Tip 6: Excursions
Excursions by the cruise line are pricier but offer piece of mind on the logistic front. Everything is arranged from departure to drop off, and at times, some snacks. Check the duration of the excursions as some are six hour long which means you have little or almost no time to explore the island. Popular excursions sell out quickly, such as the St. Kitts scenic railway or swimming with turtles in Barbados. Consult the travel desk once on board for more guidance.
Alternatively, mix it up for a bit of adventure. Do some with the cruise and have a blast exploring the islands on your own. The taxis operate like a union and with fixed rates for island tours and beach drop offs, there is no fear of exploitation. Pool with other people if you can as taxi charges are per car. Do not fret, wait at the taxi stand by the post displaying your preferred destination and the drivers will do the job.
Water taxis are another form of transportation to the beach and we loved making a splash in these. From catamarans to speedboats, every ride was so much fun. Except for St. Maarten which had an all-day ticket for USD7, most operated per trip, ranging from USD5 to USD15 per way. We were not prepared for this and it dug into our holiday spend. Play safe and budget USD25 per person for taxis, per island.
If you are like me and read up before holidays, please pay attention. Taxis only ferry tourists to beaches that have facilities; restaurants, water sports and washrooms. You may find trouble finding transportation to the idyllic locations such as the Pink Beach in Bonaire. I was gutted but adapted and learnt new filters. Check in with the taxi drivers for local input. For Antigua which has 365 beaches, we asked the guys to take us to the prettiest, non-commercial beach and we met the stunning Friars Beach.
Tip 7: Drinks
Only black and milk tea and coffee are included in the cruise price. All other drinks are chargeable. If you enjoy a cappuccino and bubbles at and between meals, consider the packages offered to track your spending. Each passenger is allowed one litre of wine or spirit at the time of boarding and liquor purchased at the islands are to be deposited with staff and will be returned before the end of the cruise.
Drinking water is not provided in the cabins and are not subject to the one litre restriction. Stock up during island visits as it is important to stay hydrated during your trip.
If considering bringing bottles of rum home, select labels that are uncommon. Mount Gay (original and the Eclipse edition), Captain Morgan and Kraken are available in supermarkets locally. Yes darling, I have done my research. Browse stores before your visit so you have an idea of what is offered. A fine drink we tasted during the cruise was a double serve of Mount Gay Eclipse with Fever Tree’s spiced orange ginger ale. Every sip takes you back to the Caribbean.
Tip 8: Money Savers
Grab & Go
Breakfast wraps are available for take away from 8am onwards. These were excellent to take for our beach expedition. My hubby checks the tv for live updates and sets my alarm earlier so we can hit the islands running from the moment go. He said we can save the lie ins for sea days. Sandwiches and salads are available for lunch so if you are shuttling back and forth to the ship, this is an option.
If you like spending more time in the water, swap chairs with beach towels from your cabin. Spend the extra cash for beer buckets and souvenirs. On average, beach chair rentals are between USD15-USD25 for two chairs with umbrellas. We had an embarrassing incident in Grenada, which we found to be the more expensive island. After deducting transportation, we had USD10 and seeing our pathetic state, the lady offered us one chair but without the umbrella.
Wifi packages are available on board but frankly, not necessary unless there is an emergency. Most cruise ports offer these for free or at a minimum purchase. We say disconnect from social media, reconnect with yourself, each other and enjoy the paradise.
Most souvenirs are made in China anyway but nevertheless a lovely keepsake. Check deals for magnets and t-shirts. For souvenirs with a difference, our favourite is the Del Sol brand. The products change colour in sun light and some islands like Barbados and St. Lucia carry exclusive island merchandise.
Tip 9: Cruise Paper
Read the newsletter delivered to your cabin daily. It is your go-to for news, shows, activities and dining times. There is a helpful overview of the islands and the last page has a section on requirements for additional ID.
Tip 10: Not to be Missed
Dinner at the Epicurean (for cruisers on Britannia)
The Epicurean is one of the specialty restaurants on the Britannia and it is a gastronomical delight. A sumptuous three course meal with lots of little treats in between at a fantastic price of £28 per person. The entire experience is spread over 2.5 hours and is sensational. A perfectly delicious date. The restaurant rotates between two menus for the duration of the cruise. If you are booking one thing in advance, do this, you will not regret it.
Sail Away Party at the last island (for us it was St. Maarten)
The sail way parties take place daily as the ship sails from one island to the next. For me, it was more of a thank you for being amazing and see you soon party. This is a lively time with music and dance. Everyone is in a merry mood, sipping sun downers and doing a shimmy before heading to dinner. However, the last sail away was a riot! Ours was in St. Maarten and with sister ship Azura docked next to us, this was a grand send off. There was hooting between ships and everyone from both the Britannia and Azura were gathered along corridors and on the top deck stomping to Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. The energy was phenomenal and an exciting finish to an amazing holiday.
Hope you have found these tips helpful and will give cruising a go. If you have other useful tips, please pen them in the comments section below.