I was so happy on my last cruise that I waved at cyclists. Yes, I was that laid-back as we pootled through the waterways of Holland and I lolled on my balcony while the Dutch countryside rolled by.
Look, there’s a lady on a bike! I waved and smiled and she waved and smiled right back. Aren’t the Dutch nice? There’s a man cycling on the towpath. Hello! (I waved). This might not sound remarkable, but it is. I despise cyclists and my London hand gestures towards them aren’t at all friendly. Neither is my, “Why don’t you ride on the road, you ******! Get off the pavement!”
But cruising has a powerful sedative effect because there’s nothing to do except be idle, preferably with a gin and tonic by one hand and a ziggurat of unread books by the other. And cruising is perfect if, like me, you don’t like going on holiday.
Cruising is like staying at home while being somewhere else. Of course, invariably you must first run the gauntlet of the petty horrors and humiliations that make up the modern “airport experience” – those terrible, overlit, overheated places where strangers can legally demand your shoes.
But once you’ve reached your departure destination, you’re on-board ship and your clothes are neatly stored in your dinky wardrobe, that’s it. You can stay put. Your only decisions are, “What shall I wear for the welcome drinks?” and, “If I take all of the free pens in my cabin right now, will I get any more?” I love free pens.
Radio Times Travel offer: Radio Times Reader Cruise, 8 nights departing 7 May 2017
Once we’re off, I hardly ever bother with excursions. When I do mince down the gangplank onto dry land, I don’t hang around for long. I want to be back on board where it’s nice, where I know everyone and there are free biscuits.
I went on a Radio Times Rhine river cruise (see pages 4 and 5 for details of the next one) with some delightful RT readers earlier this year and left our boat once. But only because I wanted to speak German to a German person, so I went to a shop, bought postcards, spoke what turned out to be my tarnished O-level German to a German, then returned to my cabin. It was raining – why would I want to hang around?
TV presenter John Sergeant and Alison Graham (far right) on the inaugural Radio Times cruise
My cruising experiences have all been press trips on big, sturdy vessels where, whatever the conditions, you feel barely a bump. This is important to me, after a hellish fortnight in the Caribbean about 20 years ago. This was a cheap holiday for a pal and me on an ancient boat. We caught the backwash of a hurricane and I was seasick for a week.
The misery was pitiless. My only respite was to sit on deck in the open air as the boat swooped through towering waves and I was covered in seawater and pouring rain. The clearly anxious crew thought I was deranged. But at least I wasn’t throwing up.
If you pick the right boat, cruising is a delight. You will, of course, find people who are sniffy about it, but so what. Leave them to backpack in the Himalayas or go on yogurt-making courses in Kazakhstan. You can sit in a cruise-ship lounge and stare at the lunch buffet. There is always food on cruises, at all times.
Radio Times Travel offer
Radio Times Reader Cruise, 8 nights departing 7 May 2017. Following a successful inaugural sailing in 2016 we are delighted to announce our 2017 cruise which again offers a combination of a relaxing holiday, a chance to meet some TV heroes and fun activities and quizzes. Read more and book.