The Oldie was launched by former Private Eye editor Richard Ingrams in 1992 as "an antidote to youth culture" as well as a forum for good writing, concepts no doubt close to the hearts of many Swan Hellenic's mature and well-travelled passengers. The magazine has gone on to be an enduring success, attracting many of Britain's top writers and cartoonists.
So what's the connection between a cruise line that's all about enrichment and a tongue-in-cheek magazine? A like-minded audience and access to a set of prestigious guest speakers, according to Colin Stone, managing director of Swan Hellenic.
"Our association with the Oldie of the Year Awards enables us to meet with some interesting guest speakers," Stone tells us, "providing our passengers with some of the most prestigious names in broadcasting, writing and entertainment, some of whom have travelled with us for many years ... It always promises to be a fun event with some fantastic personalities in attendance."
Indeed, Richard Ingrams himself and The Oldie's travel editor, Rosie Boycott, have both travelled on Swan Hellenic's Minerva as guest speakers -- and many of the big names at the ceremony at Simpsons on the Strand on January 26 are no strangers to life at sea. Awards presenter Sir Terry Wogan (pictured) has done guest spots on Cunard's Queen Victoria, while broadcaster Libby Purves, who sits on the judging panel, is a fan of Spirit of Adventure.
To strengthen the tie and continue the literary theme, Swan Hellenic is running a writing workshop in association with The Oldie on board Minerva's "Venetian Republic" cruise on September 9, 2010, hosted by authors Jeremy Lewis, Paul Bailey and Sara Wheeler.
The Oldie of the Year Awards is a somewhat random collection of accolades decided on and created depending on who or what has been in the news; broadcaster John Sergeant, for example, won "Hoofer of the Year" in 2009 for his unforgettable performance in the BBC's "Strictly Come Dancing" (and, incidentally, was snapped up by P&O Cruises after walking out of the TV show to appear on an all-expenses-paid Caribbean cruise on Oceana).
The top gong, Oldie of the Year, has been awarded to many household names, from Reverend Ian Paisley (2008) to Sir David Attenborough (2005) and explorer Ranulph Fiennes (2004). This year's shortlist, however, is being kept under wraps.
But recognition by the magazine can be a mixed blessing. At a separate ceremony, the 2009 Oldie Travel Awards, last November, The Oldie Travel Award for Cruelty to Trees went to Saga Cruises "for their non-stop junk mailing."
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor