Sea, sun, sailing... and chocolate - discovering the perfect antidote to winter

A 14-day Caribbean cruise on P&O's freshly revamped Britannia will quickly make you forget the wild British weather


Joining P&O’s flagship vessel Britannia and her crew just after her first ever re-fit last year, I discovered a ship fit for a queen, a trip fit for a foodie, and islands that were nicer than paradise... and the whole thing came with a healthy dose of chocolate!

Britannia holds approximately 5,000 people (including staff), so remaining as organised and efficient as it is, is simply inspiring. The check in process and security is as slick as a well-oiled machine - no queueing up at soulless airports, we were straight off the plane on a bus direct to the Port of Barbados.  

My bags were taken straight to my cabin - but, it’s handy to pack a spare outfit in your hand luggage if you want to change and explore straight away, as it can take a few hours for them to arrive.

The ship is like the most perfect gigantic family-friendly holiday complex, offering superb cabins, some with floor-to-ceiling glass patio doors opening out onto a spacious balcony, a state of the art gym (which I peered through the windows of one day, while waiting to make and then eat chocolate truffles), basketball courts, a theatre, several swimming pools, a gorgeous spa, and a children's club for family holidays.

There are daily itineraries left at the cabins for all guests to peruse, and these include details about the next day's destination, excursions, classes to book, or parties and events onboard. Bargain hunters should keep an eye out for the special offers at the spa advertised too. These daily schedules give guests the opportunity to get involved as little, or as much as they want to.

I found myself using my daily itinerary like a bible - I’d study the contents and make a note of what I wanted to do the following day. One session that piqued my interest was a cookery class in Britannia’s very popular cookery club. 

I arrived and met my group and Paul A Young, a ground-breaking master chocolatier at the forefront of the British scene. Opening up his first shop in central London in 2005, and winning accolades and awards across the globe, Paul has been ranked one of the worlds best chocolatiers- with a pioneering reputation as a flavour alchemist.

Paul A Young’s indulgent treats and his cook books continue to fly off the shelves, and now with two stores in central London, he’s a busy guy.

And thinking about all of the above, I was feeling a little out of my depth.

I watched Paul’s demo, and learnt about the cocoa and the chocolate we were using and the techniques he and his team use. Then I was set to work in the state of the art kitchens, thinking I very much so 'had all the gear, but no idea'.

The lesson was so much fun, though. Paul and Mario, the resident chef at the cookery club, were always on hand if I needed help - which was often.

I managed to successfully create 30 of my own chocolate truffles. It's safe to say the amount of chocolate and cocoa in my hair and on my clothes, proved I shouldn't give up the day job.

But it was a once in a lifetime experience of learning from a world class chocolatier, so I wore that chocolate-coated fringe with pride!

My first destination was Curaçao.

The largest of the Netherlands Antilles, Curaçao has all the charm of a Caribbean island, including neat rows of houses all painted different colours - with lots of Dutch influence for good measure.

Here I joined The Ultimate Island Experience Tour. It was a full day trip with an English speaking guide.

I got to learn more about this island and its history. And I had the chance to snorkel with sea turtles, visited a beautiful beach, and learnt more about the late Nena Sanchez, a local artist.

Nena passed away a few years ago, but her sister is keeping her memory alive, and has opened up Nena’s home as a place to purchase artwork and learn more about Nena and her amazing work.  On the way back to the ship, we also stopped to see flamingos in their natural habitat.

I also visited the island of Bonaire where I joined a ATV experience excursion, exploring the desert-like terrain on quad bikes.

In Grenada I visited a cocoa farm on a tour with The Chocolate Man - Paul A Young. Here I met William and his team of farmers, and learnt more about the process of making chocolate, the cocoa beans, and the techniques they use from tree to factory.  It was fascinating and an experience I'll never forget.

In St Lucia, I got to spend the day at the Bay Gardens Beach and Resort and make the most of the the lovely Reduit Beach

I was glad of a sea day between trips to really appreciate the luxury of Britannia, and to top up the tan by the main pool.

While on board I didn't have to move too far to discover top quality food. Whether you fancy something relaxed like pizza and chips or burgers by the pool, or the elegant Indian inspired dining offered at my personal favourite - celebrity chef Atul Kochar’s Sindhu restaurant. There is something for everyone.

And while some like fine dining Sindhu and Epicurean are bookable with a cover charge, there are many options included in the price of your holiday.

The buffet restaurants offer a varied and superb selection of food each day, and the formal a la carte restaurants are nice if you prefer to be served your dinner or lunch. 

For a more relaxed dining experience, Beach House offers American-style food, and The Glass House offers small plates and a superb wine selection by wine guru Olly Smith. 

But if sweet treats are your downfall, there is traditional afternoon tea at Eric Lanlard’s celebrity restaurant Market Cafe.

During my trip I got to go for dinner at The Chefs Table within The Cookery Club. Here Paul A Young made the perfect three course meal featuring chocolate in every course - so lavish and different.  The rich delicious meal was finished with a chocolate tart so exquisite,  I thought about it often for the duration of my trip- and I still do.

And with other guest chef’s like Marco Pierre White, Olly White and Eric Lanlard, and Saturday Kitchen’s Matt Tebutt  scheduled to join cruises throughout the year, The Chefs Table can be an exciting place to dine.

The Crows Nest is the perfect location to drink a cocktail and watch the landscape pass by while sailing across the ocean, located at the very front of the ship with a captain's eye view, it's a special place to relax. 

For those that prefer a more casual drinking environment though, Brodie’s is a typical British pub located within the ship offering real ales and lagers as well as karaoke and quiz nights.
Sail away party, Caribbean Cruise with P&O

And with so many other bars and multiple restaurants on offer, a fabulous in-house entertainment team who get the crowd going at sail off parties (try being by the pool area and not dancing in your sun lounger when the parties start) comedians, singers, dancers and even celebrity acts – like Claire Sweeney - all brought in to entertain guests, not to mention the most luxurious way of travelling- there is something special about waking up at a different island each morning. Why would you want to holiday any other way?

Caribbean, 14 nights, £1,479pp
P&O Cruises is offering a 14 night cruise on Britannia (B025A) from £1,479 per person. Departing on November 7, 2020, the price includes flights from selected UK airports, Kids' club, full board meals and entertainment onboard. Departing from and returning to Barbados ports of call are Curacao, Aruba, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, St Kitts, Antigua, and St Maarten. To book, visit, call 03453 555 111, or visit your local travel agent.