The TV presenter had his work cut out for him, sampling fine Italian wines, watching sunsets and seeing the Northern Lights.
How do you feel about your new role?
It’s really exciting. Like anyone looking into holidays, I got googling straight away and looked at the ships and the quality, and I was keen to get started. Then I met the Princess team, who are all so lovely. We’re like-minded about what we want to do, so it was a very easy match.
What appeals to you the most about the idea of cruise holidays?
Waking up in a different place each morning. The idea of just unpacking your suitcase and leaving it there in your room, while the scenery changes around you, appeals to me enormously. There are the facilities onboard, too – the spa’s beautiful, the restaurants are amazing. Seeing people out on deck, sitting in loungers watching a movie as the sun set, as we were steaming out of Barcelona – I thought, ‘This is just crazy.’ The whole experience is so unique, you can tailor your own break to be whatever you want.
You travelled on Royal Princess recently – did you get a good tour of the ship?
The thing is with me (and anyone who knows me will tell you this), I always like to go where I’m not supposed to. If there’s a door marked ‘no entry’ or ‘staff only’, that’s where I want to go. And I’m a bit of an engineering geek, so all the behind-the-scenes stuff is fascinating to me. On Royal Princess, I got to go into the galleys and have a really good wander. What an awe-inspiring operation that is! I loved that. And obviously, the kid in me loved going up to the Captain’s bridge. It was like being on the Starship Enterprise, so I was impressed with that as well.
You are known for your love of wine – did you sample the onboard wine list?
Yes, I had a very, very close inspection of it! The wine list onboard is ridiculous, it’s so good. If you’re into Italian wines, the list of top-end options is breathtaking, and I was surprised by the value for money. And at the lower end, the attention to detail with everyday wines is super.
And what foodie experience did you enjoy the most while you were onboard?
We dined at a particularly beautiful table in the Crown Grill that was virtually in the wine cellar. So you can imagine how in my element I was. Eating a lovely meal with a nice bottle of wine, surrounded by other bottles of wine… it doesn’t actually get any better than that for me.
Continuing the theme, I believe you visited a vineyard during the cruise?
Yes, in Marseille! There is definitely a theme emerging here. We met a family who have made wine at their beautiful vineyard for generations, and then we went to lunch with them afterwards. I’ve been a wine enthusiast for many years and I’ve found that seeing the geography of a place really helps. Wherever I am, I always try to only drink the local wine.
Tell us about some of your most memorable travel experiences?
Eating fresh king crab in a little shack in Lapland and watching the Northern Lights with my wife Steph was amazing. Seeing the Maldives with Steph and our girls was stunning. We took a road trip around the UK recently and that was great, too. I drove about 2,200 miles in total. Steph drove 30 miles when we were in Islay – because I was full of whisky!
Are there many places left in the world that you would still like to see?
Hundreds! And as the years go by, you think, ‘How am I ever going to do all this?’ I’ve never been to Japan, I want to go to St Petersburg, I haven’t seen the fjords, or Canada, or Alaska. And I’ve only done a tiny part of South America… the world is massive, and my ticklist is huge!