Q&A: Cruising with Jane McDonald

September 4, 2017
Jane McDonald

Jane McDonald became a household name in the U.K. in 1998 as the star of BBC's fly-on-the-wall documentary "The Cruise." The show turned out to be a massive hit, putting cruising firmly on the map and catapulting McDonald to national stardom.

Proof of McDonald's popularity with the British public, she has remained relevant ever since -- with sellout UK tours and six albums, plus regular theatre, radio and TV appearances (she is a former panellist of ITV's "Loose Women") under her belt.

Earlier this year she returned to her television roots with the four-part series "Cruising with Jane McDonald." Launched in February 2017, the hit Channel 5 show pulled in an average 1.8 million viewers per episode and saw the star sail on some of the world's most popular cruise ships in destinations including Alaska, Scotland, on the River Danube in Europe and the Caribbean.

With a second series underway -- having launched on Friday, 1 September, on Channel 5 -- viewers have already caught a glimpse of Jane visit ports including Tallinn and St Petersburg on a Baltic Sea cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises, with three more episodes to follow.

Cruise Critic caught up with the show's star and former cruise ship vocalist to find out more.

Q. Were you surprised at the success of the first series? Did you expect the show to be such a huge hit?

A: Thrilled is not the word. I was so pleased with the success of the show.

Q. You sampled four different types of cruising in the first series, including river, mega-ship, luxury and small ship. Do you have a favourite?

A: Every single cruise has its own magic. I shouldn't really have favourites but let me say, I love Scotland!

Q. How would you say cruising has evolved since you first started out your career?

A: Cruising is a lot younger now -- maybe that's because I’m a lot older! [Cruise ships are] also very high tech now. 

Q. Where is your favourite destination and why?

A: Scotland because there’s no airport [involved]. 

Q. What was your highlight from filming the second series?

A: The Viking ship (Viking Sky) was exceptional. That is the one ship I put on five pounds! 

Q. Do you have a message to give to people who are considering a cruise, but can't quite decide?

A: My message to people who can’t decide is go to a cruise travel agent. They really know what they’re talking about.

Q. Is it nice to see so many different types of people on the ships – i.e. young people, families etc?

A: Yes, it is lovely to see so many different age groups on ships now. Some ships, especially the bigger ships, party all night if you want to!

Q. In terms of developments in entertainment, how do you feel that has come on since you were a cruise ship singer?

A: A lot of ships now have West End shows onboard, with West End stars. What more could you want?

Q. Which other ships will you be sailing on in the new series?

A: Viking Sky, Avalon Poetry II, Celestyal Crystal and MSC Meraviglia.

Q. When you're considering a cruise holiday, what's more important to you -- the ship or the destination? 

A: In the past it has always been the ship, but now, travelling on all these different cruises, I am seeing places I could have only dreamed of.

Q. If you could experience any cruise ship, in any destination in the world, which ship would you pick and where would you sail?

A: I would sail anywhere. There is a new one [Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Explorer], which is apparently the best ship in the world.

Q. How did you find Alaska while filming the first series? Did the destination meet your expectations? 

A: The scenery was epic. Just don’t forget your vest!

Q. How would you spend your ideal sea day on a ship?

A: Probably [with] a healthy breakfast, spa, sunbathing, Pina Colada, a nice dinner and then the show!

Q. What are your top cruise packing tips? 

A: Always use a rail and pack in colours. Black and white or brown and cream -- never mix! Nude-coloured shoes will match everything. Always put nude underwear under white [outfits].

Q: What plans do you have coming up, any other tours or shows in the pipeline?

A: I have a new entertainment show coming out called "Jane and Friends" on Channel 5. I also have a 20th anniversary tour next year which I am busy producing right now, as well as a new album coming out called "Hold The Covers Back."

The second series of "Cruising with Jane McDonald" launches on Friday, 1 September, at 9 p.m. on Channel 5. Will you be tuning in? Let us know what you think of the show in the comments below.