"At the Captain's Table" is Cruise Critic's original series of stories penned by Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis. Joyce knows the ins and outs of life onboard -- both as a cruise ship staff member and as the wife of Celebrity Cruises' venerable Captain Adamidis -- and offers a behind-the-scenes perspective on issues facing cruisers and the cruise industry.
We recently received the devastating news that star of TV and film Wendy Richard has passed away after a battle with cancer. Our love, compassion and prayers go out to her family and friends. We and all those who have had the honour of cruising with Wendy will miss her dearly.
We all get fluttery and just a little silly when we meet a movie star, a sports legend, a high-profile politician, a television personality or any celebrity. Fans or not, we're tongue-tied if they're next to us, larger than life.
Trust me when I say -- after having worked on a ship for years -- that staff and crewmembers are equally affected. However, we must maintain our professional attitudes. We're chastised if we are star-struck enough to offer assistance that's more than we'd give to a typical passenger. And there are definitely policies about other approaches, such as asking for autographs or requesting photos -- which we aren't allowed to do.
Still, there's something magical about having celebrities onboard.
I rounded a corner, and there he was. I was far from immune to the dark brown eyes and quizzical smile of Rock Hudson and oblivious to the fact that the captain was standing behind him. While I was melting -- which translated into flirting -- the Greek Captain was not amused. Hudson was my first celebrity.
I have sailed with many well-known personalities: President and Mrs. Carter, astronaut Col. William Anders, author James Michener, actress Barbara Rush, basketball's Wilt Chamberlain, Motown's Ashford and Simpson, Col. Oliver North and many others; and yet, in the midst of them, the one I remember most is Wendy Richard.
Wendy has starred in numerous shows and movies. She is a dedicated humanitarian and believer in people. Wendy gained stardom with shows such as "Are You Being Served?" and "EastEnders" -- British programmes, which have been elevated into contemporary classics. (Beyond the U.K., they have been memorably captured by the U.S.'s PBS station.)
We met in the martini bar on Celebrity Millennium. Her friend, John, was her escort, and my husband insisted on the formality of inviting both to the bridge and then to his table.
Before the meal was over and the roses were given to each woman, Wendy Richard MBE (an honorary title, meaning member of the British Empire) became, simply, Wendy.
She also became practically a part of our family. We know -- from her and from several stories written in her book, "Wendy Richard -- My Life Story" -- what a fine actress Wendy is. In person, she does not boast of her achievements, but she is full of comical wit. Let her tell you those stories in her own words.
Wendy's longtime companion, John, went from the martini bar to the Captain's Table to the beach, where he allowed himself to be buried in sand by my son, Haris. Our day of shopping and the bond our family formed with Wendy and John chain-linked itself into the strong family friendship we all enjoy.
Out of the mouth of a three-year-old came, "Mom, I like this lady. She is funny and nice and a pretty blonde." So said my son.
When asked, Wendy had this to say about her trips on “Celebrity” cruises:
What makes cruising the right style of holiday for you?
"Cruising is the ideal holiday for John and me because you can do as little or as much as you choose. I like to retire early and then rise early in the morning. John likes to visit the casino, stay up late, and socialise with other passengers. If there are any ports of call that do not appeal to me, I can just stay onboard and sunbathe. Golfing trips can be arranged, as well as various expeditions to suit all tastes. And, of course, there is the excellent food! Again, something for all tastes -- one could eat 24 hours every day if one so desired and then go to the well-equipped gym to work it off!
Another plus: We usually have butler service to our stateroom. It gives that extra touch of luxury to the holiday. Celebrity has, for years, been our most favourite line to cruise with, but I am afraid we won't be cruising with the line again, due to its smoking policy -- unless of course, I finally kick the habit!"
What was your most memorable, humorous experience onboard?
"I recall one occasion -- on a Bermuda cruise, standing in line for a hot dog (I have to admit I am not the most glamorous of sun worshippers), covered in sun oil, hair clipped up -- when an elderly lady turned around, saw me, and screamed at the top of her voice, "Oh my God! It's Shirley Brahms!" The whole queue turned to stare at me. I just wanted the deck to swallow me up!"
(Shirley Brahms is the beautiful, sexy, blonde character that Wendy played on "Are you Being Served?" Wendy's character extended to her family pet terrier -- Shirley Brahms -- who was one of a litter of puppies belonging to the family that owned the mansion where "Grace and Favour" episodes of the "Are You Being Served?" series was filmed. In the 1995 Book of "Celebrity Pets", Wendy describes her Shirley as a true and loyal friend: "Yes, we're both good-looking blondes with expressive eyes, good legs and sparkling personalities.")
Okay, fair is fair. What's your least favorite cruise experience?
"Our last cruise was on Royal Caribbean, and funnily enough our suite was called The Brahms Suite! And although the staterooms were excellent, the service was very poor. The lunchtime buffet was not as well organised as Celebrity's. I saw no evidence of uniformed ship's officers walking about. On Celebrity, ship's officers were very much in evidence, and crew [members] snapped to attention. It was quite obvious [that the] captain was God and [had to] be obeyed! But we are giving Royal Caribbean another try.
Are you able to enjoy a cruise without onboard paparazzi?
"It is welcoming to know there is no intrusion from press whilst onboard. I will gladly pose for pictures with passengers if asked; otherwise, like Garbo, 'I want to be alone!'"
Where are you most comfortable on the ship, and what is your favorite onboard activity?
"I enjoy watching the poolside activities like slippery pole, [during] which no one has self-control [or] poise -- they [fall] about with legs and hands flying. I adore the hunkiest man competition -- that sort of thing. We always go to play bingo; well, you can't lie in the sun all the time! Last cruise, three out of the four of us had good bingo wins!"
What change or changes would you like to see implemented onboard?
"Though Celebrity Millennium would never be considered a small ship, it's not a mega-ship either. I think it's got the perfect blend of size: enough space for many onboard options, yet not so big that you feel like part of a herd. I haven't tried a really, really big ship, but [I] don't think I would enjoy a mega-sized vessel. The free-for-all [atmosphere] at food stations for buffet lunches are bad enough as it is. On a bigger ship, I would imagine it to be your worst nightmare!"
Do you, as we do, gain weight at the end of the cruise?
"No, I don't, and it certainly is not a requirement of cruising to come home a few stones heavier than when you left. The salads and abundance of fresh fruit are sufficient to stop the hunger pangs! The salad selection is excellent. So [are] the hot roast sandwiches available at lunch. So, I tend not to gain weight whilst away."
What's your idea of a perfect cruise?
"My ideal cruise would leave from Fort Lauderdale and then cruise the Caribbean, all the way back to Southampton. Then I could shop as much as I liked, with no baggage restrictions going home!"