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P&O Cruises' Britannia rules the waves in a week of majesty and adventure around the Caribbean


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P&O Caribbean cruise

P&O Caribbean cruise

 P&O Britannia cruise ship

P&O Britannia cruise ship

Swimming pool on deck

Swimming pool on deck

P&O Caribbean cruise

P&O Caribbean cruise

Buildings at the port of Grenada in the Caribbean.

Buildings at the port of Grenada in the Caribbean.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Turtle snorkelling in Cuaracao

Turtle snorkelling in Cuaracao

Beach buggies in Aruba

Beach buggies in Aruba

Sun-splashed Caribbean

Sun-splashed Caribbean

P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

Martin Breen P&O cruise feature - iin Martinique

Martin Breen P&O cruise feature - iin Martinique

P&O Caribbean cruise

It's not surprising that the Caribbean is the world's most popular region for cruises.

As a cruise newbie, I was keen to experience why millions of people take a cruise there every year and it very quickly became apparent.

It is said there is a cruise for everyone and I reckon one in the Caribbean will surely tick most people's boxes. Obviously the weather is a major attraction with a cruise there offering lots of sun, sea, sangria and sightseeing.

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 P&O Britannia cruise ship

P&O Britannia cruise ship

P&O Britannia cruise ship

Travelling to different Caribbean islands gives you a fascinating insight into very different cultures, from Dutch on Aruba and Curacao (the A and C of the ABC islands which are part of the Leeward Antilles, under the Kingdom of the Netherlands) to French on Martinique where you can expect to taste French food, see French cars and supermarkets. Check out Willemstad, Curacao's capital, which looks like Amsterdam with its narrow, brightly painted, four-storey Dutch houses.

On my week-long cruise from Barbados with P&O Cruises on their magnificent Britannia ship, stops included Grenada, Martinique, Aruba, Curacao and St Lucia. With capacity for 3,600 guests, the 17-deck ship is one of the stars of the P&O fleet and it fantastically showcases the company's commitment to great food, drink, entertainment and activities.

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Swimming pool on deck

Swimming pool on deck

Swimming pool on deck

We were staying in a beautiful balcony room. It is worth paying that little bit extra for one as there is nothing quite like opening your glass patio doors onto your own private balcony to take in the fresh morning air and stare out at the sea (or take in whichever port you are docked in).

But with so much to see and do onboard, you will want to explore all that Britannia has to offer.

The heart of the ship is on the sixth deck with its state-of-the-art atrium. A popular meeting and chill-out spot, here you can savour exquisite treats from master patissier Eric Lanlard at the Market Cafe with French-style pastries alongside fine cheeses, antipasto, charcuterie, tapas and speciality breads. Also make sure to try out some of the decadent ice-cream creations such as toffee apple or cherries and clotted cream.

With 13 restaurants and 13 bars to choose from, you are guaranteed an amazing gastronomic experience. You can enjoy a drink, or a quiz, live sport, bingo or karaoke, in the traditional British pub called Brodie's (great craft beer list) or try the Crow's Nest cocktail lounge where I was pleasantly surprised to rightly find Belfast's own Jawbox Gin on the menu.

On an all-inclusive plan most dining options are included but there are a number of restaurants worth trying for a different experience which don't cost that much more.

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P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner one night in the Limelight Club where you are entertained by a range of top musical acts. We enjoyed a very funny and lively show from 4 Poofs and a Piano (who you will recall from the Friday Night With Jonathan Ross show) with Claire Sweeney and Gareth Gates among the acts on other nights of our cruise. This usually costs around £35pp extra for cruise guests but is a really fun night.

My three favourite places to eat on board were The Glasshouse, which offers a selection of tapas with brilliant wine pairings from award-winning wine expert and P&O Cruises 'Food Hero' Olly Smith; The Beach House, which offered steaks, ribs and hanging kebabs, and Sindhu Indian restaurant. Anyone who knows me, as a judge each year for the Irish Curry Awards, can attest that I am quite fussy about my curries. Sindhu boasted a menu featuring dishes of perfectly balanced spices, delicate flavours and wonderful aromas. I was particularly impressed with its signature dish of a trio of curries - tamarind salmon curry, saffron chicken korma and lamb rogan josh.

We were also impressed with The Epicurean which would be akin to a fine dining restaurant in a sophisticated and contemporary setting. There I enjoyed an Alaskan snow crab, langoustine and salmon caviar cocktail followed by 28-day-aged, grain-finished Australian Black Angus sirloin steak with plum tomato ragout and bordelaise sauce.

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P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

P&O Britannia

However, it isn't all about the eating (as major a part as that may play) as the ship has lots of entertainment options for young and old, from cabaret and comedy in The Live Lounge to shows in Headliners Theatre. We caught the Astonishing magic show created by TV star Stephen Mulhern which was very entertaining.

On sea days make sure to experience as much as possible onboard whether it be its gym, cinema, four pools, excellent Oasis Spa for some pampering and relaxation, or a class at The Cookery Club where you could even learn from celebrity chef Marco Pierre White. Don't forget to try out the shopping area where many items, particularly perfumes, are cheaper than duty free or at home.

And while you could easily never leave the ship, as many guests choose, on a Caribbean cruise you need to get out and experience life there for yourself. The team at P&O Cruises offer a huge range of excursions and some of them are experiences you will never forget.

Among the activities we enjoyed were beach buggies in Aruba, wild turtle snorkelling in Curacao, powerboat dinghies in Grenada and rum tasting in Martinique. All of that beats just walking around on deck.

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Martin Breen P&O cruise feature - iin Martinique

Martin Breen P&O cruise feature - iin Martinique

Martin Breen P&O cruise feature - iin Martinique

Even though you can easily return to the ship for your all-inclusive lunch and drinks, do try some of the local restaurants on the islands. A highlight for me was the famous BB Craddock's on Grenada. Crabback (local land crab) is a house specialty and totally delicious.

Known as the 'Spice Island', Grenada was my favourite stop on our cruise. Unlike some of its Caribbean neighbours, it strikes the perfect balance between tourism and tradition, and whizzing around its waters in powerboat dinghies was a great way to see some of the coastline.

Another highlight was our final stop where we disembarked - St Lucia. This island in the West Indies has a colourful history, having been first colonised by the French and then claimed by the British. The island then changed hands 14 times in total, as the French and British continued to invade and claim it as their own, before finally gaining independence in 1979. So, any place worth fighting about for centuries has to be worth a visit. The main must-see attraction on this volcanic island are the Pitons mountain range - a Unesco World Heritage site.

And, from my experience, there is no better way to see it and the other islands than via a cruise ship. It takes out the hassle and expense of lots of different flights as well as being a much more wonderful experience all round. What are you waiting for?

Travel factfile

P&O Caribbean cruise, 14 nights, £1,569pp

P&O Cruises is offering a 14-night cruise on Britannia (B102A) from £1,569 per person for an inside cabin. Departing January 16, 2021, the price includes flights from selected UK airports, kids' club, full board meals and entertainment on board.

Departing from and returning to Barbados, ports of call are Curacao, Aruba, St Vincent, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts, Antigua, and St Maarten.

To book, visit pocruises.com, call 03453 555 111 or visit your local travel agent.

Belfast Telegraph