I know that you probably thinking cruises are for retired people, I’ll hold my hands up and say that I shared that same misconception too but now that I have actually been on one I’ve realised how wrong I was.
A few months back I flew out to Barbados to join Britannia – P&O’s flagship vessel and the largest in their fleet – for a weeklong cruise around some of the beautiful islands in the Eastern Caribbean and found myself quickly converted to life on the ocean wave. If a cruise is not something that you have considered before then it is time for you to broaden your horizons…
Because everything is taken care
The first thing that I noticed about a cruise holiday was just how easy everything is. If you take a fly cruise with P&O like I did your holiday really starts at the airport in the UK as once you check in for your flight you don’t have to worry about a thing. You’re collected from the plane after you land and taken right to the ship and your luggage will follow separately. You don’t have to concern yourself with it as it will be delivered straight to your cabin.
Once you get on-board the ship nothing changes either, your cabin steward is at hand to ensure you are well looked after and answer any questions that you may have about the ship and as a first time cruiser I had plenty!
Waking up to a new view every single day
Normally when you book a holiday you have the option of selecting a city, garden or sea view (or if you are very unlucky you get landed with something a lot less photogenic). On a cruise though your view changes right through the course of your holiday. You can enjoy never ending sea views some mornings and harbour views on others. I found that opening the curtains each morning when I woke up became one of my favourite parts of the day. Just when you though you had reached peak view the Caribbean landscape somehow managed to trump it the following morning.
Our week long itinerary took in the beautiful islands of Barbados, Curacao, Aruba, Grenada, St Vincent and St Lucia so we were spoiled with things to see and I was amazed at how greatly the landscape of each island changed. Ranging from the dry and almost desert like landscape of Aruba to the lush, green countryside in St Vincent and St Lucia, each island has something different to offer.
The ship’s entertainment
Britannia is a sprawling ship with lots of hidden nooks and crannies so there is lot’s of exploring to do and plenty to keep you entertained – even on sea days. It doesn’t really matter what your interests are if you are unable to find something that floats your boat on here (sorry I had to) then there is something far wrong! The entertainment programme is vast so the ship’s staff produce a daily newspaper called the ‘Horizon’. This is delivered to your cabin every evening and lists the range of activities that you can take part in the following day from dawn right through to dusk and beyond.
During the day time you can head to the large well-equipped gym which is crammed full of the latest Technogym equipment, catch a film in the cinema, go shopping in the duty free stores, learn to dance, play some sports or games, join a discussion or take part in a social mixer (great for solo travellers). They even have their own on-board cookery school endorsed by the likes of James Martin where you can learn to cook or perfect your skills.
In the evening the ship really comes alive – on our week long cruise we had 2 black tie nights which were my favourite, these are a great excuse to get all dressed up like James Bond and head down to the casino for a cocktail and a few games on the card tables. If gambling isn’t your thing though you can catch a show in the headliners theatre (it’s as near as west end standard as you will get), watch a band in the live lounge or just spend a chilled night down in the pub.
To explore the ports
The great thing about cruising is that in a short space of time (and with no effort) you get to visit lots of places. You can choose to set off each day and find a beach to chill on or explore on your own or you can take in one of P&O’s organised excursions. Taking an organised trip means that you don’t have to worry about a thing, you are collected from just outside the ship and dropped back off again afterwards and many of them include lunch or refreshments.
When we got to Grenada we went off on the ‘Champagne, Lobster, Sail & Snorkel’ trip and I really couldn’t recommend it enough. After a stop to snorkel you take a trip on a modern catamaran round the islands coast to a small private bay where a Caribbean lobster barbecue awaits, it was delicious!
To try all of the food
You will find everything on board from comfort buffet meals right through to fine dining with everything else in between. Included in your cruise holiday is access to the buffet restaurant, the main restaurant, daytime snacks and room service as standard but Britannia also offers a selection of other places to eat that are subject to a small and very reasonable surcharge.
Right at the top of the tree is the Epicurean; it was really nice but not too stuffy. My favourite through was Sindhu, a new concept by the twice Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar that fuses together British classics with an Indian twist. If you prefer your dining experience a little bit livelier then it is worth paying a visit to the Limelight Club, in here you can enjoy a 3-course meal along with a show by a line-up of top comedians, singers and cabaret acts.
And lastly to relax!
That is why we all go on holiday right? I choose to spend my days at sea lying by the main pool enjoying a rum punch (or three) and soaking up some of the suns glorious rays. If you prefer something a little more tranquil it is worth booking into ‘the retreat’, an adults only area to the front of the ship where you can enjoy spa treatments and healthy dining from the privacy of a cabana. The Retreat does get full very quickly (especially on sea days) so it is worth booking in right at the start of your cruise.
Britannia also has a full service spa and thermal suite that you can book into for an additional fee (look out for daily offers in the Horizon newspaper). I highly recommend the thermal suite, which has a series of steam rooms, saunas and hydro baths.
If you fancy experiencing all of that for yourself, you can head over to the P&O Cruises website to find the perfect cruise for you. Whether you fancy heading for some winter sun in the Caribbean, exploring the Norwegian Fjords or heading even further afield, they have an itinerary to suit everyone.