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I spent a week cruising the Caribbean with my sister – here's why I'm a convert

Taking in the sights from P&O Cruises' newest ship Arvia... pure bliss!

Emily Horan
Entertainment Editor
May 22, 2024
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"I'm going on a cruise" is perhaps a phrase you wouldn't expect to hear a 28-year-old say. 

Often popular among elder generations and honeymooning couples, this type of holiday wasn't really on my radar… but that's all changed. Consider me a cruising convert!

Stunning panoramic views from Arvia's deck© Christopher Ison
Stunning panoramic views from Arvia's deck

After falling in love with cruising on a Norwegian Fjords adventure last year, I was excited to be invited onto P&O Cruises' beautiful newest ship Arvia for the holiday of dreams: 7 nights in the Caribbean. And not only was it just as dreamy as you might expect, I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was for me and my sister (also in her twenties) to do on board. 

With 30 bars and restaurants, several infinity pools, a plush four-screen cinema and a luxurious spa, Arvia really is akin to a floating five-star hotel. It even has its own rum distillery! More on that later…

Long, luxurious days at sea

Arvia is P&O Cruises' newest ship© Christopher Ison
Arvia is P&O Cruises' newest ship

What I loved most about the sea days was the permission to relax; it's pretty much a mandatory requirement. Floating in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, nothing else is demanded of you other than making the most of Arvia's facilities.

My favourite thing? The food. You could spend the day eating and drinking, hopping between Arvia's 30 eateries. As well as classics that can be found on other ships in P&O Cruises' fleet, like sumptuous Indian restaurant Sindhu and The Keel and Cow, whose burger has been hailed "the best burger at sea", Arvia boasts dining concepts created exclusively for the ship, such as plant-based haven Green & Co. and the American-inspired 6th Street Diner. If you're in a rush - or value flexibility - the Horizon buffet restaurant is the place for you (be sure to taste the curries on offer, they're always amazing!). 

Sweeping staircases and glamorous decor on Arvia© Christopher Ison
Sweeping staircases and glamorous decor on Arvia

Some of our stand-out foodie moments included the sizzling fillet steak served on a white-hot salt block at The Beach House, the Glass House's wine-paired sharing small plates, and the awe-inspiring dishes on offer at Green&Co. My favourite was the stacked chilli tostadas and I wasn't surprised when I was told that the restaurant has the highest return custom of all the ship's dining destinations. 

Once fed and watered, mine and my sister's favourite spot on the ship was The Crow's Nest. Perched high up on the top deck, with its floor-to-ceiling glass windows giving way to beautiful ocean views, the glamorous day-to-night bar is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon curled up with a book, before sipping on a cocktail as evening falls.

Glorious sunsets await in the British Virgin Islands© Christopher Ison
Glorious sunsets await in the British Virgin Islands

Our favourite way to spend the evening was catching the talented acts on stage at the Headliners Theatre. There's something new to enjoy every night – from up and coming musical performers to the all-singing, all-dancing West End-worthy shows put on by the resident Headliner's Theatre Company, who are just brilliant.  

If you're a spirit lover, I'd recommend the rum masterclass at Anderson's Bar, where an expert talks you through how to blend your dream rum (my sweet tooth guided me toward a cacao-banana infusion). It's not a cheap sea day activity (£75) but the price does include a bottle of your carefully crafted rum, which is the perfect souvenir (they put the exact coordinates of the ship's location at the time you made it on the label- cute touch!). 

Arvia's distillery – the world's first at sea – switches from rum in the Caribbean to gin when she cruises the Mediterranean for half of the year.

The on-board rum masterclass is a must-visit© Christopher Ison
The on-board rum masterclass is a must-visit

There are plenty of activities to keep you busy on board…

Once you're fuelled up with all the food and drink your heart desires, there are a multitude of activities to keep you entertained. Mission Control was one of our most memorable. The immersive experience can be enjoyed by groups of up to ten, where you transform into a team of marine explorers on board the fictional submarine, Arvia II. While more seasoned escape room-goers may find the puzzles/tasks a little simple, it was the perfect first dive into that world for my sister and I. 

Or if, like me, discovering a new fear of heights is more your thing, you can spend an adrenaline-filled afternoon at Altitude Skywalk. 

The high ropes assault course suspended 54 metres above the waves is exhilarating – and offers the best horizon-to-horizon views on the ship. The Altitude activity zone also includes a mini golf course, as well as football and basketball courts.

The high ropes assault course offers horizon-to-horizon views© Christopher Ison
The high ropes assault course offers horizon-to-horizon views

One of the highlights of the sea days for me was spending blissful hours in Arvia's Oasis Spa. My hot stone massage was the epitome of relaxation, and we also booked into the hydrotherapy suite, flitting between the plunge pool, sauna, steam room and heated ceramic beds – the perfect pampering pick-me-up (although there are plenty of pools – both indoor and outdoor – and Jacuzzis to get that indulgent vibe for free! 

Several of these experiences (like Mission Control and the Rum Masterclass) and selected eateries cost a little extra (although well subsidised!), but we found there was still a satisfying selection of restaurants and venues to visit that were included in the price of the holiday. 

Turquoise waters give way to verdant green vegetation© Christopher Ison
Turquoise waters give way to verdant green vegetation

Tip: if you're new to cruising (or even if you're not), consider leaving a little extra time to get to a spa appointment, activity or restaurant booking. We often found it took a while to get our bearings and finding which deck to go to took extra time – plus, sometimes the lifts can be busy. 

Once you're ashore… 

Once you've relaxed at sea, you'll be ready to make the most of the port days. You can choose to do your own thing or book onto one of the many shore experiences on offer. It's really easy to book – either through the My Holiday portal (which you can access without purchasing a Wi-Fi package), or by visiting the shore experience desk. 

Snorkelling is just one of the many port day activities to enjoy© Christopher Ison
Snorkelling is just one of the many port day activities to enjoy

Having boarded Arvia in Barbados, our first stop after a day at sea was Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands. Our guided tour of the local area provided one of the many 'pinch-me' moments of the trip when we were whisked off on a speedboat to an unspoiled beach on the secluded Guana Island where we bathed in the crystal clear waters and enjoyed a picnic set up for us, Below Deck style. 

Our stops in La Romana and Sint Maarten also provided unforgettable catamaran excursions, complete with snorkelling and lunches in the sun. 

The Dominican Republic's palm tree-lined shores© Christopher Ison
The Dominican Republic's palm tree-lined shores

If you're not opting for the planned excursions, I would recommend getting a plan together for port days – the hours can fly by and before you know it, it's time to get back on board ready for sail away. 

Then, it's back to lapping up the luxury and dreaming of the next day's adventure…. What a perfect way to see the Caribbean. 

Caribbean, 14-night cruise on Arvia from £1599pp. P&O Cruises is offering a 14-night fly-cruise on Arvia (K426) from £1599 per person for an inside cabin. Departing December 06, 2024, the price includes roundtrip flights from selected UK airports, children's clubs, full board meals and entertainment. Departing and returning from Barbados, ports of call are Barbados (overnight), Martinique, St Kitts, Tortola, St Maarten, Antigua, Grenada, and St Lucia. 


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