We’ve made no secret of our love of Jane McDonald here at HuffPost UK, and her documentary ‘Cruising With Jane McDonald’ proved to be one of our favourite shows of the year, when it sailed onto our screens in February.
Much like ‘The Cruise’ - the BBC fly-on-the-wall series that Jane first found fame on nearly 20 years ago - it soon became a cult hit, and as a result, Channel 5 handed her another set of glamorous holidays to go on with a second series.
For those who missed out on the last run (shame on you), the show basically follows the former ‘Loose Women’ star’s adventures as she enjoys a different type of cruise each week.
And while there’s a lot of Jane living her best goddamn life as she quaffs on champagne and gets over excited about Hermes toiletries in her cabin bathroom, it also serves as an insightful travel documentary, as she samples the delights of the (sometimes unlikely) places she stops off at en-route.
Oh, and then there’s also the musical number she treats us to at the end of each episode. Trust us when we say they really are quite something.
Ahead of the new series, which launches on 1 September, we called our Jane up for a natter on all things ‘Cruising’...
The first series was such a massive success - why do you think people enjoyed it so much?
People just like to go on their holidays and people like to see different destinations and ships, and hopefully they liked my interpretation of having a holiday.
I don’t know what the success is really, I just go on and have a bit of a laugh! I make it up as I go, because as you can see, there is nothing professional about this show!
Did Channel 5 come to you with the series, or did you go to them?
I went in for a meeting and [Channel 5 boss] Ben Frow asked if I fancied going back on the cruises. So I was like, ‘oh god, yeah!’. But I wanted it to be just me on me holidays and for people to see the excitement of cruising, because I really do get excited, as you may have noticed.
I get excited if I have fluffy towels and an extra toilet roll and a washing line in my bathroom - I love all of that. I can’t hide that, and I think that’s what comes across.
What can you tell us about the cruises in the new series?
Oh heck, I’ve done the Baltic on the most amazing Viking ocean liner ever - and of course there’s some fancy dress involved. Anything for a costume change and I’m there.
We set off in Copenhagen, so there’s a little nod to ‘The Killing’ in there, which is hilarious. Honestly, this show is just like all my outtakes - I’m sure that’s what they do! We then go off to Helsinki, Amsterdam and end up in Stockholm at the Abba museum. It was like I’d died and gone to heaven.
This sounds beyond camp…
I don’t even know I’m camp! I’ve just always been like I am. But you’re not the first to say that, so I think I must have a bit of the campness about me.
Your friend Sue became a bit of a cult figure in the last series - are we going to see more of her this time around?
She’s still there with me in the background, but I don’t know if she’s made the cut or not. She probably has, but she goes with me everywhere because she does me hair - I’m rubbish at hair - but she’s really good at putting the old rollers in and doing a bit of backcombing.
She’s right good, and a right good drinker too, so we have a bit of a pub crawl on one of them. Twenty bars on a ship and I fell off the wagon that night. I was in a very dark place the next day. I don’t think I even got up for the shoot. I thought I could handle my drink, but they were going, ‘no, you can’t. You were talking such rubbish at the end’ - well that’s no different, is it really? I needed to get off and have a holiday after that one. I was exhausted.
The two of you together sound like trouble…
Oh yes, without a doubt. It’s bad enough on the tour bus, so you can imagine it on a cruise ship.
The musical numbers in the last series were iconic - how are you going to top them?
Oh you just wait! I can’t wait for you to see these next ones. I’m sure now they’re just doing it as a challenge for me, but bring it on, that’s what I say. There’s some amazing numbers coming up.
Can you give us any hints?
I can’t because that’s what everybody waits for at the end now. I was following Twitter and I had no idea that it was going to be the big thing that everybody was talking about. I’m really shocked at that reaction, but obviously thrilled.
Everyone has a dream dinner party line-up, but who would be in your dream celebrity cruise party?
Paul O’Grady, Alan Carr - he’s a right laugh, in’t he? Just people who are really happy and come across as having a really good time. I can’t be doing with miserable folk. Oh, and Sarah Millican and Adele - I wouldn’t mind a go on karaoke with her. Ooohh yes, put me down for that.
You’ve been on a fair amount of cruises now - what has been your biggest holiday nightmare?
I don’t have holiday nightmares, but the worst part about holidays is airports for me. It’s the travelling to it that’s the pain really. But if there’s a problem, I just sort it out and get on with it. What’s the point of letting it ruin your holiday? It’s a waste of time and a waste of life otherwise. Just open that champagne and have a ball. I’ve always got a drink in my hand, have you noticed that?
If you had to choose between cruising or singing for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Singing, without a doubt. I get such joy from it - it’s good for the soul. I’ve got a massive year this year with my new album coming out with all the songs written by me. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done - the pinnacle of my career. And then to have 20 years in the business with my tour next year, it’s just unbelievable. Where has that gone?!
Cruise ship singers get a bit of a bad rep on shows like ‘The X Factor’ - does it make you angry when people use it as a criticism?
No, because I really don’t care what they say. I’ve had a tremendous career and I get more phone calls from people who’ve been on ‘X Factor’ asking how they get on the ships. The ships are a very lucrative job for any singer and I would advise any singer to go and work on them and try it for a while. If you are not good enough, you will not get on.
I would say to people who keep criticising to go on and have a look and some of the people who are on there. There’s West End shows, massive productions, and if you don’t cut the mustard, you are sacked. So, I just smile very sweetly when that’s said, and think, well I haven’t done bad for an old cruise ship singer, have I really?
We’ve seen you pop up on ‘Loose Women’ a few times since you left - do you miss it?
Do you know I had the best time on ‘Loose Women’ and I’m very, very fond of the show still. I know everybody who’s on it and it’s a great open door to go back if I need to. Everybody on there is lovely and I’ve got a great relationship with them - the new ones and the old ones. It’s been a big part of my life over the years, so it’s nice I can nip back. I do miss everybody on it, but we’re all on What’sApp, so I know what everybody is up to.
Maybe you could take your old ‘Loose Women’ pals on a cruise in the next series…
That would be hilarious but you wouldn’t be able to show it on air - that would just be too wild. It would never make it past the censor.
You’ve met a lot of stars over the years - what’s your best showbiz tale?
Getting dressed up with Josh Groban. That was fun. He’s a huge star, and I just said, ‘I don’t suppose you’ll do a duet at the end’, and he was up for it! I expected him to say I had to speak to his people, but he got dressed up as Sonny and me as Cher and we had the best time ever.
‘Cruising With Jane McDonald’ returns on Friday 1 September at 9pm on Channel 5.