Cruise Ship Adventure: A Bizarre Mix Of Cruise Holiday And Alligator Wrestling
Wrestling alligators in Florida and hunting snakes in rice paddies in India are not your run-of-the-mill cruise excursions. But then again, wildlife presenter Nigel Marven – a man who once let a cobra loose on Conan O’Brien’s US television talk show – does not exactly do 'average'.
Since cutting his teeth at the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Marven has become one of television’s foremost wildlife presenters, known for his daring (some may say reckless) exploits. For him, grappling with anacondas and swimming with great whites is just another day at the office.
This derring-do lifestyle might seem at odds with the common perception of cruising, which is perhaps why Marven’s latest series, the recently broadcast Cruise Ship Adventure, has proved so popular. The series followed him as he sailed with Azamara Club Cruises to the Caribbean, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, Central America, the Indian Ocean and the Antarctic: six vastly different regions of the world, each home to a broad and fascinating range of wildlife.
A TV show is launched
In fact, according to Marven, it was the cruise line that first came up with the premise for the television programme.
“My first experience of cruising came after Azamara asked me about giving some talks on board,” says Marven.
“At first I really didn’t think I would be interested but I went on one of their transatlantic cruises and absolutely loved it. While we were in the Azores I set off to see the priolo [an endangered bird, also known as the Azores bullfinch] and asked if anybody wanted to tag along and about 30 other passengers joined me.”
Marven encountered similar enthusiasm on another cruise, this time while visiting Mumbai: an impromptu trip out of the city in search of leopards proved to be so popular with fellow travellers that the six-part television series was commissioned.
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Feats of derring-do
In the first episode, viewers saw Marven teaching a nervous-looking cruise captain, Carl Smith, how to remove an alligator from a swimming pool. Hauling a reptile out of the water by its tail and then subduing it with his bare hands has done nothing to diminish Marven’s reputation as the 'English Steve Irwin', but he is keen to point out that the series included something for everyone.
“We had the alligator wrestling, of course, but then we went to a sloth sanctuary in episode four and everyone fell in love with the baby sloths. There really is an animal for every taste.”
That may be true, but the series was not simply another wildlife show. The cruises that Marven joined for his adventures were authentic ones, and watching the passengers and crew interact with the animals was central to the show’s ethos.
This is what gave Cruise Ship Adventure its most fascinating (and often bizarre) edge. In the second episode, An Indian Ocean Odyssey, an opera tenor and on-board performer serenaded a python (quite why is unclear); and in An Antarctic Voyage, the sixth and final episode, a brief stop in the Falkland Islands saw Marven herding penguins down to the beach to listen to a concert by the ship’s orchestra.
But what also set the series apart from other wildlife programmes is that the cruising element was as important as the animals’ appearances, and watching Marven engage with life on board is, in its own way, just as captivating.
He and his team used two cruise ships throughout the programmes to reach their destinations. Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey are both mid-sized vessels, each with capacity for 686 passengers, ideal for sailing to remote areas with a wide variety of wildlife.
Although far from a veteran cruiser, Marven’s intrepid exploration took place on board as much as on land: “Going through the Panama Canal was one of the most fascinating things I have done,” says the man who has presented Walking with Dinosaurs and has twice been bitten on the nose by a snake.
Whether Marven’s voyage of discovery will continue beyond the first series is still uncertain. He is optimistic that Cruise Ship Adventure will return for a second run, with the Antipodes and South America on the cards as new destinations.
The presenter hopes the programmes will show how cruising provides plenty of opportunities for passengers to encounter the wildlife of countries they visit.
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This article was written by Tom Mulvihill from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.