In case you didn’t know already, I recently enjoyed two-weeks cruising around the idyllic Caribbean with P&O Cruises aboard the Ventura.
I’ve cruised many a time before, but the majority of times I have ended up sailing from Southampton purely for the sheer convenience of not having to deal with the constant craziness that we all encounter at the airport. Well, I’m pleased to say that after booking and then experiencing a complete fly/cruise package through P&O themselves… I may have changed my mind.
When looking around at Caribbean cruises, there are a lot of itineraries and respectively cruise lines to choose from. Co-incidentally, as I was doing a bit of research I noticed that P&O Cruises offer a series of chartered flights from a variety of airports around the UK, most of which are inclusive of the cruise fare. I opted to fly from London Gatwick and was given the choice between flying with either Thomas Cook or Thomson Airways.
Because of this, the arrival and departure process would be a little different to what you would usually expect, plus my suitcase would form part of a “bonded luggage” arrangement that P&O have made with the local authorities. It may seem a little strange at first, but in simple-terms this is what it means:
From the moment I dropped off my suitcase at the check-in counter at London Gatwick, I wouldn’t need to collect it at the other end in Barbados as it would be transferred directly to my cabin on board the ship. Isn’t that fantastic or what? Better still, upon arriving into Bridgetown; I literally had to disembark the aircraft via the steps, walk about fifty-metres to a motor-coach and off I went to the port; without having to go through customs, immigration and all the other arrival formalities! Within an hour or so of touching down on the tarmac, I was checked-in at the cruise terminal and waiting to board the ship. In regards to the delivery of luggage, I was advised that it could take up to four hours after my arrival for it to be delivered to my cabin; however usually you can expect to see it much sooner. How’s that for a stress-free start to your holiday?
If you think that is easy, then on the journey home it was just a simple:
I had to clear customs and immigration on the morning when the ship first arrived back into Barbados, but this was done on-board the ship and took literally a couple of minutes… just make sure you have all the necessary paperwork to hand. Ventura arrived back into Bridgetown on the Friday, but I wouldn’t be flying home until the next day. During the final few days of the cruise I received my boarding pass and luggage tags for the flight home, which meant there would be no need to theoretically “check-in” at the airport. All I needed to do was ensure that I attached the luggage label and security tags to my suitcase and place it outside my cabin before 11pm on my final evening on-board. A similar process to my outbound journey would apply, so I wouldn’t see my luggage again until the baggage reclaim carousel back in the UK; one less thing to worry about.
Since my flight home wasn’t until 5pm local time, I was free to relax on board the ship or venture ashore for a little while until my flight was called and subsequently invited to disembark Ventura. When 2pm rolled around, the announcement was made over the public address system and I was directed to a motor-coach which took me directly to the airport. Upon arrival, there was no need to check-in so I was able to proceed directly through security and then relax in the departure lounge until my flight was called.
From what I understand, P&O Cruises are the only cruse line to currently offer this service on sailings from Barbados; and it is brilliant. What better way to begin and end your cruise holiday with the peace of mind that your flights, transfers and luggage arrangements have all been taken care of? I know for a fact that the team behind it work extremely hard, and if this continues I will certainly look at sailing in the Caribbean with Britain’s favourite cruise line in the future.