A tribute to John Honeywell, cruising’s Captain Greybeard

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Ship mates: John and I in formal wear (Picture: Jeannine Williamson)

He was known to thousands of fans and followers as Captain Greybeard. But, to me, John Honeywell – who died today at 69 from lung cancer – was a friend, colleague, role model and inspiration.

We first worked together at Today newspaper in the 1980s, where he rose from assistant editor to managing editor before leaving to fill the same role at Express Newspapers and the Daily Mirror group.

John always loved cruising – his motto was ‘any day at sea is better than a day in the office’ – and he eagerly took the opportunity to leave the newspaper world in 2009 to write about it full-time.

As a professional journalist who applied the same nose for news, attention to accuracy and scepticism for authority into the world of cruise, he was sometimes the bane of public relations executives with his views and revelations, but John was loved and respected by all who worked with him.

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When I started writing about cruising, it was always a delight to meet John at events and at sea. He was a dear friend who would kindly, and privately, point out my novice errors and pass on some of his encyclopaedic knowledge of ships and cruise lines.

This year he was delighted to win the Contribution to Cruise Award set up by the industry body CLIA but he was always charmingly modest and self-deprecating.

I admired and envied John’s lifestyle of seemingly being always at sea. And when I, too, had the chance last year to leave newspaper journalism and write about cruising full-time, I took it.

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Two taken before their time: John (second from right) and Steve Read (centre)

As editor at large of World of Cruising, John encouraged me to write for that magazine. Once occasional rivals when it came to a cruise ‘scoop’, we were now on the same side.

John and I may have trodden similar paths but, while I have tried to follow in his footsteps, I will never fill them. To me he was always the best cruise writer and always will be.

A few years ago we lost another cruise journalist in his prime, Steve Read of The Sun. He and John were friendly rivals and great mates and I know John missed him dreadfully. I feel now how John must have felt when Steve died.

My heart goes out to John’s wife Sheila and sons Nick and Russell. They have lost a wonderful husband and father, whose love for the sea was surpassed only by the love for his family.

Goodnight, Captain, and safe sailings.

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The Captain’s table: John with his memorable smile

9 thoughts on “A tribute to John Honeywell, cruising’s Captain Greybeard

  1. A lovely tribute to John. As you say he was always such a gent and was so encouraging of anyone who loved cruising and wanted to get the word out about it. I knew that he had been poorly recently and was so sad to see this. Thanks for this lovely piece about him. Gary

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  2. This is such sad news. John was a larger than life character with so much enthusiasm for the cruise world. I may have only worked with him for a relatively brief time but he made a big impact. Part mentor, part friend, he was a pleasure to work with and to chat to. My deepest condolences go to Sheila, Nick, and Russell. You will be sorely missed Captain. RIP.

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  3. I was so very sorry to read this. I only spoke with him a handful of times online, but it was very easy to tell that he was a really nice guy. Lovely tribute, he will be missed by many. Keep your memories close to your heart Dave!

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