When I heard that Paul Merton had a close encounter with a tiger during the filming of his latest TV series, I thought it might be the creature voiced by Angelina Jolie in the Kung Fu Panda films.
The Dreamworks characters are, after all part of the entertainment on board Allure of the Seas, the cruise ship which Paul travelled on for the first episode of Paul Merton’s Adventures, showing on Channel 5 this Wednesday (October 19).
No such luck. Apparently it was a real live baby tiger which sank its teeth into him.
“I had some incredible experiences,” says Paul. “I got off the cruise ship in Mexico and had the strangest time. First of all, I went diving on a famous reef and shook hands with a man underwater.
“Then I was driven for three hours to a deserted restaurant where a man called Pepe kept big cats. He introduced me to a baby tiger that bit me! So what are my impressions of Mexico? It was totally bizarre. But maybe that’s what Mexicans get up to all the time!”
Paul did not throw himself wholeheartedly into every aspect of life on board Allure. He declined an opportunity to take a zipwire ride over the ship’s Boardwalk, and could not be persuaded to take part in a belly-flop contest.
He was, however, amazed by the size of the vessel. “You only appreciate how tall the ship is when you disembark and realise you’ve been in a floating tower block,” he said.
The new series is a departure for the Have I Got News For You regular who has already made travelogues about his exotic journeys in India and China.
“I had a great sense of accomplishment when I filmed those series, but they were tough to make. Now I’m keen to do something closer to home about the sort of trips people here are more inclined to take.”
When there are 6,000 passengers on board, not all of them can have dinner at the captain’s table – but at least Paul was invited to join Hernan Zini, as the picture (below) shows.