She’s called it a “blast” and we couldn’t agree more that Jane McDonald’s BAFTA-winning series Cruising has been fun from start to finish.
But the TV star and former Loose Woman has decided it’s time to set sail for the last time as she brings us the final ever series of the hit show.
Jane, 58, has suffered huge heartbreak this year after losing her fiancé, drummer Eddie Rothe, to cancer in March.
The pair had first dated as teenagers, having met in a Wakefield nightclub.
They later split, only to get back together after almost 30 years apart, following a chance encounter on the set of This Morning. They announced their engagement in 2008.
Before Jane and Ed reunited, Jane had married engineer Henrik Brixen. Viewers watched their whirlwind romance blossom on The Cruise, the show that made Jane a star. However, their lives were very different, and the couple ended their marriage in 2003.
Now, as she talks about the final run of her series, which sees Jane on both a Caribbean cruise and on a trip along the Thames with friends, it’s clear that the star is vowing to make the most of life, even if the future won’t include her beloved Ed…
Hi, Jane. These are the last Cruising shows. Will you still go cruising just for pleasure?
“Oh, without a doubt. Cruising is in my blood. It has made me everything I am, has cruising. It will be nice to go on holiday instead of filming one.
“To sleep in and have breakfast in your room, whereas I am up at 5.30am every morning to get ready for everything we have to film in one day.
“We do work hard and I know it looks like we’re having a great time, but they are very long days. There are a few that I have thought it would be nice to go back on.”
You look like you had a good time…
“What’s not to love? I go on holiday and take a camera crew and just have a blast. That’s me really.
“I get excited when I get out the front door, love! I’m at that age now where I only do things that I really enjoy.
“It’s a great place to be.”
You take a trip along the Thames. Did it mean a lot doing that with some of your closest friends?
“Yes, because usually I’m doing it with people I’ve met on board. To be able to take my closest friends on such an amazing trip was very emotional.
“If we know anything about what has happened in this past year, it’s that life is too short.
“We all think, “I’d better not spend that,” but I tell you something, I’m going to spend a lot and I’m going to have the best time because you just don’t know when you’re going to be able to do it again.
“This has taught me that life is for living and I will live it even more when we are allowed out again.
“I hope that people see what we were doing on that cruise and think, “I want to do that with my family or my closest friends,” because it is an extremely special thing to do, to spend quality time with people that you love.”
You start your Caribbean cruise in Fort Lauderdale and you say it’s one of your favourite places. Why?
“I met Henrik, my ex-husband, in Fort Lauderdale. That is where we had our house and I have just got such great memories.
“I know my marriage didn’t work out, but we had a good time while we were together.”
You also returned to St Thomas where you had your wedding to Henrik…
“I got married and it was a marvellous time, so it was great going back there and reminiscing a little bit.
“When I was a singer on the ships that was my place. I used to do Grand Cayman and St Thomas, so there are so many memories there.”
You had a quick stop in the Everglades. What was it like riding on an airboat?
“They don’t half put their foot down, and you’re off and you’re thinking, “I’m going to die!” But you don’t, obviously. It’s great.
“There are 200,000 alligators living there, and it’s half the size of Yorkshire!”
We often see you relaxing with a cocktail. Do you have a favourite?
“Yes, I like a Cosmopolitan. I am a bit of a Martini girl, so I like to try all the different Martinis.
“I remember one night, on our day off, me and my friend Sue went through the whole Martini menu.
“That was a messy night, but it was good fun! Try a different one every night, don’t do it like we did!”
What was your highlight of the Caribbean trip?
“I think it probably was the horses for me. It was so special.
“Being on a horse, bareback and going into the sea and holding on to this amazing animal having the time of its life.
“It’s just wonderful to be part of that. But the whole thing – the friends I made, the food, and the ship was gorgeous.
“There is not one thing that I could think, “I quite liked that” because everything was brilliant. The Martinis were especially good!”
Back in England, there’s a royal touch with you visiting Windsor and Hampton Court Palace…
“I have always been a fan of the royals, mainly because they have been there all my life. The Queen has been the most consistent thing in my life – she has been there since I was born, and she is still there now.
“It is not just that you’re a royalist, it is someone who has been there in your life the whole time.”
And your trip to Hampton Court Palace included a game of tennis dressed as Henry VIII…
“I do love an outfit! I didn’t know I could do that – I’ve never played tennis in my life, but I wished I’d done it years ago!
“You just hit the ball, don’t you? It was really good fun, so I enjoyed that. I do get excited when I get it right, hence the little dances and stuff.”
How do you look back on this part of your career now that you’re ending the show?
“What a blast, just what a blast. We have travelled all over the world, we have eaten amazing food, I’ve experienced things… I mean, how many people jump off the Sky Tower in New Zealand? Not many!
“I’ve tasted fine wines, but it’s the people that I remember more than anything. I think that’s what it is.
“You’re experiencing amazing things but with people that you have just met who are like-minded. That is a really special thing to be able to do.”