If you haven’t observed this already, I love the concept of taking a cruise. Waking up in a new destination with a list of activities to chose from and fresh islands ready to explore. At least that’s what you get a Caribbean cruise with P&O Cruises, together with gorgeous sunshine, crystal clear waters, wildlife and rum punch.
If you are cruising in 2022 please check my advice and Covid Checklist here.
In my view it’s also the best way to see as many destinations as possible in the Caribbean on a reasonable budget. You get a feel for each island, and if you like them enough, you can go back. And you don’t have the expense of hotel costs. Cruises often work out remarkably reasonable compared to Caribbean package holidays.
This article will run you through my experience on a two-week cruise on Britannia. I’ll talk through the islands, what I did, what other options you have and my thoughts on the islands. I’ll start with talking about Britannia herself.
If you like to watch videos of the trip rather than reading, skip down to the videos section at the bottom of my article!
Britannia at a glance
One of the most famous ships in the P&O fleet, Britannia holds 3657 guests and 1350 crew. That felt like a considerable size to me, but I quickly found my way around onboard and it’s small enough that you’ll bump into people you’ll met on your holiday.
Britannia has 10 dining options, 7 entertainment places and 8 bars or cafes. Featuring some of the usual P&O staple venues such as Sindhu, the Glass House, The Crow’s nest, Beach House and Epicurean. My experience dining in Sindhu on Britannia was one of the best I have had on cruise, the food and staff were fantastic.
If you’re not familiar with how dining works on P&O Cruises, then you have a number of restaurants included in your full-board package, and a few restaurants that are extra. You can eat for free at the Horizon buffet more of less any time of day, which has great food. For a sit-down experience, you can book in at the Peninsular and Oriental restaurants, also included in your standard package. The latter features a menu and waiter service, so a lovely dining experience.
To step things up, certain restaurants are extra, but they are well worth it in my opinion. These include Sindhu, Epicurean, The Glass House and Beach House which is just a small fee.
There are 3 choices of room onboard which I like because it doesn’t overwhelm you with options and price difference. I had a suite, which included a balcony. This gave me space to work (yes, I was working!), and that game-changer of a balcony. I absolutely love a balcony, those sunset beers of waking up for sunrise and watching us sail into a new destination. You honestly cannot beat that feeling. You can also get inside cabins or balcony cabins.
Finally, you of course have all the expected entertainment options. You can usually find me at the Headliners Theatre for the daily shows, the sports bar of Brodie’s which usually has acoustic music, or partying at my favourite, the Live Lounge.
You’ll start and finish this cruise in Barbados, so make sure you check the immigration and Covid requirements for entering Barbados. I wrote an article on this, and also check Cruise with Confidence page on the P&O Cruises website.
Depending on which day you arrive, you’ll either have a free day in Barbados at the start of the cruise, or at the end. Mine was at the start, and if you want a relaxing day head to the Boatyard. It’s within walking distance of the ship and for $30 you can use their inflatables, rope swing, free Wi-Fi and snorkel with turtles.
Top tip: get an e-SIM that covers with whole Caribbean with Airalo and get $3 free using the code SCOTT801 or signing up from this link.
I set Airalo up on the free Wi-Fi as you can’t set it up on the Cruise Wi-Fi. For $10 I got 1GB for a week and was valid for all the islands we were visiting, it was brilliant.
If you don’t want to head to the beach, there are plenty of Shore Experiences in Barbados. These include a sunset cruise, a 4×4 adventure, the best of Barbados and of course beach hopping. A lot of the combined trips include snorkelling with turtles and a couple of beaches. Or why not hop in a taxi and to go the Mount Gay Rum distillery? I did that on my 2017 visit to Barbados.
After a sea day we arrived at the beautiful Dutch-Caribbean island of Curaçao, and you’ll certainly notice the Dutch influence. The ship docks at the capital Willemstad, which is well worth exploring for an hour or two.
I picked an island explorer tour, which was a whistle-stop tour of the island. I picked this one as I’ve never been to Curaçao, so wanted to see as much as possible. It also finished around 2pm, giving me a couple of hours to explore Willemstad.
The tour started with snorkelling with turtles at Playa Grandi on the northwest of the island. What a way to introduce the group to the island! Perfectly crystal-clear waters and some epic shots. After that we went to the caves and viewpoint of Shete Boka Park, followed by Playa Kenepa; one of many stunning beaches on the West Coast. Our final stop was to see the wild flamingos at Saliña Jan Kok. That really was a wonderful way to finish the tour.
Other shore experiences I was considering were the Hato Caves and beach and the Ultimate Island Experience. There aren’t any beaches within walking distance of the port, and I really recommend seeing the flamingos in the wild as that’s something quite unique to Curaçao.
Our second port was the island of Aruba, and like Curaçao it’s another Dutch territory close to Venezuela. I’d heard mixed reviews about Aruba so as I’d just done an island experience tour I decided to go it alone and rent a car.
You dock in the town of Oranjestad, which feels busy a bit like Miami. It wasn’t that easy to find a car rental, but I did find a Hertz office inside a hotel. The car was small and a bit beaten up, and cost $60 for 24 hours. I had a list of places to visit, here are my thoughts.
