Michael Ball' Heaven and Hell

Star of Hairspray and Britain's leading musical actor, Michael Ball, shares his best and worst holiday experiences

~ Pamela Spencer for The Times - 03/11/2007 ~

Great holidays...

Which was your best holiday?

My best holiday was during the Millennium year when I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to do a concert. After that, I travelled on with my family to the idyllic island of Pangkor Laut, for a three-week holiday and the wedding of my step-daughter.

Pangkor Laut lies off the Malaysian coast, and is the most magical place I've ever visited. I was thrilled to be in this wonderfully sunny location, with palm-fringed beaches, a beautiful blue sea, and a lovely cocktail bar close to hand. Also, unlike many other islands in that area, Pangkor Laut is not too touristy.

And the best hotel you've stayed in?

The hotel that impresses me most is the Merrion in Dublin. The food and service are wonderful, and the building itself is steeped in history. It's a lovely oasis. I also have another favourite place to stay. It's a friendly, family-run, bed and breakfast guesthouse with a licensed restaurant, called West Stoke House, in West Stoke, West Sussex. We always stay there for New Year.

What do you need for a perfect holiday?

I just need to be at an airport to take an aeroplane that turns left at the end of the runway and takes me away. It doesn't really matter where I am going, but holiday sunshine is vital to me. I love lying around sunning myself with the family, and I like a bit of peace and quiet. I also appreciate one day's rain on each holiday — that's important because it allows me to stay indoors and do nothing at all.

What do you always take with you?

Spare credit cards and a pashmina to counteract the air-conditioning draughts on the flight. I also always take plenty of books to read.

What's your best piece of travel advice?

Always thoroughly check out your destination and hotel prior to departure. When I was going on holiday to Antigua in the West Indies with Kathleen (actually it's Catherine, unfortunately the journalist got that completely wrong!, remark from JustBall.Net), my partner, and step-daughter Emma, Timothy Dalton, who'd just finished filming one of the James Bond movies, recommended a hotel on the island. But it was horrible, more like a hostel, and it smelt of gutted fish.

Where do you want to go next?

We always look forward to spending two weeks every Christmas at The Landing, Harbour Island, in the Bahamas, which is owned and run by India Hicks, god-daughter of the Prince of Wales.

... and disasters?

Which was your worst experience on holiday?

I'd never return to Barbados. The last time we visited there were so many people I recognised and knew from my working life that the holiday was more like being on a works outing.

What's the biggest packing mistake you've made?

I always used to pack too much. Now I pack less and buy more when I arrive at my destination.

Which is the worst hotel you've stayed in?

A chain hotel in Brighton. It proved to be dirty, the food and service were awful, and the bar was full of undesirables. I stayed there for just 18 hours, then packed my bags and moved to the Grand Hotel on the seafront.

What do you avoid on holiday?


What do you hate about holidays?

I hate the travel to and from my destination. Everything is such a hassle - the crowds, the queues and the security checks. I'd like to just press a button and arrive at the end of my journey. (AMEN!!!!!!, uhum sorry, another remark from

If I had plenty of money, I'd probably consider hiring a private jet for travel. I'm always quite glad to return from holiday because my home in Britain is really where my heart is, which makes the going home so much better.

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