A dance couple practising their moves
Stop! In the name of love. Before you break my heart.’ Dancing to the soundtrack of their youth, the carefree baby-boomers around the Britannia Lounge know all the lyrics to the Motown numbers being belted out by singers and their ten-piece band.
But there’s no dancing around handbags here or worries about finding a taxi home either, because this audience is on board a Saga cruise ship.
With the Motown set over by 11pm, some people head for bed, but the more doughty among the passengers stay for Rocking All Over The World, with songs by The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Status Quo.
Dancing has always been a feature of Saga cruises, with ballroom dancing sessions and lessons in the afternoons on longer voyages. And ballroom dancing to live music is one of the traditions that Spirit of Discovery, the first ship built specially for Saga, has kept, while creating a truly modern, boutique-hotel look to the lounges, bars and cabins.
So on the first night of a Dance To France-themed autumn mini-cruise, I found myself being gently steered around the dancefloor, in what probably did not pass for a waltz, by Patrick, one of the four hosts on board to partner single ladies and gentlemen.
Having graciously returned me to my seat, Patrick took the hand of another solo passenger, a true dancer in a lovely cocktail dress. I ordered another gin and tonic and watched them do a nimble foxtrot that to my eyes would have impressed the judges on Strictly Come Dancing.
A cruise on Spirit of Discovery is a great opportunity to let your hair down, dancing to all sorts of genres of music, dining in elegant restaurants and drinking cocktails in smart bars that wouldn’t look out of place in London or Barcelona.
The Club by Jools, created with Jools Holland, the pianist and bandleader who will be performing on a handful of cruises in 2020, has a wonderfully retro feel. It’s like a 1950s supper club with live music.
Coast To Coast is a contemporary fish restaurant and East To West serves Asian-fusion cuisine.
Opulent: The beautiful interior of Saga’s Spirit of Discovery
A great bonus for me, and a rarity on 21st Century ships, is the incredibly well-stocked library. There are plenty of cosy corners in which to curl up with a book. Meanwhile, the spa has a hydrotherapy pool, steam room and sauna, ideal for warming up after a wet afternoon ashore, and tip-top treatments such as the poultice-powered muscle-release massage on a warm bed of quartz crystals – perfect preparation for dancing until the small hours.
FIVE MORE CRUISES FOR DANCE LOVERS
Strictly Come Dancing
Could you fare as well as the celebrities on Strictly? One of next year’s Strictly-themed cruises provides the perfect opportunity to try out your routines on acid-tongued judge Craig Revel Horwood. Two yet-to-be-named, professional dancers from the TV show will be on board to give performances, host private dinners, be in your selfies and sign autographs. Join Craig on a Baltic summer cruise aboard Azura that includes calls in Helsinki.
Book it: A Strictly Come Dancing no-fly cruise aboard Azura departs Southampton for 14 nights on July 12, 2020. Fares start at £1,399pp, pocruises.com.
Dance Down The Danube
Vienna will be in a whirl when Dame Darcey Bussell hosts an evening of Strauss, Mozart, ballet and waltzes at the opulent Palais Liechtenstein. Former Royal Ballet principal dancer and Strictly judge Darcey will also host drinks in Budapest and talk about her career. And there will be a waltz lesson as the ship meanders through the scenic Wachau Valley.
Book it: Dance Down The Danube departs on April 8, 2020, and costs from £2,195pp all-inclusive, scenic.co.uk.
Rumba Down The Rhine
Emerald Sun sails for seven nights from Basel to Amsterdam, via Mannheim (above), on April 4, 2020
Strictly Come Dancing champion Pasha Kovalev is making a special appearance on a Rumba Down The Rhine trip. The snake-hipped professional from Russia will give a masterclass, pose for selfies at a drinks reception, and spill the beans about his life in dance at a Q&A on board. Ashore, you’ll be guests of honour at a private dance performance at the imposing Electoral Palace in Koblenz. Get fit for twirls around the dancefloor by swimming in the star-ship’s indoor pool.
Book it: Emerald Sun sails for seven nights from Basel to Amsterdam, via Mannheim, on April 4, 2020. Fares start at £1,720pp, including, drinks, excursions, tips and flights from a choice of UK airports or rail travel via Eurostar, emeraldwaterways.co.uk.
Big Band Ball
Pack your sparkliest outfits because it’s impossible to be overdressed on the majestic Queen Victoria. And a short cruise for a Big Band Ball is the perfect way to experience the glamour and grandeur of the Queens Room ballroom without breaking the bank. Move to tunes by Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington performed by a swinging 17-piece orchestra in the biggest ballroom at sea.
Book it: The four-night Big Band Ball cruise aboard Queen Victoria sails round-trip from Southampton on August 19, 2020, with calls at Rotterdam and Zeebrugge (the port for Bruges). Fares start at £569pp, cunard.com.
Big Band And Ballroom Dance
Five leisurely days at sea offer plenty of opportunities to practise your steps on a Big Band And Ballroom Dance cruise aboard Crystal Serenity. Join lessons with expert instructors by day and rumba the nights away to numbers by the renowned Glen Miller Orchestra. Four ambassador hosts will be on board to lead singletons (and those whose companions have two left feet) around the dancefloor.
Book it: Crystal Serenity sails for 13 nights from Barcelona to Quebec on August 30, 2020. The trip costs from £3,808pp and includes all drinks and dance activities, but not flights, crystalcruises.co.uk.
Caroline Hendrie was a guest of Saga. Jools Holland will perform on the 14-night Sounds Of Spain cruise on Spirit of Discovery (travel.saga.co.uk/cruise). The round-trip leaves Southampton on March 15, 2020, and calls at Almeria, Ceuta, Valencia, Ibiza and Vigo. From £3,533pp, with chauffeur service (within 250 miles of Southampton), drinks and tips.