Fake tans, tight trousers, enough sequins to outshine a disco ball and celebrity tears and tantrums. It can only mean one thing – Strictly Come Dancing.
On the eve of the new series (it starts tomorrow evening on BBC 1), we bring you a personal view of what it’s like to take part in the show – at sea.
I have always had a soft spot for Strictly and it doesn’t take much for me to be persuaded into a sequinned gown, so when P&O invited me onboard one of their Strictly cruises, well it didn’t take long for me to say yes!
Over a welcome drink we study the packed programme covering everything from dance classes, Q&A sessions, the chance to be snapped alongside judge Craig Revel Horwood, a Strictly-style competition for the truly brave and shows by professional dancers Ola and James Jordan and Kristina Rihanoff (famously partnered with John Sargent) and Robin Windsor. Well, to be fair it seems to be the women who pay the most interest while I spot a few men hiding behind newspapers.
Providing a tantalising taste of what’s to come, Oriana’s corridors are lined with mannequins dressed in gorgeous and tiny costumes from the show.
I plot the course of my days around talks by the costume designers (some dresses take four days to make and incorporate 7,000 hand-sewn sequins), concerts with singers from the show, a talk by Edwina Currie – on board in dual guise as former MP and Strictly contestant – the Q&A stints with the stars and shows. I decide to give dance classes a miss but stop by to watch resident on board teachers Simon and Julie as they instil the basics of the tango. In true Strictly style there are a few domestics on the dance floor as couples try to perfect the tricky routine.
The audience with Craig doesn’t disappoint as he candidly shares details of his early life and spills the beans on Strictly gossip, and what it’s like to be a judge on a cruise rather than in the TV studio.
“I’ve been with the show since the beginning and when it first started they thought it would be terrible and come off after three weeks,” he admits. “But it took off and I think it’s fantastic that it’s introduced so many people to dancing.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I first went on a cruise as a guest, after all there’s no escape is there ‘dah-ling’? But people are lovely and when we’re on board we’re meeting our audience and it’s important to listen to them. And hopefully they get to know me and see I’m not a terrible person!
“Some have gripes about the music that’s used for the routines and everyone is entitled to their opinion. At the end of the day everyone can put one foot in front of the other and dance and on a cruise you can really see people progress. Of course the comfort of the class is one thing and coming up on stage to be judged is another.”
He proves his point as three couples take to the floor that night in the mock Strictly competition. Kristina and Robin offer polite constructive comments as Craig makes pithy references to dance ‘di-sah-sters’ and on asking an elderly couple how long they’ve been dancing – which adds up to three figures – says it is well over 100 years “wasted”. The feisty pensioner bites back saying it’s been worth every minute and ends up having the last laugh.
P&O runs seven Strictly Come Dancing cruises a year which start from £1,169 per person on a full board basis.
My verdict? Definitely top marks and to borrow an adjective from Craig, well possibly three given his delivery of the syllables as trio of separate words, it was fab-u-LOUS!
We have also selected the winner of our caption competition, Valerie Falconer, for this wonderful caption:
“But the passengers just felt like ships that paso noble in the night.”
Valerie, if you’d like to contact us at email@example.com we will get a prize out to you. Many thanks to everyone who took part.
Get all the details on P&O’s planned ship refurbishments