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A happy 100th birthday to a special guest


Having clocked up 60 years of cruising on the high seas, the extraordinary Gwendoline Gibbs recently celebrated her 100th birthday. We catch up with the globetrotting queen to hear about some of her highlights

Gwendoline Gibbs holds her card from the Queen in honour of her 100th birthday

Gwendoline Gibbs holds her card from the Queen in honour of her 100th birthday

‘I took my first cruise on the original Arcadia back in the 1950s,’ recalls Gwendoline. ‘From the outset, I loved being on ship at sea. There’s something magical about crossing the world’s oceans and traversing great waterways such as the Panama Canal. It’s so exciting.’


Over her many years of cruising, Gwendoline has experienced six world cruises and world cruise sectors. ‘The world cruises are particularly relaxing,’ she says. ‘You enjoy several days at sea so nothing feels rushed, and you escape the worst of the winter at home. You can see amazing places. I’ve been lucky to visit many islands and countries in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, for example, without having to take a long flight. It’s lovely to sail from Southampton and escape to the heat, the sun, the tropical scenery and the balmy evenings on ship.’


Sydney is without doubt Gwendoline’s favourite far-flung destination. ‘The spectacular harbour, the sunshine and the happy, friendly people make it my number one city,’ she confirms. Hot on Sydney’s heels are Hong Kong (‘exciting and different’), Japan (‘a different culture with such welcoming people’), San Francisco (‘such a great atmosphere and I love to ride the trams’) and Singapore (‘I feel at home there and love to go to Raffles’).


Closer to home, Gwendoline has covered most of the great European ports of call: ‘I particularly love Venice – it’s so beautiful and magical – and St Petersburg is stunning too with its spectacular buildings and restaurants serving caviar and Champagne. Most recently, I’ve been to Tallinn, which was a lovely city. Its charming old town is easy to get around and it’s a very friendly place.’


The great destinations are not the only things that draw Gwendoline back. ‘The camaraderie on board a world cruise is so special,’ she says. ‘I love meeting the same people year after year, having drinks parties, enjoying great evening entertainment and dressing up for formal nights. I’ve formed such friendships over the years and love to meet up with old friends.’

From left: Gwendoline Gibbs with Captain Gibb; a view of Sydney, one of Gwendoline’s favourite cruise destinations

From left: Gwendoline Gibbs with Captain Gibb; a view of Sydney, one of Gwendoline’s favourite cruise destinations

Canberra is the ship dearest to Gwendoline’s heart, having enjoyed several world cruises on her, and she talks with great affection of travelling with Captain Gibb with her late husband Ken. ‘Our post often got mixed up with his because we both shared a similar surname,’ she recalls.


Today, Gwendoline enjoys the atmosphere and buzz of the fleet’s mid-size ships. ‘They’re not too big to get around but they still have lots of activities. I like Oriana and Arcadia – I’ve been on all three Arcadias over the years – but Aurora is probably my current favourite. I like to relax and watch the sea on the decks at the back of the ship.’


Having celebrated her 100th birthday in March, Gwendoline is preparing for her latest adventures. In June, she’ll head to the Baltic on Arcadia and she is keen to explore Canada and Alaska, two parts of the world she hasn’t yet visited.   


‘I’ve so many wonderful memories,’ she reflects. ‘Every time I get on board, it feels like coming home. Everyone is so welcoming and the service is exceptional. 


‘My husband Ken always used to say, “This is the life” when we enjoyed many happy holidays together on board. In all my years of travel, there’s no better way to relax and enjoy oneself. Being abroad and seeing the world with the comforts of home is the best type of holiday ever.’