Azura’s Al has all the drive

//Azura’s Al has all the drive

Olly Smith’s Glass House is undoubtedly one of the hits of Azura, with its eclectic wine list and a tempting selection of sophisticated gastro-pub dishes for lunch and dinner. It is a concept that deserves to be rolled out across the rest of the P&O fleet, and one that should work just as successfully on land.
It is also home to one of the ship’s best-kept secrets – the multi-talented Al Clinton.
He is the Glass House’s “wine host”, on hand to meet and greet, to advise and encourage adventurous sampling from the bottles on offer, and to hold informative tasting sessions with passengers eager to learn how best to match their wine with their food.
A bartender with P&O for 11 years before landing the Glass House gig on the strength of his cheery Scouse personality, he acquired the tasting skills and descriptive turn of phrase of a Jilly Goolden or an Oz Clarke in a few short weeks of intensive training, and some time in the company of effervescent Olly.
He’s an accomplished singer, resident in a couple of London clubs before taking to the sea, and still capable of belting out a hit or three after some gentle persuasion.
Most of all, he’s a bit of a petrol-head. When he gets home to Blundellsands for his next leave in a few weeks’ time, he will be picking up a restored Riley Elf which he has had fitted with a Mini Cooper S engine.
A couple of years ago he succeeded in a lifetime’s ambition by tracking down an exotic 1949 Delahaye which was once owned by blonde bombshell Diana Dors.
The car, a 24-ft long, sapphire blue cabriolet with more curves than its famous owner, cost £6,000 when she bought it in order to make a big impression to drive to events like the Venice Film Festival. It’s now valued at £4 million and owned by a retired industrialist in Chicago.
Al’s biggest project still lies ahead. In 2012 he plans to drive from Liverpool to Monte Carlo in a genuine 1963 VW Beetle – the very re-creation of Disney’s Herbie.
The car is currently being restored in Ohio. When the work is complete, and a Porsche engine has been fitted, it will be shipped to the UK ready for the marathon charity event.
The plan is to arrive in Monte Carlo just in time to park Herbie in the F1 paddock at the start of the Grand Prix, and for a star – hopefully David Coulthard or even Jensen Button – to take it for a spin round the circuit immediately after the race.
The drive, which Al is undertaking with his best friend, barrister Jacinta Stringer, will be in aid of the NSPCC. The original hope was to raise £53,000 (Herbie’s number is 53) but thanks to support already promised by Olly Smith and Atul Kochhar, plus a planned TV documentary, that target has been raised to £530,000 at least.
Al, 41, said “The real push won’t start until next year, because otherwise it could run out of steam. But if we can get every ship in the Carnival fleet to hold one fund-raising event during the drive, that would raise thousands.
“When we get to London, we are holding an event at the Classic Car Club. Atul has promised to provide the canapes and Olly, who is going to be narrator for the TV programme, will be the auctioneer for a charity sale.”
In the meantime, Al will be finding other ways to channel his prodigious energy. Like me, he has just quit smoking with the aid of acupuncture from Azura’s resident doctor of Oriental medicine, Jessica Ho.
Unlike me, he now feels compelled to take masses of exercise, and did 90-minute power walks through Copenhagen and Oslo while I was ambling along at a more relaxed pace.
I’m looking forward to catching up with him later – not at the walking, but with his charity Herbie drive. Good luck, Al.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:27+00:00 7 June 2010|Cruise Gossip|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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