Our pick of Caribbean excursions with P&O Cruises…

We recently set sail with P&O Cruises on a seven night tour around the Caribbean, giving us a chance to experience not only the wonders on the ship, but also those off of it. Thus our love affair with cruising well and truly started.

Read – why cruising is not just for the older generations

With the ship itself being such a large part of your holiday, it’s easy to forget the real reason you’re cruising- to see new countries, experience new cultures and broaden your travel horizons.

P & O caribbean excursion guide
Image credit: Mike O’Dwyer

Our Caribbean tour took us to six amazing islands – Barbados, Aruba, Curacao, Grenada, St Vincent and St Lucia. We opted to book a tour on each island through P&O Cruises themselves. Whilst you are free to explore the island yourself, or book an independent tour, we wanted the peace of mind which comes with booking through P&O Cruises. If for some reason your tour is late, if it is booked through P&O the ship will wait for you. If you are on an independent tour and are late back, it could end up with you having to make your own way to the next port to catch up with the ship.

We didn’t partake in tours in Barbados or St Lucia as these were our embarkation and disembarkation days and meant we were stretched for time, but booked something for each of the other four islands.
Here’s our roundup of the excursions we went on…

1Aruba

The beach at the site of Aruba’s natural bridge

Sights and beach
Book here – http://www.pocruises.com/cruise-destinations/aruba-cruises/
The Aruba sights and beach excursion is the ideal option to explore the island, see unseen locations and round it off with a sunbathe at one of the best beaches in the world. The tour commenced at 8:30am – a slightly early one, but was well worth it. We were taken to see the island’s famous natural bridge, an area of the island which is far from your typical Caribbean vision – the sea was choppier and the beach rocky rather than sandy. Despite the bridge having fallen into the sea in 2005, it is still a popular and interesting landmark to visit. This was followed by a drive to Aruba’s oldest lighthouse, a pit stop offering panoramic views of the island. Not only was this a chance to see the sights of the island, but also an area you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered.
The final stop on the tour was Aruba’s Eagle beach – voted one of the top beaches in the world. It’s easy to see why. With pristine, soft sands and pearlescent, clear waters it feels like paradise on earth. There are a number of loungers, shaded areas and a whole host of watersports on offer. This excursion is worth it for the beach alone (and if you’re lucky you might even spot a sea turtle!)

P & O excursion guide
Aruba’s Eagle Beach

2Curacao

Curacao beach break
Book here – http://www.pocruises.com/cruise-destinations/curacao-cruises/
Curacao was one of my favourite islands we visited, mostly thanks to the brightly coloured buildings and heavy dutch influence. We opted for the Curacao beach break excursion, which offered a tour of a local rum distillery, a coach tour of the island and then time at Mambo beach. The rum distillery was a brief but informative stop, with the chance to sample some of the famous drink at the end. Mambo beach was the real highlight, however. Being a man-made beach, it is well protected from the ocean swells and ideal for snorkelling or relaxing. There are a number of places to grab a bite to eat (their Panini’s are delicious!) and you can either relax on a free sun lounger or pay a bit more for a luxurious, padded one.

P & O caribbean excursion guide

3Grenada

Lobster, champagne and sail tour
Book here – http://www.pocruises.com/cruise-destinations/grenada-cruises/
We opted for the lobster, champagne and sail excursion, deciding to (quite literally) push the boat out a bit for this one. A coach picked us up from the ship and we were taken to the jetty, where we sat aboard a good-sized catamaran. We made a stop at an underwater sculpture park where we had the chance to snorkel (or stay aboard and sunbathe) before heading to Hog Island. The sea was quite rough in certain parts (but super fun!) and we got the chance to see Grenada from sea as we kept relatively close to the coastline.
Hog Island itself is breathtakingly beautiful and does the tricky task of exceeding expectations from travel brochures. With only 250 inhabitants it’s near enough a deserted island and feels truly special. We arrived to the smells of lobster sizzling on a BBQ, a glass of champagne and the sights of palm trees, crabs scuttling across the white sands and a hammock swinging from the trees. Pure paradise. There is plenty of time to relax on the island and enjoy a delicious BBQ before heading back on the boat to shore – this is a real must for any Grenada visit.

P & O caribbean excursion guide

4St Vincent

Image credit: Mike O’Dwyer

Waterfall and coast
Book here – http://www.pocruises.com/cruise-destinations/st-vincent-cruises/
Our final excursion during our cruise was one of the best. We chose to experience St Vincent by land and sea and it was a day packed with so much from start to end, the tour superbly executed. We started the day on a catamaran (with half the group heading on coach), being told the history of St Vincent as we sped past the lush mountainous terrain, the Caribbean sun beating down and soft salt spray in our faces. Our first pit stop was to a secluded black sand beach for a spot of snorkelling and sunbathing, before sailing past the islands famous bat cave. Following this, we disembarked the boat and got the chance to explore the Pirates of the Caribbean set – this was a really exciting addition and there were plenty of great photo stops! The groups then switched- those who had taken catamaran down swapped with those in the coach. Our coach group was taken to St Vincent Dark View Falls, a national park which takes you to one of the Islands most beautiful waterfalls. A short 15 minute walk from the car park and you cross a natural bamboo bridge and are shaded by beautiful greenery, where the waterfall is situated.
The tour rounded up with a buffet lunch back at the waterside before being driven back to the ship. The drive back was also a real highlight for it showed the authentic side of the Caribbean. We drove past houses, villages and towns, snaking round mountaneous landscapes and steep bends. School children waved us by and locals smiled as we passed.
This tour was a real highlight of the whole cruise and ideal to see the other side of the Caribbean away from the perfected beaches.

P & O caribbean excursion guide
The set of the pirates of the Caribbean films

There are so many different activities and excursions available when cruising, it’s important to find the one that’s right for you.

Top tips:

  • Check if it is a full day or half day. You may want to spend some time checking the island independently or to get back for a certain activity on board, so check how long the excursion is before you book.
  • Think about what you want and find an excursion that’s right for you. Whether looking for a beach trip, water sports or a trek through the terrain there is something for all sorts of tastes and fitness levels.
  • Pack water – sometimes the excursions can mean you’re in the sun for long periods of time and need to stay hydrated.
  • Check what you need to bring with you. Some require you to wear swimming clothes and bring a towel, others require sensible footwear. Check before you head out to avoid missing out on anything
  • Check the start time of your excursion – you don’t want to miss it because of a lie in!
  • Don’t forget suncream! The long hours can mean you’re susceptible to burning and there mightn’t be a place for you to purchase cream when you are out.

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