My first stop was the California Lighthouse, a viewpoint where everyone stops at. It was busy and honestly not worth it; however, the trip north was made worthwhile by my stop at Hadicurari Beach, a stunning kitesurfing spot on the West Coast. I then headed south to a hidden gem of a beach called Mangel Halto (a nice insider tip I got). It’s small and you can find your own private beach hidden in the mangroves, if you’re looking for a secluded beach escape, I’d recommend taking a taxi here.
My next stop was to see the beautiful street art of San Nicolas. A good starting point is Charlie’s Bar, which certainly attracts the tourists but is fascinating. From there you can wander the streets and admire the artwork. Close to San Nicolas is Baby Beach, a popular stop with several of the tours. But this was far too busy for my liking, which is a shame as it’s a stunning spot.
I then hightailed it to the East of the island for two more stops. The first was the Natural Bridge and the second Bushiribana Ruins. I was more impressed by the ruins, and these were popular spots for the UTV tours.
The Shore Excursions I was tempted by were the Jeep Safari, Catamaran Sail and snorkel or the UTV adventure. I don’t think an island highlights trip would be brilliant here, and the UTV did look fun however keep in mind you very much follow other UTVs in a line and don’t go off-road much.
St Vincent & the Grenadines
St Vincent was the first of the island that had further Covid requirements in place. Whilst I understand this is a bit inconvenient, please keep in mind that often these islands do this to protect their population, which have lower vaccination rates than the UK. St Vincent required a PCR test done onboard at an addition cost of £25.
The PCR test was extremely easy and organised by P&O, giving me an allocated timeslot the day before, with my results added to the ship’s manifest. Once you’re in the dock you meet your tour and stay in that tour “bubble”.
I decided to get out at sea today and picked a catamaran tour of the West Coast and Volcano viewing. It was only in April 2021 when the volcano last erupted! Sadly, the unpredictable Caribbean weather meant that we couldn’t view the volcano and headed back south for blue skies. We still stopped at a secluded beach and drank rum punch. The island is absolutely stunning from the ocean, so this was a great morning. Just watch out for the rum punch, the rum was 85%!
If I’m honest I had some regrets at not exploring St Vincent by land. I had a good feeling from the island and the people and remember it as one of my favourites from when I was younger.
Shore Experiences on land that would have tempted me were the Vermont Nature Hike or the 4×4 Safari. And other options by sea were the Dolphin and Whale Adventure or the Northern Grenadines Sail away. Possibly one of biggest frustrations on this cruise was trying to choose the best adventure and FOMO (fear of missing out) if you pick the wrong one! First world problems…
It’s not very often in life you get to return to a place you really love, but Grenada was one of those. I spent a week here in 2017 and felt a connection with the island and always wanted to come back.
Grenada (pronounced Green-aida) also has restrictions in place which mean you can’t leave your tour bubble, but there was no requirement for another Covid test. Because I’ve already seen a lot of this island, I picked an experience I hadn’t done, and one that looked like a lot of fun, River Tubing!
This experience was brilliant. We drove to a spot in the rainforest (even the drive is brilliant, but I do love this island), and after a safety briefing, we were given our tubes and away we went. For a couple of hours, we floated down the river, with some calm bits and some less so. But there were a group of brilliant guides there to help us through and entertain us. Their energy was brilliant. The tour ended with the chance to jump into the river and of course a rum punch!
If you haven’t been to Grenada however, I recommend something that will show you more of the island. There are a few options like the Grenada Highlights, Island Drive and Annandale Falls, or the Eco trek to Bamboo Falls.
Grenada is also famous for the Rhum Runner boat trip, following a famous pirate route. It’s basically a very boozy boat party! Watching the Rhum Runner return to port was entertaining to say the least (check out the video below!).
Ahhh coming back to St Lucia after 21 years away. I promise it won’t be as long next time! St Lucia holds a special place in my heart because one of my travel memories as a teenager was exploring St Lucia alone. I left my family to do their thing and felt the buzz of a rainforest trek, meeting locals and pushing myself.
Okay it’s not exactly the most intrepid thing I’ve done, but at that age it planted a seed for travelling along. 10 years later I went backpacking, and 5 years after that I started this travel blog.
In St Lucia I recommend anything which includes the stunning Pitons. I picked the tour Pitons and Lunch with a Local. It was a quite easy short hike for the Pitons, and I wanted to eat Caribbean food. Sadly, as you’re on a cruise where food is included you don’t get to enjoy the food as much as I’d have liked, and I was craving some good Caribbean grub. I wasn’t disappointed!
The hike was the Tet Paul Nature Trail, which was easily signposted if you want to find it yourselves. It took under an hour with a 10-minute climb which certainly raised the heartrate but wasn’t too testing, you don’t need a guide for this hike. Once you get to the top you can walk the circular route to see both Gros Piton and Petite Piton, and fantastic views over St Lucia including the tallest mountain on the island.
Following the hike, we went to lunch and ate fantastic Caribbean food, for what was included you’ll have to watch the video below but let me tell you it was delicious, especially the plantain!
