TORONTO – “SCTV” alum Andrea Martin has lived in France and Morocco, explored her ancestral heritage in Armenia, and travelled extensively her whole life.
“But the older I get, the more I like the comfort of my den with a TV and the television wand, being able to go between ‘Intervention’ and ‘Celebrity Rehab.’ That’s my idea of travel,” the 66-year-old comedy star in a recent phone interview from New York.
“I think it’s just kind of come with getting older, my inflexibility.”
So when Martin was asked to perform on a Mediterranean cruise ship last May, a mode of travel she’d never used before and never thought she would, she immediately felt anxious and claustrophobic.
And then she thought of the idea of filming the experience, realizing it could make for riotous television, not to mention an interesting take on travel.
Viewers can watch Martin’s comical cruise journey in the half-hour special “Andrea Martin: Abroad,” which airs Saturday (at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT) on Bite TV. On Sunday, portions of her trip will be on Bite.ca as seven, four-minute webisodes.
“I associated (cruises) with, what do they say? They’re for newlyweds, almost-deads and over-feds. But that wasn’t my experience with this cruise, actually,” said the two-time Emmy Award winning stage and screen actress.
“It was kind of a beautiful way to see the Mediterranean. I can’t even believe I’m saying that now.”
Martin boarded the ship with her best friend, actress Debra Monk, and quickly felt as if she was going to have a panic attack.
“I thought, ‘What if I can’t get out and what if I want to go jogging,'” said Martin, noting she’s very athletic and jogs all the time.
“Of course there are gyms right on the cruise but I had all these preconceived notions of being trapped, and the truth of it is that you don’t feel trapped. It feels quite expansive, actually.”
Martin was also struck with claustrophobia when she found out she and Monk had been booked in one small room for their first few days of travel.
“They wanted to put us in the same room and I said, ‘I’m literally jumping off the second deck if you put us in the same room.’ We snore, we’re too old, the beds are like two inches apart,” she recalled.
“I said, ‘That’s not happening.’ If we were lesbians, maybe — and maybe in a couple of years ask us, because it seems like that’s where our life is going. But for now, give us our own rooms,” the mother of two added jokingly.
Once Martin got over her fears, she came to realize going on a cruise is “actually a very beautiful, peaceful way to see the world.”
“And if you’re at all social — this is a small ship — you do make friends and it does feel like a community of like-minded people you’re travelling with,” she said.
“It ended up being kind of Zen-like, to be honest with you. It’s very peaceful waking up and seeing … Venice, for instance.”
Martin also came to appreciate the view onboard.
“If you take an airplane to Rome, all you see is the interior of the city. But if you’re on a ship, of course, you see the perimeter of the country so you feel like you’re seeing the country for the first time,” she said.
Martin even lost weight on the cruise, although she figures that was likely due to her getting sick.
“I think the reason I got sick is I drank the water out of the Trevi Fountain in Rome,” she confessed.
“In Fellini’s movies, people were drinking the water, and I’ve always wanted to be in a Fellini movie, so I thought that was the closest I could get.”
In the end, the experience taught Martin that flexibility is key when it comes to travel and life in general, and “that it’s never too late for anything.”
“The moral is that the older we get, I think the more we want to control our destiny because we realize time’s running out, and that really the more frightened we are, the more controlling we become,” she said.
“So for people my age, I think the message is that you can surrender to the moment, it doesn’t have to be frightening. In fact, it can be — at any time in your life — thrilling, and that’s what I found out on the ship.”