The Third Leader: Life on the ocean wave

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Is there anything to match the excited anticipation of a sea voyage? Even the most modest venturer cannot but feel the call answered over the ages by Erikson and St Brendan, Drake and Nelson, Cook and Columbus, DiCaprio and Winslet. Even the most stolid traveller cannot but feel the sense of surrender to a mightier power.

Is there anything to match the excited anticipation of a sea voyage? Even the most modest venturer cannot but feel the call answered over the ages by Erikson and St Brendan, Drake and Nelson, Cook and Columbus, DiCaprio and Winslet. Even the most stolid traveller cannot but feel the sense of surrender to a mightier power.

The bustle on the quayside, the happy study of the fellow passengers whose destiny you will be momentarily sharing; the air of endings and beginnings: no wonder writers have been seized by the liner in a way that the M6, say, has never quite managed, even allowing for the Knutsford services.

The cruise, though, has never had quite the appeal of the transatlantic run, or the tramp clanking round the Moluccas under a captain with a past; until now, and the P&O ship Aurora. It was the Aurora, you will recall, which broke down less than a day into its maiden voyage; which was turned away by Greece and Spain after passengers caught a stomach virus; which turned a voyage round the world into a voyage round the Isle of Wight after it developed more problems; and which has also found time to rescue 11 Russian sailors in the South China Sea.

Yes: the Aurora has reinvented the cruise concept, overcoming the dull there-and-backness, the predictability that was its principal drawback. Imagine, for example, the looks on the faces of passengers delayed on board in Southampton when they learnt they were going to be entertained by Paul Daniels. Imagine the buzz when the ship sails tomorrow, ostensibly for a cruise to Belgium and back.

Where will it end? Who knows, but I notice that Lord Archer recently gave some impromptu lectures on the QE2. Imagine!

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