A variety of TV cruise shows have surged onto our screens in recent years, with their popularity reflecting this travel segment's rising booking numbers and anchorage in the mainstream holiday market. But similar shows have long been on our airwaves, with some framing cruises as aspirational holidays and others as a place to find love, or telling the stories of crew and passengers in the now-popularised docusoap format.
Today, cruise TV shows lean towards showcasing the incredible variety that cruising offers, from experience-led trips in the Arctic Circle and bucket-list voyages through India to multi-city European river cruises and brand-new itineraries available in Australia and New Zealand.
Read on for seven cruise TV shows guaranteed to inspire your next cruise holiday.
Prefer the big screen? Check out 21 Cruise Movies That Will Make You Want to Sail
1. The Cruise
Aired: January 13, 1998 – December 31, 1998
Channel: BBC One
Seasons: One (+ two specials)
The original cruise docusoap, The Cruise cast seafaring holidays into UK living rooms with a regular slot on BBC One as it followed Celebrity Cruises’ Galaxy on her maiden voyage around the Caribbean.
A full cast of characters includes the young Jane McDonald, then an aspiring singer about to mark a new chapter in her entertainment career -- she had worked on ships previously, but this was her first headline booking. In a recap show, Return to… The Cruise, Jane recalls being “petrified the whole time”.
Over 12 episodes, The Cruise follows Galaxy as the ship arrives in Jamaica for Christmas, gets to know the crew as they experience the perks and challenges of working aboard a ship, and profiles big personalities among the passengers -- including the irate Ros Goodman. In a summer special, viewers get a front-row pew as Jane marries Henrik -- who was working onboard Galaxy as a ship plumber -- on the island of St Thomas.
2. Cruising with Jane McDonald
First aired: February 10, 2017
Channel: Channel 5
Watch on: My5
Now firmly established as an industry icon, Jane McDonald’s cruising career continues with the BAFTA-winning Cruising with Jane McDonald -- the first ever BAFTA for Channel 5.
The show features Jane sampling ocean and river cruises around the world, sailing everywhere from Europe’s waterways and Asia’s rivers to Australia, South America and Cuba.
Season six began broadcasting on April 19, with Jane enjoying the highlights of a Douro river cruise aboard Emerald Waterways’ 112-passenger Emerald Radiance in episode one. The itinerary takes in the picturesque city of Porto and the ornate architecture of Salamanca, Spain, checking off the baroque Mateus Palace and Lisbon en route. In later episodes Jane joins a Uniworld river cruise along India’s holy Ganges river aboard Ganges Voyager II. The sailing features the incredible sights of the country’s Golden Triangle, from the Taj Mahal to Rajasthan, Jaipur and Kolkata -- lands of Maharajas, colonial architecture and colourful festivals.