Cruising the 'Paradise Islands' - where do you visit, what is there to see and how much does it cost?

The Marella Explorer.
The Marella Explorer.

A conch shell souvenir from the infamous Caribbean island of Mustique sums up perfectly this Marella Cruises experience – vibrant, exotic and breathtakingly beautiful.

Having cruised the Med and the Canaries before, my wife Karen and I found this all-inclusive ‘Paradise Islands’ itinerary however a world apart. Not just a series of awe-inspiring talcum powder beaches and azure waters, but so much more.

Beautiful Bridgetown.

Beautiful Bridgetown.

Our Tui flight from Manchester to Barbados simply flew by, thanks to generous and comfortable seating, a personal console offering recent-release movies, TV shows, music and games and an excellent cabin service keeping us well fed and ‘watered’.

Arriving at night we were taken straight to the 13-deck Explorer – refurbished throughout in 2018 and as majestic and luxurious as any ship I have been on. Our Barbados experience, however, would have to wait...

Bequia, St Vincent & The Grenadines

This tiny island is still fairly untouched by tourists, its coastline fringed with sleepy, golden beaches backed by cedar and palm forests. Traditional boat-builders and fishermen make a living near the shores. We wandered slightly further inland and came across pretty, crayon-coloured houses and shack-like restaurants serving everything from harbour-fresh fish to oven-fresh pizzas.

Outside Basils Bar, the famous Mustique haunt of Princess Margaret.

Outside Basils Bar, the famous Mustique haunt of Princess Margaret.

St John, Antigua

If you’re a big fan of the beach, prepare to lose your heart to this place as the porcelain, palm-fringed sands and still turquoise waters are the star of this island show, along with towns in a rainbow riot of colours.

Philipsburg, St Maarten

Two flags rule over this tiny isle – the French and the Dutch. Our port of call was the Dutch capital Philipsburg, and just a ten-minute walk took us to a beautiful sunbathing beach. Skirted by bars and shops, it’s very much a ‘regular’ seaside spot, but drenched in the Caribbean sun!

Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Nature’s the star attraction of Tortola. Rainforests and beautiful botanical gardens vie for your attention. We enjoyed Road Town’s pretty Main Street with its medley of shops, museums and historical buildings.

Basseterre, St Kitts

One of the British Leeward Islands, St Kitts is one of the Caribbean’s pearls.

Once an illustrious sugar colony, it now focuses its efforts on being a tropical paradise, with its seductive blend of blonde sands and duck-egg blue seas, as well as plenty of historic sights to tick-off your checklist.

At Sea

This gave us the chance to explore some of the ship’s own treasures. The all-inclusive fare is excellent with choices of formal and informal restaurants included in the price, as are a wide selection of beers, spirits, wines and cocktails at the ship’s 10 bars. You can also upgrade your drinks package and, for a cover charge, indulge in the Explorer’s exquisite a la carte restaurants including Surf and Turf Steakhouse, Umi Sushi and, for me especially, The Dining Club, with a gastronomic experience second to none.

Entertainment is well catered for with a packed programme of activities, talks and West-End-quality shows in the ship’s spacious theatre, and you can even enjoy a massage at the

Explorer’s very own Champneys or simply sprawl out at the sundeck pool, browsing the web (optional wi-fi packages available) as a waiter brings you your choice of cocktail.

Bridgetown, Barbados

A fitting finale to our holiday, this hypnotic calypso isle is the ultimate Caribbean dream. We chose to enjoy a walk around Bridgetown and a laze on the beautiful Brownes Beach.
In a coconut shell, a dream holiday experience.

- Prices start from £1,036 per person based on two adults sharing for 7 nights flying from Gatwick on January 20, 2019.
Visit https://www.tui.co.uk/cruise/itineraries/Paradise-Islands-055400

Before you fly

Car Parking

Manchester Airport offers car parking options to suit every budget. For more information and to book, visit www.manchesterairport.co.uk/parking/

Escape Lounge

Why not get your holiday off to the best possible start at the Escape Lounge. Put your feet up, enjoy some great complimentary food and drinks, catch up on last minute business, or simply enjoy some peace and quiet. The Escape Lounge is available in all three terminals, and prices start from £21 per person.

- Visit www.manchesterairport.co.uk/at-the-airport/escape-lounges/