Inspiring Caribbean adventures

Passionate cruiser Derek Little muses over an inspiring Caribbean adventure on Arcadia and the benefits of taking a shore experience to discover the best of each destination

My wife Thelma and I are no strangers to a P&O Cruises holiday. Our first, in 1995, was a fly-cruise from Venice where we visited incredible places such as Port Said (for a trip to the pyramids), Jerusalem and Rhodes. What was to be a one-off holiday of a lifetime has since become habitual – I’ve lost count of how many cruises we’ve done, but I’d guess over 30.

Cruising has opened up the world to us, and we have been to ports and countries as diverse as Manaus in Brazil and Sochi in the Black Sea, to New England and Dubai. It is the relative ease with which so many inspiring places are visited that continues to draw us to these holidays, and specifically to P&O Cruises. 

Discovering new in the old

On a cruise, we embarked on a 24-night cruise to the Caribbean on Arcadia covering off Ponta Delgada, Antigua, Tortola, St Maarten, St Lucia, Barbados and Madeira. Long cruises with sea days in the warm sunshine are very relaxing. We’ve visited a lot of the Caribbean with P&O Cruises, probably most of the islands over half a dozen cruises, and we love going back. The sheer variety on offer there is a big draw. Islands such as Antigua have a strong British influence, whereas others are very Dutch or French, for example.

With the amount of cruises we’ve enjoyed over the years, ports and countries will inevitably be revisited. We find a fantastic way of getting a fresh perspective and appreciation of places we have previously been to is to join a shore experience. There’s always something new to learn about a destination you may have been to many times before. Until we went on a shore experience in Tenerife, for example, we had no idea that there are lava tunnels and pyramids on the island, despite a land holiday there back in the 80s.

Adventures in the Caribbean

During our most recent Caribbean cruise holiday, our imagination was stirred by the ruined officers’ barracks on Antigua’s Shirley Heights on the Antigua Island Sights shore experience, while sympathies were roused by the lives of slaves from inside the Plantation Houses of Barbados on the Best of Barbados shore experience. In St Lucia, our shore experience brought alive the sights and sounds of the island’s verdant rainforest where the vivid apricot colours of the flamboyant tree blossom and distinctive plumage of bird of paradise flowers could be found everywhere.

The Island Delights shore experience on St Maarten took us from Dutch to French administration (and back) and included a perfumery visit, full of evocative fragrances, followed by a visit to a local restaurant to see a demonstration of French Caribbean cooking. Prawns and flambé bananas were cooked before our very eyes. At the end of the day, the port’s superb shops provided many of our gifts and souvenirs.

En route to the Caribbean, the island of São Miguel and its capital of Ponta Delgada in the Azores was new to us. The mountainous island is lush and dramatically beautiful. Sadly the blue-green colours of the Lagoa do Fogo (Lagoon of Fire) that occupies the crater of an extinct volcano were lost in the mist as we peered down from our high vantage point on the Fire Lakes and Mountains shore experience, but Ribeira Grande, one of the oldest towns in the Azores, made up for it. We were also very impressed with The Caves of São Vicente lava tunnels shore experience on Madeira, our last call homeward, where we discovered the caves of lava tubes formed during a volcanic eruption over 400,000 years ago.

Poetry muse

During our cruise we enjoyed making the most of being on board Arcadia. There was an interesting variety of guest speakers during the trip who gave us much food for thought, and so too did the Poetry Corner, which met in Intermezzo (close to the Spinnaker Bar and its beautiful model ships). This was a sea-day highlight, and the Entertainment Host who led the group encouraged us to write our own poems. The surroundings, especially the Spinnaker Bar, inspired me to pen this one about the Caribbean:

Under the Caribbean Sun

Was the Sovereign of the Seas

Its sails furled against the breeze

Ever anchored by the turquoise shallows

Hot matelots reckoning the blows

From press-ganged service –

Under the Caribbean sun?

And were its sailors’ hammocks slung

Along the stifling decks, among

Great cannon, powder, tools of war?

For spoils shipped to an English shore

Were plundered, seized –

Below the Caribbean sun.

But on Arcadia it seems

That craftman’s fingers’ shaped the beams

The complex rigging, masts and decks.

Thus ships which, sunken, lie as wrecks

Were as glass-cased models seen

Lit by the Caribbean Sun.

Derek Little, Arcadia, October 2015