Toploader star Dan Hipgrave's Sesame St Caribbean holiday in the Turks and Caicos Islands
I want to stay for a billion and three days, screeched Honey, my six-year-old daughter, as we took our seats for the Sesame Street character breakfast.
The dining room had been turned into a colourful wonderland heaving with wildly deranged children eager to catch a glimpse of Elmo and Co.
Honey gorged on pancakes the size of dustbin lids dripping in sticky maple syrup, her blue eyes darting frantically around the room as Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster danced from one table to the next.
Dan Hipgrave and his daughter Honey enjoy a kayaking adventure in the Caribbean
'They must be hot in those big suits,' blurted my wife Lynsey without thought. 'What suits?' asked Honey, perplexed. 'It's their fur, isn't it?' The characters' authenticity may have been put into question but Honey was having far too much fun to care.
Quickly changing the subject, I suggested we check out the kids' club and the water park.
Our first morning at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort and Spa had put a smile on all our faces. It's a fairly straightforward journey from the UK, starting with an eight-hour flight to Nassau in the Bahamas, then a further hour hop to the island of Providenciales, the biggest of the Turks & Caicos Islands which sit in the Caribbean just to the west of Cuba.
With only a week to spare before my rock band Toploader hit the road after a six-year hiatus, I was determined to make the most of some quality family time.
We were greeted at the airport by chirpy resort representative Jo, who spent the ten-minute drive to the hotel gushing with praise for the island. 'The tourist board should snap you up, Jo,' I joked.
'The island does its own talking, my friend,' he retorted in a wonderful laid-back Creole accent. 'The sun always shines and everyone wears a smile!'
And it wasn't hard to see why as we drove through the exclusive Grace Bay area, which is home to some of the finest white sandy beaches and crystal waters in the Caribbean.
Waterworld: The aqua adventure park at the Beaches resort
We were warmly welcomed at the resort with refreshing Bellinis and cold towels. Set over 60 acres, it's a vast property boasting immaculate communal areas and incredibly well maintained tropical gardens offering a feel of paradise.
Accommodation is split into three ' villages' - the Caribbean, the French and the new Italian village where we had reserved one of the luxurious two-bedroom family suites. Each village offers its own choice of restaurants, bars and boutiques, meaning you don't need to travel too far from your room.
Italian Village manager Salvador completed our slick check-in and led us immediately to our suite. Honey's room was beautifully furnished with an oak bunk bed that could sleep up to three and a private sink area.
'Look Daddy, an Xbox!' she shrieked at the sight of her very own LCD TV and games console - this place is clearly designed to keep the kids entertained.
The master bedroom was equally impressive with a huge four-poster bed, a balcony overlooking the beach and an en suite bathroom equipped with Jacuzzi bath and walk-in shower.
Honey wasted no time scrambling to the top of her bunk bed armed with her favourite teddies while I rummaged through the 'inclusive' minibar stocked with litre bottles of spirits - and even champagne!
After freshening up we decided to check out the restaurants. There are an impressive 16 to choose from, including Japanese, Tex-Mex and even an English pub.
We decided on the Italian restaurant Mario's - where US basketball megastar Shaquille O'Neal happened to be dining with his family.
It was a great endorsement seeing one of America's biggest sporting personalities (quite literally, at 7ft 2in) staying in our hotel. 'If it's good enough for Shaq it's good enough for us,' whispered Lynsey in my ear, clearly happy with our choice of holiday so far.
UNLIKE other all-inclusive hotels, Beaches prides itself on being a 'luxury inclusive resort' offering a la carte eating as well as buffet. The only drawback is that peak dining times do get busy and, with a first-come-first-served policy, you sometimes find yourself waiting for a seat, but that's a small price to pay for good-quality fresh food.
My seafood linguine was beautifully cooked while the house Merlot wasn't too shabby either and, with a table overlooking the prettily lit pool, it made for a nice evening. By 9.30pm Honey was slumping into her meatballs so we decided to hit the hay for an early night.
The next morning - straight after our enjoyable character breakfast - we took Honey to register at the Pirate Island Kids' Club located in the French village.
The staff are all professionally trained with warm and friendly personalities that made Honey feel comfortable right from the off. The daily programmes are suitable for all ages, with kids able to dip in and out as they wish.
Honey registered for the five-to-seven-year-old group called Li'l Matey's and immediately disappeared on a treasure hunt with Billy Bones the pirate, leaving Lynsey and me to catch up on some reading by the pool.
Each day we killed a couple of hours in the newly built water park adjacent to the kids' club. There are slides of varying fright appeal and a relaxing lazy river that kept all three of us entertained. The tricky surf simulator is worth a go too but, as Lynsey found out, it's advisable for ladies to wear a T-shirt in order to avoid any embarrassment!
Suite dreams: One of the many master bedrooms, with a balcony overlooking the beach
After two days without moving an inch from the resort, we decided to sign up for one of the many excursions on offer. We opted for the half-day Princess Alexandra Kayak Eco-Tour operated by local marine adventure company Big Blue, 20 minutes down the coast.
