Caribbean cruise hits the high note

By Beverley Knight, Daily Mail

Last updated at 16:27 10 September 2008


The Caribbean Princess

Ruling the waves: The Caribbean Princess

Before we went on a cruise, I had lots of pre-conceived ideas of what it would be like — and they were all wrong.

We were quite a crowd: my mother, my boyfriend, James, and his mother and stepfather, my sister and her husband and their three daughters, aged from eight to 13.

The trip was really about relaxing and having the chance to spend time with them all — two things that my hectic singing career usually gets in the way of.

But the trip had unexpected personal consequences, too.

We all flew to New York to join the Caribbean Princess less than two days before it set sail.

None of them had been to the Big Apple before, so the challenge was how to do NYC in less than 48 hours?

Beverley Knight

Dream boat: Beverley Knight was amazed by the opulence of the Caribbean Princess

We stayed at the centrally located and luxurious Waldorf Astoria, so it was very convenient for us to walk around mid-town — which is the way to see New York.

That first night I took everyone to Umberto's Clam House for a real authentic taste of the Big Apple.

The next day we wandered down Fifth Avenue, ooh-ed and aah-ed at Trump Towers, and saw The Lion King on Broadway.

 

In the morning, after a wander round Central Park, it was time to head for Brooklyn to join the ship.

As with New York, nothing prepares you for the reality of the Caribbean Princess.

It is huge, and we had lovely big state rooms, too. After settling in, it was time to blow away those misconceptions.

The first is that cruises are for old people. Wrong: the other passengers covered the entire age spectrum.

Second, we thought that there wouldn't be many black people; but the guests were a fantastic melting pot of every race, colour and creed.

The only way we were in the minority was that we were not quite as, well, large as some other passengers.

To put it bluntly, there were some very big people on board, and they did like to eat.

But although an enormous buffet was always available, there were also plenty of healthy, and childfriendly, options if you wanted something a little less filling.

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Port of call: Cruise ships docked at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

I'd also thought I might get bored at sea. What would I do to pass the time between islands?

Wrong again. I was very pleasantly surprised: there was just so much to do, including masses of on-board entertainment.

There were bars everywhere, each with its own atmosphere — one had a string quartet — and to our delight there was a little band from Jamaica who were particularly enthusiastic as Jamaica was doing so well in the Olympics at the time. There was a casino, too.

For a sun worshipper like me, the Princess was perfect. There were three pools, all with hot tubs.

One even had a big movie screen above it — which was particularly fantastic at night.

Movies under the stars!

There was also a giant chess board — more of a work-of-art for me than a game. While my family wrestled with that, I disappeared in the direction of the spa. And what a spa.

St. John in the Virgin Islands

Bliss: Solomon Beach on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands

There was pretty much any treatment you could want. I went for a hot stones massage.

I tend to carry a lot of stress on my shoulders and it's great for that. There were manicures and pedicures, and two members of our party even had their teeth whitened.

One particularly bizarre treatment was a 21st-century version of the old suction pads they used to advertise to tone your body: zapping an electric current through you to make you feel you have had a complete workout.

But for me, with my roots in the West Indies, this trip was as much about the destinations as the journey, and Bermuda was our first port of call.

Looking out from the balcony and seeing this tiny island coming towards us was magical. After two days at sea, the heat and the friendliness of the people was almost overwhelming.

The island was named after a Spanish sailor called Juan de Bermudez, but it's been part of Britain for 400 years and the islanders are proud of their heritage.

Another of my cruising pre-conceptions was that visiting each place for just a few hours would not be nearly enough.

The port in St Juan in Puerto Rico

Juan are you going: The port in St Juan in Puerto Rico

But in its way, it was — it was rather like eating one of those little in-between courses in a smart restaurant.

At St Juan in Puerto Rico, we docked in the old town and wandered up the hill to the 16th Century Spanish fort, Castillo San Cristobal.

Later, we mooched around the tiny bustling streets and ate a wonderful dish, a cross between a calzone and a Jamaican patty, full of chicken and peppers. It was the best food we had anywhere.

Our next stop was St Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was very different to what I'd expected — everyone had American accents.

The island is renowned for its jewellery, but this was the Caribbean rather than what I think of as the West Indies. My best memory of the Virgin Islands is from the air.

The ship arranged for us to have a 30-minute helicopter ride.

From the sky, all those little islets and three big islands looked like paradise.

The final port of call was Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

 

Friends had told me that I would find the beach here — and they weren't wrong.

This was real sun-worshipping territory.

There was music, too: reggae and calypso in the old style — the kind of music my mother played to me when I was a child; a cultural familiarity I didn't expect at all.

I'm of Jamaican extraction and I see myself as having a dual culture. There is this West Indian heritage within me that bubbled to the surface that day.

It was the most spectacular holiday, and I was able to experience the cruise in so many ways — for myself with James, through the eyes of my mother, and through the eyes of the children.

None of us will ever forget it.

Travel Facts

Beverley Knight travelled on the 11-night 'Caribbean Charm' cruise onboard Caribbean Princess on a roundtrip from New York.

Prices start from £1,589 per person (based on two people sharing a K grade cabin).

To book, call 0845 355 5800, princess.com.

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