Jolly Olly lines them up

//Jolly Olly lines them up

Ollie Smith.jpgHe bounds on stage with the energy and enthusiasm of an unweaned Labrador puppy – and the golden hair to match. His subtly-toned pink jacket (if it’s possible to have anything subtle in pink) strains to contain his girth and his excitement.
TV’s Olly Smith has been on board P&O cruise ship Azura for just two nights, but he has packed a week’s worth of activities into less than 48 hours.
The celebrity wine expert has been training staff – and checking how business is going – in the Glass House restaurant and wine bar which he devised for the new ship.
He spent an hour on stage in the Playhouse theatre in a question and answer session with cruise director Laura Bennison, and another hour in the Manhattan cabaret lounge talking with passion about wine and answering questions from passengers in the audience.
He spent three hours signing 400 copies of his new book, Eat & Drink, and in the evening he was back in the Glass House hosting a tasting session and dashing from table to table, talking to his customers, never once letting an infectious smile disappear from his beaming face.
I swear that if the officers on the bridge had been knocked out by a mysterious alien attack, Olly would have taken over the controls without batting a blond eyelash.
The man who regularly selects wines for the dishes cooked on TV’s Saturday kitchen, and who is the presenter of Channel 4’s Iron Man Chef just never stops .
He was delighted to discover just how good business has been in The Glass House in the six weeks since Azura was launched in Southampton by prima ballerina Darcey Bussell.
The 32 wines on the list are from all over the world – some from small producers whose annual production amounts to only a few thousand bottles, so he might have to go searching for more if they sell out quickly, as some are threatening to do.
They include some secret gems as well, such as the Niagara Ice Cuvee, a sparkling white with the juice of naturally frozen grapes fermented into it; and a Gewurtztraminer from Alsace which combines the flavours of marmalade, lychee and Turkish delight. Olly claims that you can taste bubblegum on another of his favourites – and he’s right.
Taste is everything for Olly and his Glass House staff, and in a few short weeks they have become adept at guiding passengers into new experiences. Just as iTunes will look at your playlist and suggest that, if you like one singer you might like another, the sommeliers will lead gently from something familiar like Pinot Grigio or Cabernet Sauvignon to something exotic and – as Olly would say – “taste-tastic.”
In addition to setting up the Glass House, Olly selected and blended the house wines used in restaurants throughout the ship – and soon throughout the P&O fleet – and he was delighted when the white and the red were both commended in a tasting for Decanter magazine.
It doesn’t stop there: the signature cocktail in the Blue Bar is an Olly confection of Prosecco and Cointreau, and he devised six cocktails – one for each continent – in the Planet Bar.
Television commitments – he’s working on a new show called the Secret Supper Club – meant Olly had to leave the ship and fly home from Kristiansand.
Fortunately, the Glass House is in safe hands. Head wine waiter Al Clinton – the singing sommellier – is just as enthusiastic and almost as knowledgeable. He surprised himself by learning so much about wine after being offered the job, and he surprised the restaurant last night when, after a little persuasion from Olly, he burst into song.
With a voice developed in gospel choirs and accompanying Martha and the Vandellas, this gentle Scouser could one day match the precocious talents of his boss. But more of Al later in the week.
For now it’s time to say goodbye to the only man who could turn what was surely intended as an insult into a compliment.
“People say I look like the bastard love-child of Matt Lucas and Boris Johnson,” says Olly. “Fantastic, I love it.”

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:28+00:00 28 May 2010|Cruise Ships|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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