Our English guide Josie was a marine biologist who was clearly in love with the island.
'Put nothing in the water that hasn't come out of it,' she said firmly as we packed up our water, sun cream and camera ready for the journey. 'Careful of the seabed with your paddles,' she added. 'No fish has ever come into my bedroom and trashed it so I think we owe them the same courtesy.'
She gave us a brief tutorial, then Honey and I set off in our double kayak leaving Lynsey to battle it out on her own. After crossing a large waterway, we made our way to a tiny cay - a small island of sand - protected as an iguana sanctuary.
We pulled the kayaks on to the small beach and nearly jumped out of our skin at the sight of the dragon-like iguanas chilling on the sand. Honey wasn't sure at first, but after some tactical persuasion we managed to get her walking around the wooden walkways making a game of spotting the scurrying little creatures.
Following Josie's lead, we paddled to a serene area of mangroves where a host of wildlife was waiting for us. We spotted turtles, herrings, stingrays and puffer fish.
We were happily listening to Josie sharing her vast knowledge of the beautiful environment and its interesting inhabitants when out of nowhere came a shriek, followed by tears - Honey had spotted a 3ft reef shark swimming towards us.
They are harmless, of course, but to a six-year-old it was like a scene from Jaws.
Shortly after that we called it a day, but it's a fantastic excursion suitable for the whole family. We headed back to the hotel for a shark-free dip in the pool.
Evening entertainment in the resort can be found on stage in the heart of the French village near the European-style patisserie-Cafe de Paris. It kicks off nightly at 6.30pm with a half-hour Sesame Street performance jam-packed with singalongs and comedy sketches. Honey was totally captivated by it.
This was followed by a disco where kids can climb on stage and dance along with the giant Sesame Street characters while the adults get stuck into a pina colada or two.
My lasting memory from the holiday will be the sight of Honey and Cookie Monster busting some reggae moves together.
For those who get fidgety during the day there's an excellent choice of water-sport equipment, including catamarans, kayaks and windsurfers, as well as professional diving facilities. All activities are included in the price of the holiday so scuba divers just need to bring their PADI licence and everything else is taken care of.
If, like me, you don't dive, there are twice-daily snorkelling trips to the spectacular reefs surrounding the island.
Honey particularly enjoyed the giant water bikes - a sort of modern-day twist on the old-fashioned pedalo - that leave your legs in tatters after 20 minutes of relentless cycling.
The hotel also has its own luxurious catamaran, Kitty Kat, that sails mornings and evenings three times a week. This popular excursion comes at an extra cost of £60 per adult and £30 per child but is well worth splashing out on. I booked a morning cruise using the online facility on the Beaches website. It was the perfect way to spend our last day.
The charismatic captain finished up his safety briefing as the crew prepared the massive sails. We left a trail of white foam in our wake as we set sail across the crystal waters to explore the hidden beaches that pepper the island's pretty coastline.
The sleek vessel is fully equipped with toilet facilities, shaded sundeck area, cocktail bar and even a small water slide off the stern that Honey had eyed keenly as she boarded.
There was a Caribbean-style party on board as the DJ cranked up some reggae and we relaxed on the sundeck enjoying the cooling breeze while sipping on some iced fruit punch.
After a short time we anchored over a coral reef popular with snorkellers. Honey had never snorkelled before so was a little nervous to begin with, but soon came round once she took a peek below the surface.
'Look Daddy, look,' she spluttered at the sight of the shoals of brightly coloured fish passing beneath her. 'It's just like Nemo!' she cried.
After half an hour we boarded the boat and set off for lunch on a nearby beach.
Kitty Kat anchored as near to the pretty shore as possible, leaving us to swim the remaining distance. It was as if we were starring in our very own Pirates Of The Caribbean movie as we ran wild along the rugged stretch of coastline in the blazing sunshine.
The captain told us that this was a great spot for finding giant conch shells, previously inhabited by the large saltwater snails, so we set off on a mission for souvenirs.
It seemed everyone except me was running up the beach squealing 'I've found one!', so I stepped up my search and moments before setting sail back to the resort, I finally spotted a pink shape at the bottom of the seabed and dived under to collect a perfect conch shell that now takes pride of place in my bathroom at home.
All holidays have to come to an end but I can't ever remember feeling as sad as I did when the time came to end this one. We'd had an amazing time at a resort offering the perfect balance for all the family set on a most idyllic island.
As Jo drove us back to the airport, he was full of his usual Caribbean chirpiness.
'Don't worry, my friends, you'll be back next year,' he proclaimed. 'Everyone comes back!'
British Airways offers seven nights at the five-star Beaches Turks & Caicos from £1,860 per person if you book by December 15 for January departures.
This includes return flights from Heathrow and accommodation on all-inclusive basis. For more details call 0844 493 0758 or visit www.ba.com/caribbean.
For more details about Beaches resorts, call 0800 022 3030 or visit www.beachesresorts.co.uk.
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