Apr 162022
 

One of the perks – and bug-bears – of writing books is having to talk about them – and with two books out by different publishers last month it seemed a good time to get in some practice – all at sea!

The Regent Seven Seas announced a Trans-Atlantic crossing for their new(ish) ship Splendor, sailing from Miami to Barcelona via Bermuda and The Azores. They kindly asked me to come and join them as guest speaker. It really is an exceptional way to travel and it has to be said, Regent do know how to treat their ‘Enrichment Speakers’ well. Not  for me some tiny cabin down by the waterline, or an inside cabin with no chance to see the sun for a fortnight. We (My Dear Lady Wife) and I got a fabulous spacious cabin complete with a sitting-out area, and a private balcony. Marble shower room in place of the normal pre-formed plastic shell which you get with some cruise-lines. And the food!Amazing. I have never eaten so much lobster and rib-eye steak in my life. Everything is free on board – the food, the drink, the excursions – the lot. Talk about luxury! And the space is amazing – I am used to working on cruise ships holding  three or even four thousand people – this just has 375 cabins in total, so enough for 750 passengers in all. In practice we have a mere 580 passengers on board, which means that there is a huge amount of space for everyone. No queuing for dinner, no having to rush to get a seat for the theatre, no getting squashed in the elevator with a dozen people who have never heard of social distancing…

Luxury like this comes at a price – and in my case the price was having to give talks. Rather a lot of them in fact. I planned for eight, fully expecting to have this halved if there was a second speaker on board. There was indeed a second speaker but for trans-Atlantic cruises there has to be plenty of variety so we were each asked to give  the full eight talks. In my case they wanted a ninth because we left Bermuda at 15.00 hours and the Cruise Director (a super guy) decided this counted as a sea-day so my spare came in useful…

Then we had to drop the Azores (rough seas) so then  the aforementioned  lovely Cruise Director  asked if I could fit in a tenth. Digging in the archives of past talks meant I had one I could readily use – Will the Real Captain Bligh Stand Up? (asking if Bligh has had a bad press in film portrayals, dealing with the Mutiny on the Bounty). Somehow I managed to whitewash the old scoundrel, which was rather fun to do. That made it ten talks in ten consecutive days – quite tiring but utterly satisfying and the audiences were lovely. Three quarters were from America  so I wasn’t too sure how Royal Shenanigans of the 18th Century would go down – it  went down well – as did the History of Gin, the Story of the Tea Trade and my own favourite the Journal of a Georgian Gentleman based on the diaries of Richard Hall. I also snuck in a couple of  biographies – one of William Dampier (explorer, scientist, navigator – and pirate) and also Philip Astley (founder of the modern circus). I had also prepared a talk specifically about the waters we were passing through as we left Miami – the story of the sinking of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet.

We have had a ball – now the sea days are behind us and we can just revel in the luxury of a rather splendid cruise ship as we sail from Malaga to Cartegena  and on to the Balearics. It’s a tough life but someone has to do it!