I’m now home in still chilly Dorset having spent five nights cruising in the Caribbean.
I’m the first to admit that the prospect of taking my young son and daughter away on a long haul flight for the first time during the February school half term holiday filled me with trepidation.
The thought of keeping a five year old boy and his seven year old sister amused for hours on end as we flew to join our ship in Barbados had been enough to prevent the Davies clan from venturing so far afield in the past.
This year, however, the lure of work on board made this an opportunity too good to pass up, so it became an operation in managing the excitement levels once the decision had been taken for us to go as a family on our first fly-cruise.
As it turned out, the three hour drive to Gatwick turned out to be more arduous then the following nine hours, due to a combination of car sickness and pent-up pre-holiday emotions.
Following that cross country journey, the flight itself was a ball. The children, armed by iPods and DS computer games, managed to keep themselves amused far better than I ever expected. The in-flight entertainment then helped fill in the gaps between meals and sleep.
The endless tantrums I had feared never materialised, much to my delight and that of fellow passengers, some of whom quite visibly grimaced at the prospect of spending a lengthy period in confined space with two over-tired primary school children.
On our arrival at Bridgetown, I found myself being considerably less stressed out than I had imagined. This sense of achievement was helped a few days later when we discovered that he equivalent flights from London the next two days were cancelled following the effects on the atmosphere of a volcanic eruption on Montserrat.
Given that my son Hal was pretty much packed at Christmas, so longing was he to return to P&O Cruises’ Ventura, which he had been fortunate enough to experience at the even tender age of five, the thought of trailing back home from the airport without going anywhere near his favourite cruise ship would have been unbearable.
Daughter Tilly managed to some how contain her enthusiasm until nearer our departure date. Yet it was hard even for her to hide the obvious signs of glee at the idea of plunging into one of the ship’s pools every day before breakfast – a prospect not so enthusiastically welcomed by my wife and me.
So our smooth arrival on one of my favourite islands in the Caribbean was a welcome relief.
Turtle Beach touchdown
We figured that the best way to get acclimatised given the length of flight and change in climate – from zero degrees in the UK to 30-plus in Barbados – would be to take a night in a hotel before joining the ship.
This allowed us to all take a swim in the pool and get sand in our toes on the immaculate beach outside the Turtle Beach Resort in the south of the island. Being an easy 15-minute taxi ride from the airport helped together with one of the most friendly drivers of all time, whose knowledge of English football put me to shame.
Taking a pre-cruise stay enabled us all to get acclimatised not only to the time difference – only four hours so no major issue – but also the dramatic shift in temperature.
We could also relax knowing there was no rush to get to the ship before it sailed. In fact we were able to board the next morning and spend the day at the brilliantly child-friendly Almond Casuarina Resort and indulge in a very special dinner at the incomparable Cobblers Cove before setting sail.
I’d not hesitate in considering this kind of option, particularly after a lengthy flight with tired children in tow.
It meant we were all in tune for the cruise, had settled into our cabin and got a good feel for the ship and the beautiful climate without any of the expected exhaustion.
Ventura was looking and feeling good with many demonstrable improvements from its somewhat shaky inaugural season.
The service and standards of food were difficult to fault and Captain Paul Brown proved to be a complete gentleman not to just to us, but to all the passengers he encountered.
Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White – on board with us to run his first cookery class for children as well as adults – was similarly complementary. Given his reputation as being a notoriously hard man to please, Ventura passed with flying colours.
Even a five-hour delay in between flights in Amsterdam on the way home failed to diminish the feeling that taking a cruise and stay option gives you the best of both worlds – particularly if you happen to be in Barbados.
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