Ok, so first things first. Jeremy Clark didn’t fall overboard after all. He did, though, dance all night every night (almost), have everyone in stitches and host a rip-roaring High Life vs Low Life pub quiz. He even wore a fez with unexpected aplomb.
Taki forwent the delights of his own High Life to join ours. He was exceedingly generous to his dining companions with his wine choices and had us enthralled with his insider’s tales of Spectator days gone by and libel actions lost (mainly) and won (occasionally). And as for Martin Vander Weyer, well, he simply charmed the pants off everyone, not only with his self-deprecating wit and general badinage but also with his moving and belly-laugh-making poetry, his accomplished painting, his mastery of his MC duties and – best of all – his Negroni-fueled, twinkled-toed jigs of delight at the Spectator charity auction.
The Speccie readers who joined us were both a dream and a hoot. We had folk from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and France as well as the UK. There isn’t space to mention them all, but ex-headmistress Fanny enchanted and touched us with her jaw-dropping life story; Malcolm played the ukulele with Formby-esque skills; Woody could not be prised from the dance floor and if there’s a more hilarious double act than the two Aussies, Andrew and Rob, friends for forty years, pray let me know.
Anyone who had the kindness to read my pre-cruise ‘Notes On…’ will recall that I feared hangovers of Wagnerian proportions, appalling liver damage and a socking great bar bill. Well I was bang on the money re the first; I’m being tested for the second and as for the third, I managed to run up US$843 in the ship’s various watering holes in just seven days. Sigh.
We boarded Cunard’s Queen Victoria in Venice and ended up in Athens a week later, stopping off in Korcula in Croatia, Heraklion, Rhodes and Ephesus. I would hate you to think it was all browsing and sluicing though. We had fascinating Spectator-readers-only shore excursions; a couple of readers went off and sketched in the Aegean sun, others joined the bridge club and a few were even spotted in the ship’s very fine library. Some fools even frequented the ship’s gym. We had talks from Martin and Taki as well as a whisky tasting and a wine tasting (spittoons commendably un-used on both occasions).
And what united us all was the dear old Spectator. None of the readers knew each other but within moments of the first glass of Delamotte Champagne they were chatting away merrily.
“That Rod Liddle writes exactly what I think but don’t have the nerve to say.”
“I wish Melissa Kite was here.”
“I know she’s bonkers, but isn’t Deborah Ross great?”
“There’s so much I want to ask ‘Dear Mary’.”
“How do you read the Speccie – from the front or from the back?”
“I really miss Frank Keating.”
We’re already planning another jaunt for next year. Maybe the Med, maybe New York, maybe even South Africa. To make suggestions or comments as to routes or the Spectator folk you’d like to see on board, or simply to register your interest in the next Spectator trip, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In any event, start polishing your drinking boots now.