’s on-board pub (a favourite for Fred), or attending film screenings hosted by David Stratton on a special Mediterranean voyage aboard Celebrity Equinox in 2015 (very much Diana’s idea of fun). 

The couple’s next voyage will see them sailing Scandinavia and the Baltics, inspired by a cruise Diana took with me aboard Viking Orion last year. 

“The whole time I was on that ship I thought ‘What a shame Fred isn’t here, he’d love it’,” she says. “So we’re doing a Viking cruise this year.” 

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