There are plenty of good tours available on St Lucia, but I really recommend anything that include the Pitons, as they are such a spectacular sight. If you don’t fancy them anything that includes the rainforest of plantations are also a great bet.
Finally whichever tour you end up on, if you fancy a few more drinks and a wonderful atmosphere head to Rum Therapy bar at the port. It’s a fantastic spot for sunset right with views overlooking the ship. However, females attending alone should be warned the bar staff here are not discrete with their attention and intentions, which was a real shame and, in many ways, let down the island. I would advise against solo females going alone.
St Kitts & Nevis
Another stunning island and without doubt one of my favourites is St Kitts (Shh don’t tell the others). It’s another port that required you to be on an organised tour or take a licensed taxi to and from the port. There is so much to explore on St Kitts, but I decided to get active and did Nature Kayaking. The bonus part was this also included snorkelling which was the best part.
Our trip was only a couple of hours and first headed to Discovery Beach where we picked up our kayaks. We kayaked for around 20-30 minutes to a small bay (there were no other people), so it was suitable for people that haven’t kayaked before.
From the bay we put on our snorkels, and it was here that the real surprise of the trip. We saw turtles, stingrays, jellyfish, octopus and a shoal of squid! Look out for the video for at least that part, as it blew me away just how much we saw in around an hour.
After a quick rum punch (yes this really is part of every tour), we headed back to the port via the Timothy Hill Overlook, a fantastic viewpoint that most tours will stop at. The Port is also lively with a few nice bars if you have time. Our tour finished by 12pm, so I was on the look out for something else to do!
Top recommendation: I met up with a few people from the cruise, and decided to head to a fantastic bar, and tip from my friend Esther; Spice Mill Restaurant. This restaurant is a rustic gem on the white sands of Cockleshell Beach, which overlooks the island of Nevis. It’s also home to Hibiscus Spirits where the owner Roger distilled local rum (which I can verify is amazing).
The website describes Spice Mill as “Caribbean dining, liming and indigenous architectural experience.” What more could you ask for? If you do end up there following this article, please say hello to Roger for me, and grab me a bottle of Hibiscus Spiced Rum.
The other Shore Experiences that tempted me were the Rainforest Discovery, Discover Nevis Island or the Jeep Safari. St Kitts is definitely somewhere I’ll be coming back to for longer.
Next up was Antigua, one half of the nation Antigua and Barbuda. Known for having one beach for every day of the year (yes it has 365 beaches!) and its famous naval history. The ship docks in the capital St Johns, and as far as I could see there isn’t a beach within walking distance.
My tour was a Segway tour of Fort Worth, and this is also where you do the Horse-Riding Tour. We headed along the beach finding our balance before a couple of beach stops. After that we stopped for some fruit at Fort Worth and wandered around.
The tour leaves you for an hour at Runaway Beach, enough time for a swim and a local beer. It’s easy to see the appeal of the beaches in Antigua, picture-perfect.
Nonetheless, if I came back, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my tour, there wasn’t really enough to see in the area. I’d look into the Island Safari, Stingray Sensation or the Best of Antigua.
Antigua is famous for the swimming with Stingrays, and although some people frown upon experiences like this one, I’ve only heard good things! Book this one fast though as it could sell-out.
Finally, friends of mine headed to Dickerson Bay Beach in a taxi. You can also take a tour there. And they went to the floating Kon Tiki Bar, which looked like great fun and a unique experience! Antigua, I’ll just have to come back for more of these experiences.
The final stop on the cruise and the moment when you realise just how fast the second week goes! St Maarten is another one where you have the choice between a beach day or a tour. This is a port where you can walk to Great Bay Beach, and there are no Covid rules restricting you to an organised tour.
It’s also home to Maho Beach, positioned right next the Princess Juliana Airport and famous for the low flying planes. I’ve felt like this is a bucket list place to go myself, so decided to get a taxi to it. There is a taxi rank right on the port and a return cost $16 per person, they give you a wristband, so they know you’ve paid for the return journey.
I arrived around 10:30 and there weren’t too many people, but as the day went on it got busier and busier. It’s a surreal experience, to watch these planes flying in so low. And every hour or so you get a quite large one come in. Sadly, nothing really huge landed when we were there.
It’s the take-off that provides the most entertainment, as the blast from the jets caused some powerful wind. So much so that people have been seriously injured. Thankfully now it looks like the bigger planes use the runway from the other side, meaning people cannot go and stupidly hurt themselves. It was still powerful enough to blow people’s stuff across the beach, so I chose to sit away from the blast. I do not need to get sand blown in my face for an adrenaline rush.
If neither of these are for you then the tours that tempted me were the Snorkel, beach and RIB experience. And anything that took to the water, as the island looks beautiful from the ocean.
I hope that gives you an insight into my experience with P&O Cruises in the Caribbean and has given you some ideas if you are planning your holiday. There are some fantastic deals with P&O Cruises right now, and not all the ships will be full.
If you have any questions at all about my experience, please drop them in the comments below.
This article was supported by P&O Cruises but as always, the opinions and photos in the article are all my own, and I think it’s clear to see I loved every minute of my time in the Caribbean!